I’ve always been an overthinker, to my own minor downfall(s). But you know it’s getting to be an issue when the thought of “Let me picture the remake of this” pops into my head any time I watch a movie made before 1990. More times than not, the version I cast and shoot in my head is inferior, and plain old lousy. It’s the byproduct of expecting nothing but the worst from Hollywood remakes, a mental complex that a stronger fella than I could shake and think little about.
Such was the case while watching Charles’ Laughton’s tough-as-rawhide The Night of the Hunter, a 1955 exercise in watching a truly despicable guy trigger pounds of suspense. That guy is “Harry Powell,” played with icy calm by the great Robert Mitchum; Powell is, without a shred of doubt, one of the most deplorable characters ever put on film. The guy curses out a younger-than-kindergarten-age girl and threatens to ring her arm, and then later slices the neck of two kids’ mother while they’re sleeping in the room next door. He’s a phony preacher/murdering sociopath who fools single ladies into marriage before killing them for their riches, and there’s literally zero redeeming qualities at play. An extra fun fact comes from the “Love/Hate” tattoos seen on Powell’s fingers, imagery that Spike Lee has gone on the record giving credit to as his inspiration for Radio Raheem’s similar digit-decor in Do the Right Thing.
I could see Daniel Craig being cast as the new-age Harry Powell, in an effort to show his range. The little kids in peril throughout would be bumped up to a teenage guy and his little sis, probably one of those Gossip Girl squares and Abigail Breslin. British director James Watkins, he of last year’s terrific little downer Eden Lake, would score his first American-studio project with this, and it’d be a September release.
The day that a Night of the Hunter remake with those credentials happens, somebody better flip me some scratch.
Until that does, give a look to one of Laughton’s film’s key, and best, scenes—a chase along a river than culminates into a soothing yet haunting lullaby. Do they make ’em like this anymore? You be the judge: