I like to think of The Night of the Hunter as what would have happened if D.W. Griffith’s soul had been called back across the Stygian waters of the underworld to direct a film noir. It’s that unreal, that beautiful.
If you’ve seen it, I hope you love it as much as I do. And if you haven’t seen it, what the hell are you doing reading this? Go watch the movie already.
Here’s what François Truffaut had to say about the film in 1956 (three years before he made his own very different masterpiece about a kid on the run):
“Such a screenplay is not of the sort that launches the career of a Hollywood director, and it’s a safe bet that this film, which scorns the most basic commercial norms, will be Charles Laughton’s only experiment as a director, which is a shame. A shame, yes, because in spite of its conflicts of style, The Night of the Hunter is a film of rich inventiveness that seems like a lurid news story as told by children…. Charles Laughton doesn’t hesitate to run some red lights and knock over a few policemen in this unique film that makes us love experimental cinema when it experiments and cinema of discovery when it discovers.”
(Quote from Les Films de ma vie.)