Blu-Ray Review: The Night of the Hunter

Harry Powell's tough love

Charles Laughton was arguably the greatest actor of his generation. He was definitely one of the most recognisable. A huge screen and stage presence, he won the Academy Award for his performance in Alexander Korda’s The Private Life of Henry VIII. He was also magnificent in the likes of Mutiny on the Bounty, The Big Clock, Witness for the Prosecution and Ruggles of Red Gap. However, the Yorkshireman only ever directed one film, but it’s a classic. The Night of the Hunter.

Before being arrested for an armed robbery, Ben Harper (Peter Graves) hides the loot and makes his son John (Billy Chapin) swear to never tell anyone where it is. In prison he shares a cell with Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum), a travelling preacher who marries and murders his victims in the cause of doing ‘God’s work’. After Harper’s execution, he travels to the dead man’s hometown with the intentions of charming his grieving widow (Shelley Winters) and making off with the money.

The Night of the Hunter is one of the most iconic American Gothic films and delves deeply into the fear and anxieties of small-town inertia. Stanley Cortez’s incredible cinematography owes a large debt to German expressionism, creating an atmosphere of pure dread. This is heightened by Mitchum’s incredibly menacing performance. The personification of evil. The Night of the Hunter is a nightmare made corporeal.


  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • Audio commentary featuring assistant 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 archival treasure trove of outtakes from the film
  • New documentary featuring interviews with producer Paul Gregory, Sanders, Jones, and author Jeffrey Couchman
  • New video interview with Simon Callow, author of Charles Laughton: A Difficult Actor
  • Clip from The Ed Sullivan Show, in which cast members perform a scene that was deleted from the film, live
  • 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
  • New video conversation between Gitt and film critic Leonard Maltin about Charles Laughton Directs “The Night of the Hunter”
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • PLUS: A boooklet featuring essays by critics Terrence Rafferty and Michael Sragow

The Night of the Hunter is released on Blu-ray as part of the Criterion collection on 28 June.

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