Personally, I don't understand it yet, but I just found out that The Night of the Hunter is one of the greatest American movies ever made. I'll probably have to watch it a couple more times or something, preferably on DVD or Blu-Ray or TCM HD if they ever come up with it. They're close! Real close. Regular TCM, that is.
Directed by Charles Laughton... yes, the Charles Laughton... ooh! And a couple others, apparently... it seems like a first-time director's film. It features an odd mix of real locations and bad sets. However, there was one sequence where we see a house and a barn and a river in front of it. I guess it was fake, but they spared no water for the river. Gotta give 'em credit for that.
The plot. Always with the plot. Seeing as how it's highly rated and all, I kinda hate to spoil it. Richard Widmark... I mean, a young Peter Graves... comes home with a big wad of cash. The cops are hot on the trail, so he has to hide the money. He gives the money to his son, and makes him swear to never reveal where it's hid. Meanwhile, con man Robert Mitchum, posing as a man of the cloth, gets arrested for stealing a car, the tip of his crime-berg. Graves and Mitchum end up being bunkmates in the same prison cell... okay, busted. I missed the beginning of the movie, but apparently Graves killed one or more people in a bank robbery, something like that. Graves gets hung by the neck until dead... but before he does, he tells Mitchum about the money. Mitchum, In Cold Blood-style, takes up with Graves' wife and tries to get that money. The story meanders quite a bit after that..............
That's all of the plot I'll reveal. I sure wasn't prepared for this film, I'll tell you that, but now that I know how goofy it is, I'm sure I'll grow to appreciate it as the years pass. And I'm sure that ol' Joel and Ethan have seen this one plenty of times, seeing as how they refer to Ruggles of Red Gap in Barton Fink and all. There's more, of course. The IMDb's got the whole list, but not all the details. Raising Arizona: "Sometimes it's a hard world for little things." Hi says that as the sun rises on his first day of fugitive fatherhood. At the end, Lillian Gish looks in the camera and says that children abide... Abide?!! LEBOWSKI!!! Then there's the car at the bottom of the lake, used in The Man Who Wasn't There. Mitchum keeps singing the song sung at the end of the Coens' True Grit, and of course barns a la O Brother, Where Art Thou? I think that's all of them. Of course, Hunter's IMDb 'connections' page leaves out the most crucial homage of all... uh, The Blues Brothers? And to a lesser extent, probably Blues Brothers 2000? Mitchum's hands, for God's sake! I thought he had a similar tattoo in Cape Fear. Apparently, De Niro in the Cape Fear remake had other tattoos.
Anyway, that's all I can think of at the moment. Oh, and I think John Landis drew some inspiration from this movie in his opening shots of Joliet Prison in The Blues Brothers. Li'l bit. Other critics will laud Laughton's film more thoroughly. I'm not there yet.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan