Night of the Hunter

Bomb Rating: 

This film doesn't do a lot for the idea that the man ought to be the head of the household -- or, for that matter, that preachers don't murder or molest little children whenever the chance arises.

If you want evidence that Shelley Winters was not always the flesh-mountain who single-handedly sank the Poseidon, watch this film. She's actually kind of cute in a "hope that poor bastard she's with doesn't know what the future holds" sort of way.

Shelley plays Willa Harper, the mother of John (Billy Chapin) and Pearl (Sally Jane Bruce), kids who harbor a unique knowledge of where their father (Peter Graves) hid some money. Unfortunately, while in prison, good old Dad reveals the presence of the money to a psychopath, Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum), who claims to be a reverend and has "love" tattooed on one hand and "hate" on the other so he can remember which hand to masturbate with.

Lonely and stupid, the angelic Shelley gets hacked quickly, allowing Mitchum to start his search for the money. The search turns into an impossible mission when young John won't reveal its whereabouts and keeps Pearl from telling too even though she likes Harry. When John realizes Harry is going to kill them, he takes off down the river and ends up at the home of kindly old Rachel (Lillian Gish), who's hoarding runaway children so they can do her housework while she sits around and daydreams about the past and the hot beef injection that never came.

Powell seems real menacing until he comes up against Rachel, who, as the frustrated but kindly she-bitch from hell, doesn't let him get anywhere near her or the children. Let's face it: Old Rachel is real sweet until a little testosterone floats near her cabin and then she's wielding a shotgun looking for vengeance. Basically, this film doesn't do a lot for the idea that the man ought to be the head of the household -- or, for that matter, that preachers don't murder or molest little children whenever the chance arises.

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