A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
The following is an excerpt from Roger Ebert's "Great Movie" essay on "The Night of the Hunter" (1955), which opens today at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago with an archival print to mark its 50th anniversary. Read the full review here.
Charles Laughton's "The Night of the Hunter'' (1955) is one of the greatest of all American films, but has never received the attention it deserves because of its lack of the proper trappings. Many "great movies'' are by great directors, but Laughton directed only this one film, which was a critical and commercial failure long overshadowed by his acting career.
Many great movies use actors who come draped in respectability and prestige, but Robert Mitchum has always been a raffish outsider. And many great movies are realistic, but "The Night of the Hunter'' (1955) is an expressionistic oddity, telling its chilling story through visual fantasy.
What a compelling, frightening and beautiful film it is! And how well it has survived its period. Many films from the mid-1950s, even the good ones, seem somewhat dated now, but by setting his story in an invented movie world outside conventional realism, Laughton gave it a timelessness.