Night of the Hunter: a masterpiece of American cinema

Night of the Hunter (Rex Features)

When their mother disappears, the children hide from him in a basement. He
finds them but fails to catch them. They take flight, hopping on a small
boat that takes them up river. The preacher grimly and single-mindedly
follows them: he knows they know where the money is. This chase, made more
suspenseful by the children’s terror, takes up half the story.

Still, this plot outline does little to convey the uniqueness of Night of the
Hunter. Laughton and his director of photography Stanley Cortez (who worked
on Orson Welles’s The Magnificent Ambersons) opted for an expressionistic
look – all oblique angles, long shadows, shot in black-and-white;
stylistically it was a throwback to 30 years before, when German-based
directors such as Fritz Lang were in their pomp. And

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