The Night of the Hunter (Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray)

A self-proclaimed preacher marries a gullible widow whose young children are reluctant to tell him where their real dad hid the $10,000 he'd stolen in a robbery.

November 22, 2023 6 Min Read

Review by: Matt Malouf

Plot: What’s it about?

I say it often, but being a reviewer for a site like this has many advantages. One of them is getting to review films early, but also discovering films that you might’ve otherwise overlooked or not heard of. That is the case here for me with The Night of the Hunter. It isn’t something I would’ve stumbled upon otherwise. With a star like Robert Mitchum headlining it, I certainly got intrigued. There is a noirish feel to the film. Some have labeled it a horror film, but I fail to see that. Sure, there are some thrilling elements, but maybe thriller might be appropriate. Nevertheless, for fans of this sort of film, it warrants a viewing. It may even grow on you with further viewings as well.

Set during the Great Depression, the film stars Robert Mitchum as Harry Powell, he is a serial killer who gets arrested for stealing a car. While in jail, his cellmate, Ben Harper (Peter Graves) discloses that he has stolen $10,000 and only his children know where it’s hidden. To complicate matters further, Harper is about to be hanged. After Harper is hanged, Powell is released. He decides to pretend to be a traveling preacher. And where do you think his first stop is? Well, if you assumed the widow of Ben Harper then you would be correct. Shelley Winters plays the widow named Willa. Before long, she and Powell are married. It is the children, John (Billy Chapin) and Pearl (Sally Jane Bruce) who are more suspicious of Powell. We see that this character, Powell has love and Hate tattooed on each of his fingers. The elements are there to pick up on, but I like that the film avoids being too preachy.

As I finished the film and watched the supplements, I began to appreciate the film more than I did as I watched it. Even writing this review, I have a stronger appreciation for it and hope to view it again sometime. It didn’t connect with me greatly at first, but it gets better as it goes along, and certainly has a great premise. I discovered that the film’s director, Charles Laughton only directed this one film. It is said that the less than stellar reaction to this might be the reason that he stopped. Whatever the case may be, there are many things to pick on here. I enjoy films that resonate with me, and this is one. Recommended.

Video: How’s it look?

This Black and White film in 4K with HDR and Dolby Vision is one treat to look at. Apparently, the earlier Blu-Ray release was in a different ratio, but I had no issues with the presentation here. It is presented in 1.66:1 and the details are striking almost immediately. Viewers should be pleased with the results.

Audio: How’s it sound?

The former package included a 1.0 track, but here we get a 5.1 and 2.0 one. I opted for the 5.1, but a film like this doesn’t make use of that since it’s much older and simpler in terms of its sound design. There’s a crispness and clarity to the track which is what I have come to expect and that’s really all one can ask for. Certain moments throughout the film are louder than others and that kept me engaged.

Supplements: What are the extras?

While this is a 2-disc set, the film is featured only on the 4K disc, along with the commentary track and isolated score. The features are on their own Blu-Ray bonus disc.

  • Audio Commentary – Tim Lucas provides an engaging and informative track
  • Music and Effects Track – Essentially an isolated score in 2.0. If this is your thing, then have at it.
  • Love and Hate – For about 9 minutes we hear from Ernest Dickerson and why he appreciates this film.
  • Little Lambs – Actress Kathy Garver provides some recollections on the film.
  • Hing, Hang Hung – At 16 minutes, this becomes the longest feature here, and it’s reasonably interesting. Artist Joe Coleman talks about some of the symbolism featured in the film.
  • Trailers

The Bottom Line

I appreciate the film the more I think about it and as I write this review. It took me a bit to come around to it, but I enjoyed the premise and the performances as well. It is one that will benefit from repeat viewings. The previous release contained far more features, but what’s included here isn’t bad.

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