February 6, 2006

Black & White World

I hereby nominate Dave's Long Box for the Nobel Prize.

Let's face it, any blog that creates a concept as cool as the F@#! Yeah files deserves such a prize...and if there's ever an ultimate "F@#! Yeah" movie, it would definitely have to be Night of the Hunter, with the man for whom every moment was a F@#! Yeah moment...Mr. Robert Mitchum. A man whose life and work was varied, uncompromising, and challenging, and whose presence hit like a Wildcat punch. Mitchum was the kind of guy who ate punks like Chuck Norris for breakfast, and washed it down with a nice cold glass of orange juice.

Yes, friends, he was that frickin' cool.

Night was Mitchum's last noir film, and the only film directed by Charles Laughton. It tells the story of a corrupt preacher named Harry Powell who, after getting caught driving in a stolen car, learns from a dying bunkmate (Peter Graves) about a stash of stolen money...but not the location. From there, Mitchum's character soon ingratiates himself into the man's family, wooing the man's widow (Shelley Winters), making himself a presence in the town, and playing a dangerous cat-and-mouse game with the man's son and daughter.

The first hour of the film is extremely intense, as Powell cruelly attempts to manipulate the two children into revealing the whereabouts of the cash. An equal mix of cruelty, torture, and nightmare, this gets extremely intense, almost too intense for kids...and this was right in the middle of the boring 1950's. However, the kids manage to escape via boat, and the tone shifts...but not before an elderly woman (Lillian Gish) offers a righteous smackdown on Powell.

That's right, Lillian Gish. If that isn't a F#@! yeah moment, I don't know what is...and the movie deftly reassures us, coming to a very satisfying - and plausible - conclusion.

What's amazing about this film is that it is so flexible, and integrates a ton of disparate approaches (even, sadly, serving as a prescient commentary/parable about religion...but that may be reading more into the film than is there). It's the kind of film that, once you watch, you can't get out of your head. Every moment burns itself into your brain, and it's hard to describe without spoiling. It's easily one of the greatest films ever made. If Mitchum had quit after his picture, he would be in the same league as James Dean.

Fortunately for us, he kept moving forward, and gave us the ultimate Phillip Marlowe...but that's a blog for another time.

See this movie. Now. And you too will be saying, "F#$@! yeah!"

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