This is one of my all time favorite films, and it will be a treat to see it on the big screen.
From AMC's "The Greatest Films"....
The Night of the Hunter (1955) is a truly compelling, haunting, and frightening classic masterpiece thriller-fantasy, and the only film ever directed by the great British actor Charles Laughton. The American gothic, Biblical tale of greed, innocence, seduction, sin and corruption was adapted for the screen by famed writer-author James Agee (and Laughton, but without screen credit). Although one of the greatest American films of all time, the imaginatively-chilling, experimental, sophisticated work was idiosyncratic, film noirish, avante garde, dream-like expressionistic and strange, and it was both ignored and misunderstood at the time of its release. Originally, it was a critical and commercial failure.
Robert Mitchum gave what some consider his finest performance in a precedent-setting, unpopular, and truly terrifying role as the sleepy-eyed, diabolical, dark-souled, self-appointed serial killer/Preacher with psychotic, murderous tendencies while in pursuit of $10,000 in cash. Lillian Gish played his opposite - a saintly good woman who provided refuge for the victimized children.
In addition, the visual-striking black-white photography of Stanley Cortez (who also shot Welles' black and white The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) (http://www.filmsite.org/magn.html)) and the evocative musical score of Walter Schumann (mixing hymns, children's songs, and orchestral music) are exceptional. However, the film was not nominated for a single Academy Award, in a year when the short romantic drama Marty (1955) unaccountably won the Best Picture Oscar.
The film's slogan on a major poster proclaimed: "The wedding night, the anticipation, the kiss, the knife. BUT ABOVE ALL...THE SUSPENSE!" The image showed actor Mitchum hugging a distressed Shelley Winters, with the L-O-V-E tattooed hand embracing her back, and the H-A-T-E tattooed hand grasping a knife.
[Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing (1989) referenced the love/hate, left and right hand theme, when Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn) explained the love/hate dichotomy. In The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), LOVE and HATE were tattooed on Eddie's (Meat Loaf) knuckles, and in The Blues Brothers (1980), the two brothers (John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd) have their names tattooed on their knuckles. In The Simpsons episode "Cape Feare", the menacing Sideshow Bob (voice of Kelsey Grammer) had similar tattoos on each set of knuckles as well - but since the characters in the cartoon show had only three fingers and a thumb, the tattoos were humorously "LUV" and "HAT" - (with a bar over the A).]
The stylistic film, shot in only thirty-six days - an adult story with children as major characters, was extremely unusual and unpopular for its time for other reasons. It was black and white (when color was en vogue), shown in standard ratio (when theaters were showing Cinemascope wide-screen films), and it daringly portrayed a perverted, pedophile Preacher as the main protagonist - a villainous, obsessive, homicidal, and misogynous character with repressed sexuality and violence.
The high-contrast, melodramatic-horror film with macabre humor deliberately pays tribute to its silent film heritage, and to pioneering director D. W. Griffith in its style (the use of stark, expressionistic black and white cinematography, archaic camera devices such as iris down) and in its casting of Griffith's principal protegé/silent star, the legendary Lillian Gish (in her first film since Portrait of Jennie (1948)). Told with inventive, stylized, timeless and dark film noirish images, symbolism and visual poetry, it blends both a pastoral setting with dream-like creatures, fanatical characters, imperiled children during a river journey, a wicked guardian/adult, and salvation and redemption in the form of a old farm woman, 'fairy godmother' rather than a saintly Bible-totin' Preacher. In Laughton's words, it was "a nightmarish sort of Mother Goose tale."
From its start, the film is designed to have the special feeling of a child's nightmare, including the difficult keeping of a secret, and a magical journey to safety - all told from a child's point of view. It also accentuates the contrasting, elemental dualities within the film: heaven and earth (or under-the-earth), male and female, light and dark, good and evil, knowingness and innocence, and other polarizations including equating the Preacher with the devil."
It gets a 98% at Rotten Tomatoes...
I'll be in the lobby at 6:30, in a long red jacket, and will head in at 6:45 in order to get good seats.