3 Reasons: The Night of the Hunter


Hey, everyone. Sheridan here. This is my first post for the Digest, and you may see me drop in again from time to time. If you have not seen The Night of the Hunter, then you should rectify that gross cinematic atrocity this very instant! Buy it. Rent it. Netflix it. Stream it. I don’t care. Just see it now. It is such a wonderful and wonderfully disturbing film, of the likes you will never find a successor. I absolutely agree with Criterion’s three reasons: they are all you need to know prior to your first viewing.

But what I really love about the film is how Robert Mitchum is the absolute personification of evil. So much so, he could be the Devil himself, there, on the screen. Mitchum’s “love and hate” speech in the film — when he joins his hands together and diabolically flaunts his tattooed fingers with a sly, devilish grin — left me with chills the first time I saw it. Chills!

Would you like me to tell you the little story of Right Hand, Left Hand? The story of Good and Evil? H-A-T-E! It was with this left hand that old brother Cain struck the blow that laid his brother low. L-O-V-E! You see these fingers, dear hearts? These fingers has veins that run straight to the soul of man. The right hand, friends, the Hand of Love. Now watch, and I’ll show you the story of life. These fingers, dear hearts, is always a-warrin’ and a-tuggin’, one agin t’other. Now watch ’em! Old brother Left Hand, Left Hand hates a-fightin’, and it looks like Love’s a goner. But wait a minute! Wait a minute… Hot dog, Love’s a winnin’! Yessirree! It’s Love that won, and old Left Hand Hate is down for the count!

Uh, check, please. Seriously. Mitchum is just creepy as hell, and he plays it so well.

Now, being from (and a current resident of) West Virginia, I was fascinated to learn a while ago that the story was based on a true story that took place in Clarksburg, West Virginia, in the early 1930s involving a man by the name of Harry Powers. An author, Davis Grubb, who also hailed from West Virginia, was fascinated enough with the true story to adapt it into his novel, The Night of the Hunter, on which the film is based. Sadly, the book seems to be currently out of print. And while the novel recounts and simplifies the facts, it’s not the real story.

So, a couple weeks ago, I attended the West Virginia Filmmakers Weekend in Sutton, West Virginia, where the filmmaking brothers, Bob and Jeff Tinnell (who also hail from West Virginia), gave us a sneak peek at their new documentary Romeo Must Hang.

I’m not sure when this documentary will be made publicly available, but it’s a perfect companion piece to The Night of the Hunter because it’s the true story behind the story. If you love The Night of the Hunter and you’re ever given the opportunity to see this documentary, don’t hesitate. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

It’s a shame that Criterion didn’t know about (or was made aware of) this documentary because it would have been an exceptional addition to an already magnificent Criterion release.

For more information on Romeo Must Hang, you can visit their official website here: romeomusthang.com

And, yeah, go watch The Night of the Hunter right now.

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