This visually ravishing, authentically terrifying Southern Gothic masterpiece is one of the cinema's great one-offs, not just because it was the only film directed by the actor Charles Laughton.
Robert Mitchum gives a career-best performance as Harry Powell, a self-appointed preacher with 'LOVE' and 'HATE' tattooed on his knuckles who travels to a small town in search of his executed cellmate's stash of cash, under the impression that his two young children know its whereabouts.
But the film's melodramatic plot plays second fiddle to some of the most extraordinary images ever captured on film. Laughton and cinematographer Stanley Cortez (The Magnificent Ambersons) imbue almost every shot with a luminosity that recalls the great silent masterpieces of F.W. Murnau and Victor Sjöström. A widely misunderstood flop at the time (which put Laughton off ever directing again), it's now regarded as one of the greatest of all American films.
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