The reviews for this movie, which weren’t all terrible but rather mixed, really shows how even if a film is deemed only so-so on a technical and artistic level, ultimately if it is loved it simply can’t be denied. The public loved this film despite the critics’ lukewarm reception of it, and in the end that’s really all that matters.
At the time though – the film was “plainly a gimmick movie”, and even a “blot on an honorable career.” In a particularly pretentiously written review, the New York Times said it had “not an abundance of subtlety” and was an “obviously low-budget job” whatever the hell that all means. No one hated it – but no one thought it to be anything all that special either.
Pretty sure they were wrong about that.
1. The Night Of The Hunter
No other film is as known for being so great and having such a poor reception than The Night Of The Hunter. The film itself is now played to every student churned out of film school and praised as being a masterpiece of both cinema and horror. The truth is that the film really is that good – it was simply made in the wrong era, as explained by Preston Neal Jones in his book “Heaven and Hell to Play With: The Filming of The Night of the Hunter”:
“Dorothy Manners’ review in the Los Angeles Examiner began by stating, ‘If it was Charles Laughton’s intention to scare the scalps off the watchers of Night Of The Hunter,… he succeeded where this non-paying customer is concerned. Seldom has an entire production sustained the nightmarish feeling of helpless terror as does this picturization of David Grubb’s symbolic novel.’ Not many people paid for the chance to have their scalps raised in 1955, however…”
That really says it all. The film was panned by both critics and ignored by audiences. The result was director Charles Laughton never directing another film ever again. Our loss.