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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

directed by Charles Laughton 
U.S. 1955

 

The Night of the Hunter —incredibly, the only film the great actor Charles Laughton ever directed—is truly a stand-alone masterwork. A horror movie with qualities of a Grimm fairy tale, it stars a sublimely sinister Robert Mitchum as a traveling preacher named Harry Powell (he of the tattooed knuckles), whose nefarious motives for marrying a fragile widow, played by Shelley Winters, are uncovered by her terrified young children. Graced by images of eerie beauty and a sneaky sense of humor, this ethereal, expressionistic American classic—also featuring the contributions of actress Lillian Gish and writer James Agee—is cinema’s most eccentric rendering of the battle between good and evil.

***

Working from a script by James Agee (The African Queen), Laughton created what he called "a nightmarish sort of Mother Goose tale," employing an eclectic mix of visual styles (German expressionism, D.W. Griffith) to convey both the horror of Powell's quest and the idyllic flight of the children to the safety of the farm of an old spinster (Gish). In addition to Stanley Cortez's stunning cinematography, the film boasts Robert Mitchum's greatest performance--a chilling essay that would unfortunately typecast him for much of his career. Beautiful, haunting, poetic, and intensely personal, The Night of the Hunter is a unique, terrifying masterpiece. The adaptation of the Davis Grubb novel was the last film work by James Agee. Audiences didn't know what to make of this one; it bombed, and the great Laughton never directed again.

Excerpt from TV Guide located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Release Date: February 19th, 1955

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Comparison:

MGM Region 1 - NTSC vs. MGM Region 2 (European version) - PAL vs. Criterion (2-disc) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Big thanks to Ole of DVDBasen for the PAL DVD Screen Caps!

 

1) MGM Region 1 NTSC - LEFT

2) MGM Region 2  - PAL  - MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

DVD Box Covers

  

Re-issued April 2014:

Distribution

MGM 

Region 1 - NTSC

MGM
Region 2/4 - PAL

Criterion Collection - spine # 541

Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Runtime 1:33:09 1:28:48 (PAL 4% Speedup) 1:33:15.673
Video

Full Screen (Standard) - 1.37:1
Average Bitrate: 5.69 mb/s
NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s

Full Screen (Standard) - 1.37:1
Average Bitrate: ?
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

Disc Size: 47,001,567,071 bytes

Feature Size: 27,592,194,048 bytes

Average Bitrate: 35.09 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video 1080P

 

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

MGM Region 1

 

Bitrate:

MGM Region 2

Not Available

Bitrate:

Criterion Blu-ray

 

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)

English, French, German, Italian and Spanish - all Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono

 

LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Subtitles English, French, None None, Danish, Dutch, English, English for the hearing impaired, Finnish, French, German, German for the hearing impaired, Italian, Norwegian, Spanish and Swedish English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Mgm/Ua Studios

Aspect Ratio(s):
Full Screen (Standard) - 1.37:1

Discographic Information:
DVD Encoding: Region 1

Edition Details:
• Theatrical trailer (2:08)
• 8-Page Booklet

 

DVD Release Date: May 1, 2001
Keep Case

Chapters 32

Release Information:
Studio: Mgm/Ua Studios

Aspect Ratio(s):
Full Screen (Standard) - 1.37:1

Discographic Information:
DVD Encoding: Region 2 / 4

Edition Details:
• Theatrical trailer (2:08)
• 8-Page Booklet

 

DVD Release Date: May 17th, 2001
Keep Case

Chapters 16

Release Information:
Studio:
Criterion

 

Disc Size: 47,001,567,071 bytes

Feature Size: 27,592,194,048 bytes

Average Bitrate: 35.09 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video 1080P

 

Edition Details:
• 
Audio commentary featuring second-unit director Terry Sanders, film critic F. X. Feeney, archivist Robert Gitt, and author Preston Neal Jones
• Charles Laughton Directs “The Night of the Hunter,” a two-and-a-half-hour treasure trove of outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage (2:39:02 in HD)
• New documentary featuring interviews with producer Paul Gregory, Sanders, Feeney, Jones, and author Jeffrey Couchman (37:59)
• New video interview with Laughton biographer Simon Callow (10:35)
• Clip from the The Ed Sullivan Show in which cast members perform a scene deleted from the film (3:52)
• Fifteen-minute episode of the BBC show Moving Pictures about the film

• Archival interview with cinematographer Stanley Cortez (12:54)
• Gallery of sketches by author Davis Grubb, author of the source novel
• New video conversation between Gitt and film critic Leonard Maltin about Charles Laughton Directs (16:59 in HD)
• Original theatrical trailer (1:37)
• 30-page liner notes booklet featuring essays by critics Terrence Rafferty and Michael Sragow

 

Blu-ray Release Date: November 16th, 2010
3-tiered fold-out inside cardboard box

Chapters 23

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Criterion Region 'A' Blu-ray - (November 2010) - Firstly, Criterion get the aspect ratio correct (1.66:1) that neither of the DVDs had (both were 1.33) - NOTE: Night of the Hunter is absolutely, unquestionably 1.66. I've run both 35mm and 16mm prints of this film and if you project it 1.37 full-frame, you actually see the top of the soundstage in the sequence where the children land at the barn in the moonlight. The 1.37 DVD carefully crops in several sequences, including that one. It's such a beautifully designed film that it looks perfectly OK when "opened up", except in a few scenes such as the one mentioned. (Thanks Peter!)

NOTE: Criterion released The Night of the Hunter back in the days of LaserDisc - #28 (# CC1128L). It was 2-sided CLV and in 1.33:1 aspect ratio.

Here it is. This is one of the cinephile 'dream films' that for a very long time so many were hoping would be released in a special edition DVD - let alone a Blu-ray by Criterion!! Along with Metropolis - this is one of the most anticipated releases of the entire year.

Looking at the captures it appears as though the DVDs were not 'open matte' as information is cropped from the side edges as compared to the 1.66 Criterion Blu-ray. The image quality is wonderful - darker than the NTSC DVD which now looks a bit boosted. There is beautiful grain visible. It is perfectly clean, very film-like and consistent in-motion. I doubt it will ever look any better for your home theater. Ever.

Criterion remain faithful to the original monaural track with a lossless liner PCM rendering. There aren't a lot of effect sounds and dialogue, and occasional singing, is exceptionally clear and consistent. As usual, Criterion include optional English subtitles and my Momitsu confirms that the disc is region 'A'-locked.

Criterion stack their edition with pure supplement gold - we get a super audio commentary featuring second-unit director Terry Sanders, film critic F. X. Feeney, archivist Robert Gitt, and author Preston Neal Jones. This is like a dream come true listening to this collection of experts reminisce, discuss, point out factual production details and more. I truly enjoyed it. With fans starving for more after the DVDs had nothing but a trailer it seems a real gluttonous feast to get the INCREDIBLE 2.5 hour "Charles Laughton Directs “The Night of the Hunter,” a treasure trove of outtakes, Laughton's coaching of the children, the tension between the director and Shelley Winters, 'rushes', and behind-the-scenes footage available on a second dual-layered Blu-ray disc included in the package. I'm actually grateful that this even existed as an inclusion and that Robert Gitt was able to procure it and edited it over years and years (an amazing story in itself). Magnificent. Tack on a new documentary featuring interviews with producer Paul Gregory, Sanders, Feeney, Jones, and author Jeffrey Couchman (his highly recommended The Night of the Hunter: A Biography of a Film) and a new video interview with Laughton biographer Simon Callow (Charles Laughton: A Difficult Actor). Included is a clip from the The Ed Sullivan Show, September 25th, 1955, in which cast members perform a scene deleted from the film. There is a 15-minute episode of the BBC show Moving Pictures about the film, an archival interview (1984) with cinematographer Stanley Cortez , a gallery of sketches by author Davis Grubb, author of the source novel, The Night Of The Hunter. There is a new 17-minute video conversation between Gitt and film critic Leonard Maltin about 'Charles Laughton Directs' about the discovery and restoration of the material used to make the documentary - on the 2nd Blu-ray - and there is an original theatrical trailer. Lastly we get a 30-page liner notes booklet featuring essays by critics Terrence Rafferty and Michael Sragow. Criterion appear to have gone well beyond their usual high standard for supplements and these are an incredible selection of extra features.

How such a masterpiece film was ever misled into forgotten alleys of obscurity - even its its bare-bones DVD releases - is a mystery we will never be able to solve. This is another instance where Criterion have resurrected an important piece of classic cinema positioning it to its proper place in the digital home theater universe. I feel sorry for those in Europe and Australia who are locked to region 'B' - if ever there was a reason for them to indulge in a region free Blu-ray player - THIS is it. I can guarantee that The Night of the Hunter on Blu-ray won't be forgotten in our year end poll - where I expect many will rank it in the top 5 of the year. This has our highest recommendation. I can't think of anything more enthusiastic to say than 'absolutely essential'. I'll be buying multiple holiday season copies for 'uninitiated' friends. 

Gary W. Tooze

****

ON THE DVDs: The R1 is much sharper, more detailed blacks. Other than that the discs are pretty much the same except the R2 has more dubs and sub-title options including for the hearing impaired. The R1 has double the Chapters. The R1's better image quality is the sole reason to stick with the R1 for this piece of classic cinema.

Gary W. Tooze

NIGHT OF THE HUNTER – Like THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, this film was restored by MGM after these DVDs were released, so expect some special edition reissue with the upgraded sound and picture in the near future.  I say never soon enough.  You can read more details on the restoration UCLA and MGM did in the January 2002 American Cinematographer magazine (pages 86 – 100), including how the original soundtrack was transferred at 96kHz/24bits for digital backup.

Nicholas Sheffo from FulvueDrive-In.com


Recommended Reading in Film Noir (CLICK COVERS or TITLES for more information)

DVD Menus
(
Region 1 LEFT vs. Region 2  - RIGHT)

 

Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

 

Blu-ray Disc 2 "Charles Laughton Directs"

 


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Screen Captures

 

1) MGM Region 1 NTSC - TOP

2) MGM Region 2  - PAL  - MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



 

1) MGM Region 1 NTSC - TOP

2) MGM Region 2  - PAL  - MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) MGM Region 1 NTSC - TOP

2) MGM Region 2  - PAL  - MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) MGM Region 1 NTSC - TOP

2) MGM Region 2  - PAL  - MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) MGM Region 1 NTSC - TOP

2) MGM Region 2  - PAL  - MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


 

1) MGM Region 1 NTSC - TOP

2) MGM Region 2  - PAL  - MIDDLE

3) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

More Blu-ray captures

 


Report Card:

 

Image:

Blu-ray

Sound:

Blu-ray

Extras: Blu-ray

 

DVD Box Covers

  

Re-issued April 2014:

Distribution

MGM 

Region 1 - NTSC

MGM
Region 2/4 - PAL

Criterion Collection - spine # 541

Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

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Gary Tooze

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