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Mitchum film series continues on Valentine’s Day

The Churchill Arts Council’s series of Robert Mitchum thrillers will continue tonight with a screening of the 1955 film, “Night of the Hunter.”

In addition to Mitchum, the film stars Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish and Peter Graves. It was directed by Charles Laughton, the only film he helmed as director.

It is based on the debut novel by Davis Grubb—based on true life murders that occurred in West Virginia—and the screenplay was written by James Agee.

It is an overlooked and under-appreciated film that has never gotten the critical attention it deserves. Although mostly ignored when first released, the film has since garnered wide praise.

The late Chicago movie critic Roger Ebert noted that it was one of “the most frightening of movies with one of the most unforgettable villians,” and it is now ranked #34 on the American Film Institute’s list of the most compelling thrillers in American cinema.

It relates the story of a religious fanatic who, in sharing a cell with a convicted killer, learns that he’s stashed $10,000 from a previous heist.

Upon his release Harry Powell (Mitchum) courts and marries the convicted killer’s gullible young widow in an attempt to discover the location of the money. Fueling Powell’s delusions is his belief that he’s on a mission from God to get rid of women who tempt men.

But the widow does not know the location of the money, only her children do. And what unfolds is a downriver chase that has been praised for its eerie, compelling black-and-white cinematography of Stanley Cortez—that is representative of German Expressionism at its best—as well as Mitchum’s chilling performance in this parable of good and evil.

Tickets are $7 for CAC members, $10 for nonmembers and will be available in the Center’s Art Bar starting at 6 p.m. and the film will begin at 7 p.m.

The series will conclude with a screening of Mitchum’s classic 1962 film “Cape Fear” on Feb. 21.

Coming on March 1 is an “Evening with the Arts,” CAC’s popular fundraising dinner and silent auction. Seating for this event is limited, so early reservations are strongly advised.

Later on in the month on March 22 will be a performance by acclaimed singer-songwriter, Paul Thorn and his band. We’ll take a closer look at Thorn and his music in the coming weeks. For more information on and of these events you can call the Churchill Arts Council at 775-423-1440.