Skip to main content
The Night of the Hunter film image, close-up on man

This unforgettable film was the only movie ever directed by the larger than life British actor Charles Laughton. It’s one of the strangest and most beguiling movies you’ll ever see. The story comes from a poetic, nightmarish novel by Davis Grubb, a fable about two children fleeing from a psychotic evangelical preacher (Robert Mitchum) who believes they know the whereabouts of a stash of money.

It’s set in the South during the Great Depression, and as well as shooting in black and white, Laughton adopts many of the techniques pioneered by DW Griffith in the silent era, such as expressionist lighting effects and beginning and closing scenes with an iris into a detail of the frame. He also cast Griffith’s favourite actress, Lillian Gish in a key role. But it’s Mitchum who will haunt your dreams. The words “Love” and “Hate” tattooed across his fingers, he turns in an uncharacteristically flamboyant performance that’s no less menacing for its twisted streak of black comedy. Sadly the movie was a flop and Laughton was forced to abandon plans to film Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead.

Sunday’s Pantheon screening will be preceded by a 15 minute introductory lecture and feature a book club-style discussion afterwards.

What a compelling, frightening and beautiful film it is! And how well it has survived its period. Many films from the mid-1950s, even the good ones, seem somewhat dated now, but by setting his story in an invented movie world outside conventional realism, Laughton gave it a timelessness.

Roger Ebert


Presented by


Charles Laughton


Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish

Country of Origin






92 min

Book Tickets

Sunday October 20

11:00 am
Guests/Q&As Hearing Assistance
VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre
Book Now

Tuesday October 22

5:50 pm
Hearing Assistance
VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre
Book Now



James Agee


Stanley Cortez


Robert Golden

Original Music

Walter Schumann

Art Director

Hilyard Brown

Also in This Series

A Matter of Life and Death

In this splendid WWII fantasy, RAF pilot Peter (David Niven) cheats death when his plane is downed over the Channel. Washing up on an English beach, he must plead his case for a life extension in the highest court of them all...

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre

Daisies + Meshes of the Afternoon

This programme highlights two landmarks in feminist film: Maya Deren's surrealist short Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), and Vera Chytilova's subversive new wave farce, Daisies (1966), perhaps the most radical, confrontational film of the era.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre


The consummate director of the silent era, Murnau was schooled in German Expressionism and embraced the fluidity and dynamism of the moving camera. Invited to Hollywood he prefigured film noir with this tale of a married villager seduced by a city vamp.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre

Pather Panchali

Satyajit Ray's first film opened eyes in the West. It's a naturalistic portrait of the childhood of a Brahman child, Apu, growing up in a village far from twentieth century technology in West Bengal.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre

The Night of the Hunter

One of the strangest and most beguiling movies you'll ever see, from a poetic, nightmarish novel by Davis Grubb, a fable about two children fleeing from a psychotic evangelical preacher (Robert Mitchum). Charles Laughton's only film as director.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre

The Battle of Algiers

French Colonel Mathieu hunts for Algerian resistance leader Ali la Pointe in Pontecorvo's classic, which draws the battle lines between colonialists and Arab insurrectionists in a pulsating, "fly-on-the-wall" documentary style.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre


Jacques Tati was modernity's clown; technology his banana skin. Here his alter-ego Monsieur Hulot navigates a sterile Paris that seems designed to thwart his every wish.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre