Isn’t it incredible how the consensus on a film can change over time? When it was first released in 1955, The Night of the Hunter was not a success at all. It didn’t go down well with fans or critics which is why director Charles Laughton never made another film. But today, it’s considered by many to be one of the greatest films of all time with it appearing in many top lists. And now the film is also joining The Criterion Collection with a fancy new Blu-ray release.
It’s been around for many years now but if you haven’t seen it, The Night of the Hunter is an adaptation of the 1953 novel of the same name and focusses on Reverend Howard Powell, played by Robert Mitchum who famously has the words ‘LOVE’ and ‘HATE’ tattooed on his knuckles. Powell heads into a small town in an attempt to charm a new, unsuspecting widow in order to steal the $10,000 that was stolen and hidden by her late husband before he was executed.
The Night of the Hunter is completely atmospheric and absolutely terrifying, leaving no doubt in your mind that it’s an excellent film and deserves all the praise that’s been thrown at it since its release in 1955. It’s a simple film, but the execution leaves you on the edge of your seat, helpless and unable to do anything as Powell closes in on the money. Watching him charm all the adults in the town leaving them entirely unsuspecting as he interrogates the kids, who are the only ones that know where the money is hidden, and yet they’re the only one that gets to see Powell’s truly evil side.
The cinematography only adds to this level of terror and dread that we feel when watching the film. As it was made in the 50s, The Night of the Hunter is in black and white and because of the use of shadows in the film, everything seems so much scarier and the horror within each scene and every moment of the film is intensified so much more.
The Night of the Hunter is such a tense, terrifying film and is still exceptional 65 years after it was originally released. It contains one of the greatest and most menacing villains of all time in the form of Reverend Howard Powell. Whilst it’s not a horror film and is much more of a drama-thriller, it’s far scarier than many of today’s horror genre films, mainly due to the sheer terror that the film’s unforgettable villain produces within us.
The Night of the Hunter’s new Criterion release is packed full of lots of special features and bonuses, some old, some new, but they all add a wealth of new knowledge and insight on one of the best films of the 1950s.
Blu-ray special features include:
- New digital transfer made from 35 mm film elements restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive in cooperation with MGM Studios, with funding provided by the Film Foundation and Robert Sturm, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
- Audio commentary featuring second-unit director Terry Sanders, film critic F. X. Feeney, archivist Robert Gitt, and author Preston Neal Jones
- Charles Laughton Directs “The Night of the Hunter,” a two-and-a-half-hour treasure trove of outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage
- New documentary featuring interviews with producer Paul Gregory, Sanders, Feeney, Jones, and author Jeffrey Couchman
- New video interview with Laughton biographer Simon Callow
- Clip from the The Ed Sullivan Show in which cast members perform a scene deleted from the film
- Fifteen-minute episode of the BBC show Moving Pictures about the film
- Archival interview with cinematographer Stanley Cortez
- Gallery of sketches by author Davis Grubb, author of the source novel
- New video conversation between Gitt and film critic Leonard Maltin about Charles Laughton Directs
- Original theatrical trailer
- English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- PLUS: New essays by critics Terrence Rafferty and Michael Sragow
The Night of The Hunter Criterion Blu-ray will be released on 28 June 2021.