The film's amiable brother and sister duo are first made aware of Powell's chilling presence as his hat-adored shadow casts itself across their bedroom wall, his own unique (and recurring) rendition of Christian hymn Leaning on the Everlasting Arms echoing into the night. It's with great reprehension, then, that John must witness the grotesque gospeller inch ever closer to his father's purloined swag, knowing full well that it represents the Harper family's sole hope of building a better life for themselves in these most turbulent of times. Mitchum rightfully won the plaudits for his spellbinding lead performance, but it's journeyed cinematographer Stanley Cortez (Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons) who arguably excels most, injecting each and every scene with a real sense of monochrome menace.
Whatever the reasons, it took several decades for The Night of the Hunter to receive the universal acclaim it undoubtedly deserved, by which point the late Laughton had sadly passed away. Now, thanks to a Park Circus theatrical rerelease, the esteemed British actor and (one-time) filmmaker's first and final foray in the director's chair can be appreciated in its original big-screen glory. A haunting, Aesop-like parable of good and evil, The Night of the Hunter is well worthy of classic status thanks to its wonderfully realised cast of Southern players, Walter Schumann's dexterous original score and Cortez's enrapturing, expressionistic visuals.