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In a new article for Slate, critic Elbert Ventura digs insightfully into what makes Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter (coming to Criterion Blu-ray and DVD next week) the one-of-a-kind work of American art that it is. Adding to the film’s singularity is the fact that it was the British thespian’s first and only film as a director—as Ventura puts it, “perhaps the greatest one-off in movie history.” He cites Malick, Scorsese, the Coen brothers, and Spike Lee as filmmakers who have been directly influenced by The Night of the Hunter’s idiosyncratic, folkloric flair. “You can see what draws them to it,” he explains. “Equal parts Griffith and German expressionism, Capra and Grimm, it is also thoroughly American, a collage of fragments from our collective dream life . . . The landscape is at once lush and pestilential, an idyllic America marred by the evil of men and mobs.” The terrific article also comes with a wealth of evocative clips from the film, which, if you haven’t yet seen it, will undoubtedly whet your appetite for Laughton’s sinister shadow play.