“Children, I can hear ya whisperin’ down there. I can feel myself gettin’ awful mad.”
Chills, right down my spine. Robert Mitchum who once famously said there’s only two kinds of acting, “one on a horse, and one off,” is off his horse and terrifying children in this thriller.
A down on his luck father robs a bank so that his children can have the life he never did. However in doing so he ends up killing someone. He gets all the way home with the money and hides it with his children without telling the mother where the money is. The father is then arrested and sent to prison where he is cell mates with Reverend Harry Powell a serial killer and self-appointed preacher. Self appointed, which means he kind of takes the bible and warps it to fit his needs. So while the father is in the cell he lets slip that “the children shall lead you to it.” The reverend knows that the “it” he’s probably referring to is the 10,000 dollars which was a LOT of money back then. He then takes it upon himself to go out and find the wife of the father after he’s released and the father is put to death for his crimes.
Ok that’s all the plot you’re getting out of me! Moving on to the look and feel. I love pretty much everything about this movie. The casting was great, Robert Mitchum’s voice alone was enough to scare me and I didn’t see this until I was grown. He effectively plays a man who you immediately know is crazy as soon as you see him. In fact its mind-boggling to me that these people can’t see it. Even when he does his love vs hate speech (he has them tattooed on his fingers) it’s completely different from later incarnations. His speech about love winning over hate is somehow sinister in nature.
Then we have the atmosphere which is set up by superb lighting. Drawing from german expressionism lighting techniques they made a chilling atmosphere. Basically its like the dark decco style but in real life. Its the shadows and not the light that really create tension and fear. It’s what you CAN’T see that you’re looking at and it sets up for some amazingly artistic shots.
The juxtaposition of religion and psychopathic tendencies is well done and everyone is well cast. The story (derived from a book) is well written and the characters are terrifically developed. This movie has inspired directors all over the world including me! So I give this movie-
Five stars! If you haven’t seen it you can view it on youtube for 2.99 I think or you can rent it if you can find a store that rents old school movies.
Robert Mitchum (uncredited)
Terry Sanders (uncredited)
Davis Grubb (novel)
James Agee (screenplay)
Charles Laughton screenplay contributor (uncredited)
Cast (in credits order) verified as complete
Robert Mitchum … Harry Powell
Shelley Winters … Willa Harper
Lillian Gish … Rachel Cooper
James Gleason … Birdie Steptoe
Evelyn Varden … Icey Spoon
Peter Graves … Ben Harper
Don Beddoe … Walt Spoon
Billy Chapin … John Harper
Sally Jane Bruce … Pearl Harper
Gloria Castillo … Ruby (as Gloria Castilo)
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Emmett Lynn … Birdie Steptoe (scenes deleted)
Corey Allen … Young Man in Town (uncredited)
Paul Bryar … Bart the Hangman (uncredited)
Cheryl Callaway … Mary (uncredited)
Michael Chapin … Ruby’s Boyfriend (uncredited)
Mary Ellen Clemons … Clary (uncredited)
Kathy Garver … Child (uncredited)
James Griffith … District Attorney (uncredited)
John Hamilton … Townsman Who Greets Rachel (uncredited)
Kay Lavelle … Miz Cunninghan (uncredited)
Gloria Pall … Burlesque Dancer (uncredited)
George Wallace … (uncredited)
Thanks for reading! You guys are the best!
Brian Bell-Wiseguy Industries