Phillip Thompson

Crime Fiction writer

Former colleague and fellow noir enthusiast Steve Losey will be happy to know that I finally got around to watching Night of the Hunter, which he recommended a while back. Much like the novel of the same name, which I wrote about recently, the movie is an excellent piece of storytelling. Starring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters and the awesome Lillian Gish, this 1955 thriller has become a seminal film for numerous directors currently working, the Coen Brothers in particular. It’s a black-and-white movie, set in West By God Virginia, so it automatically has that noir feel to it. But more than just a B&W film, the movie is shot in a spectacular, artistic fashion that makes you wonder what we’ve lost in filmmaking with today’s color (and CGI). It’s beautifully done. The use of light and — more effectively — shadows, the number of scenes taking place at night, the various unconventional angles, all keep the tension and sense of danger ratcheted up. And while the acting may have been a little over the top (with the sole exception of Gish, who steals the movie and shows why she was known as “The First Lady of American Cinema”), the quality of the film alone is worth the watch. There is a creepiness that Robert Mitchum brings to his character that both fascinates you and makes your skin crawl at the same time.

Bonus noir! Caught the last half of another great B&W noir flick from the ’50s this afternoon — Stanley Kubrick’s debut film, The Killing. If you haven’t seen it, you need to.

Looking for something to read while you wait for baseball season to start? Try A Simple Murder, now only 99 cents at Amazon. Download it here (also available in paperback).

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