Criterion Critics

The Night of the Hunter (1955)

Episode #13

The Night of the Hunter (1955)United Artists released The Night of the Hunter to theaters on November 24, 1955. Charles Laughton directed the film starring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, and Lillian Gish.

‘The Night of the Hunter’ Criterion Summary

The Night of the Hunter—incredibly, the only film the great actor Charles Laughton ever directed—is truly a stand-alone masterwork. A horror movie with qualities of a Grimm fairy tale, it stars a sublimely sinister Robert Mitchum as a traveling preacher named Harry Powell (he of the tattooed knuckles), whose nefarious motives for marrying a fragile widow, played by Shelley Winters, are uncovered by her terrified young children. Graced by images of eerie beauty and a sneaky sense of humor, this ethereal, expressionistic American classic—also featuring the contributions of actress Lillian Gish and writer James Agee—is cinema’s most eccentric rendering of the battle between good and evil. Read the full summary here.

The Night of the Hunter was restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive in cooperation with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc., with funding provided by Robert Sturm and The Film Foundation.



Special Features

  • New digital transfer made from 35 mm film elements restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive in cooperation with MGM Studios, with funding provided by the Film Foundation and Robert Sturm, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Audio commentary featuring second-unit 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 treasure trove of outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage
  • New documentary featuring interviews with producer Paul Gregory, Sanders, Feeney, Jones, and author Jeffrey Couchman
  • New video interview with Laughton biographer Simon Callow
  • Clip from the The Ed Sullivan Show in which cast members perform a scene deleted from the film
  • 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, author of the source novel
  • New video conversation between Gitt and film critic Leonard Maltin about Charles Laughton Directs
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring new essays by critics Terrence Rafferty and Michael Sragow

New cover by Eric Skillman

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United Artists released The Night of the Hunter to theaters on November 24, 1955. Charles Laughton directed the film starring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, and Lillian Gish.

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