Charles LaughtonUSA93 minutes1955B&WEnglish
Robert Mitchum gives the greatest performance of his career as mad, misogynist and murderous preacher Harry Powell in actor Charles Laughton's first and last film as director, which was mercilessly castigated upon its initial release for its strange mixture of Andersen fairy tale, German Expressionism, symbolist painting, and demented Griffithian Americana. Just out of jail, Powell is on the trail of his dead cellmate's widow (Shelley Winters), whom he believes has stashed the cash from a bank heist. Mesmerizing and marrying her, Powell soon discovers that it's actually her taciturn children who hold the secret, and the youngsters are soon forced to flee across the nightmarish Depression heartland with their perfidious new patriarch in pursuit. The great cinematographer Stanley Cortez turns the Ohio River and environs into a shadowy fairy-tale diorama thick with menace and enchantment, while Laughton counters his tale's overt Christian symbolism by incriminating marriage, the family, and religion as sources of horror.
35mm restored print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Preservation funding provided by The Film Foundation.