• Film ID:
  • 5508
  • Availability:
  • DVD Available from Shop
  • Film cert:
  • Running time:
  • DVD=89 min.
  • Nationality(ies):
  • America.
  • Primary Language(s):
  • English.
Laughton's only stab at directing, with Mitchum giving a stunning performance as the psychopathic preacher who, whilst in jail for a minor offence, hatches a devious plan to get his hands on the loot stashed by his condemned cell-mate. Set in '30s rural America, the film polarises into a struggle between good and evil for the souls of innocent children. Laughton's deliberately old-fashioned direction throws up a startling array of images: an amalgam of Mark Twain-like exteriors (idyllic riverside life) and expressionist interiors, full of moody nighttime shadows. The style reaches its pitch in the extraordinary moonlight flight of the two children downriver, gliding silently in the distance, watched over by animals seen in huge close-up, filling up the foreground of the screen. James Agee's script (faithfully translating Davis Grubb's novel) treads a tight path between humour (it's a surprisingly light film in many ways) and straight suspense, a combination best realised when Gish sits the night out on the porch waiting for Mitchum to attack, and they both sing 'Leaning on the Everlasting Arms' to themselves. Finally, there's the absolute authority of Mitchum's performance - easy, charming, infinitely sinister.
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