Black SplatThe Night of the Hunter (1955)

"No, no! Don't you touch that, little lamb. Don't touch my knife, that makes me mad. That makes me very, very mad."

The Night of the Hunter - Harry Powell and little Pearl

Description: Robert Mitchum as the menacing Harry Powell warns Pearl Harper (Sally Jane Bruce) of the consequences of touching his weapon in the motion picture The Night of the Hunter (1955).

Harry Powell is an ex-convict. While in prison, Harry (he marries and murders widows for their money) shares a cell with Ben Harper (Peter Graves), a condemned killer who had stolen $10,000 in a robbery. Harper dies without revealing the location of the stolen loot, but Harry figures he can find it on his own.

Upon his release from prison, Harry, posing as a preacher, travels to Harper's home at Cresap's landing and meets Ben's widow, Willa (Shelley Winters) and her children, nine-year-old son, John (Billy Chapin) and four-year-old daughter, Pearl. Curious, John Harper asks about the words tattooed on Harry's hands, and so he offers this explanation.

The Night of the Hunter - Harry Powell and his tattoo

“Ah, little lad, you're staring at my fingers. Would you like me to tell you the little story of the right hand, left hand? The story of good and evil? H-A-T-E. It was with this left hand that older brother Cain struck the blow that laid his brother low. L-O-V-E. You see these fingers, dear hearts? These fingers has veins that run straight to the soul of man—the right hand, friends, the hand of love. Now watch, and I'll show you the story of life. Those fingers, dear hearts, is always a-warring and a-tugging, one against the other. Now watch 'em! Old brother left hand, left hand he's a fighting, and it looks like love's a goner. But wait a minute! Hot dog, love's a winning! Yessirree! It's love that's won, and old left hand hate is down for the count!” - Harry Powell

Within a short time, Harry romances and marries Willa, but on their wedding night he tells his new wife that they will never have sex because it is sinful to arouse the carnal instincts of men. Soonafter, Harry slits Willa's throat and dumps her body in the river.

"There are things you do hate, Lord. Perfume-smellin' things, lacy things, things with curly hair." - Rev. Harry Powell

The Night of the Hunter - Harry threatens John with knife

When Harry threatens to hurt John, Pearl spills the secret (the money was inside her doll), but the children manage to escape by hitting Harry over the head. He survives and pursues the frightened children as they flee down the river in a small boat. "Chilll...dren?"

"I can hear you whisperin' children, so I know you're down there. I can feel myself gettin' awful mad. I'm out of patience children. I'm coming to find you now." - Rev. Harry Powell

The Night of the Hunter - Rachel Cooper with shotgun

John and Pearl seek refuge at the home of Rachel Cooper (Lillian Gish), a Bible-fearing old lady with a shotgun who protects the children, ("Get your state troopers out here. I got something trapped in my barn), and finally brings Harry to justice.

"Hing hang hung. See what the hangman done...Hung hang hing. See the robber swing...Hing hang hung. Now my song is done." - Town Children

Note: In the motion picture Do the Right Thing (1989) Bill Nunn as Radio Raheem owns a set of brass knuckles displaying the words "love" and "hate." He informs his homey, Mookie (Spike Lee):

“Let me tell you the story of right hand, left hand, It’s a tale of good and evil. Hate—it was with this hand that Cain iced his brother. Love—these five fingers, they go straight to the soul of man: the right hand, the hand of love.”

At the film’s conclusion, a riot ensues; the neighborhood burns and a local pizza store goes up in flames because a proud Italian guy refuses to put up a few pictures of black celebrities in his store to reflect the neighborhood’s changing culture.

The Night of the Hunter - Movie Poster

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