The Night of the hunter for Christmas
(I’ll try to keep the spoilers at a minimum.)
I know we all love Christmas movies so I thought I’d share an atypical Christmas favorite of mine. It’s not really a “Christmas movie” by the strictest definition as it is more an excellent movie that just happens to have one scene take place on Christmas morning. But that scene is pivotal to the film and why I enjoy watching it during the Christmas season (and while I don’t cry during movies I’ll admit to occasionally getting a little chocked up during that scene).
The movie is Night of the Hunter 1955 by Charles Laughton starring Robert Mitchum and Lillian Gish (silent film’s greatest actress). It’s a story of good and evil, or more accurately love verse hate shown through the perspective of a young boy. The film’s images are incredibly beautiful and often hauntingly so; I love the strong German expressionism influence in this nourish horror. Coming from the child’s perspective, its story and themes are a life or death struggle between love and hate while its images are the stuff of dreams, fairy tales and lullabies. It’s often like watching a child’s dream.
But what makes this one of my favorite watches this time of year is what Lillian Gish’s performance and character do for the film. Before her Mother-Goose-like character enters the film it’s a desperate flee from never ceasing hatred and greed personified by Mitchum’s thoroughly creepy, false priest. The boy and his little sister are being pursued by Mitchum’s character as he tracks down money their father stole in a bank robbery. They are desperate and orphaned until they come into Gish’s loving care. Then it’s a false prophet verse true believer showdown over the possession of these children.
Gish’s performance is fantastic and radiant; it makes the film much more than just a thriller. Her strong, warm character finally provides the children a home they can depend on and they realize it together on that Christmas morning that makes this a wonderful Christmas season watch.