That Scene From ‘Night of the Hunter’ (1955)

“Hey, have you seen this movie? What did you think about THAT SCENE?!” We have all used that phrase at one point during our discussions of movies with the other person’s eyebrows raising, “Oh yea, THAT SCENE!” You go on to pick that memorable scene apart by listing what you loved or didn’t like, how it made you feel and the impression it left on you. 

In this series, we will do just that. We will take a scene from a movie and discuss its impact on us. Some of these scenes may be frightening, weird, iconic, controversial, hilarious, and everything in between. Let us know your impression of the scene and the impact it left on you the first time you watched it down below in the comments. Enjoy!

 *Warning: May Contain Spoilers*

Movie: The Night of the Hunter (1955)

Scene: Preacher on the Horizon


Director: Charles Laughton

Characters: Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum), Pearl (Sally Jane Bruce), John (Billy Chapin)


The Night of the Hunter is one of my all-time favorites mainly because of Robert Mitchum’s portrayal as the menacing preacher and serial killer, Reverend Harry Powell. Mitchum is simply captivating and chilling in this role in which he is a guaranteed entrant on most all-time villain list. Harry Powell is a self-proclaimed preacher who we first meet as he is fleeing his latest murder recounting all his other murders while speaking to the Lord. He rationalizes his actions out by saying he is punishing wicked women and gaining money to help preach God’s word. He has the word LOVE tattooed on his finger of one hand and HATE on the other.

After being arrested for driving a stolen car, he ends up sharing a cell with a bank robber and murderer, Ben Harper, who was able to successfully hide the money he stole in his daughter’s rag doll before he was arrested. Powell attempts to learn the location of the money before his release, but even though Harper wouldn’t tell him, he did reveal enough details to indicate that his kids might know where the money is. As Harper is executed for his crimes, Powell is released and successfully woos then marries Harper’s widow. He then begins trying to gain the trust of Harper’s son, John, and daughter, Pearl, in order to learn the location of the money but John remains skeptical and tries to keep Pearl from revealing any information. After Powell murders their mother and gaining a prominent position with the townsfolk, he is left to care for the two kids.

After Powell threatens them to tell him where the money is, John and Pearl decide to run away down the river with the doll. This brings us to our scene.



The children believe they have eluded Powell and decide to take shelter in an empty barn. While trying to get some rest, John is awakened by some barking dogs, and when looks toward the horizon, he hears the chilling sound of Powell sing “Leaning in the Everlasting Arms” in the distance. We then see Powell’s silhouette riding a horse from left to right in the distance. Simply spine-tingling and a masterpiece. Mitchum’s calm and menacing demeanor combined with his deep voice brings an ominous cloud over the kids and the viewers. It almost seems like a dream/nightmarelike sequence and is as unsettling as it is simple. “Don’t he never sleep?” uttered by John as he watches Powell saunter by conveys a sense of dread as if a slow creeping death is coming his way.

What do you think of this scene? Did you find it intense and well done?

Author: Vincent Kane

I hate things.