Thursday, October 20, 2016

It's a hard world for little things.

One of my favorite scary films isn't a horror film, but a film noir built on childhood fantasies/nightmares called Night of the Hunter. It was made in 1955 and is the only film actor Charles Laughton ever directed. Robert Mitchum gives a career-high performance as the evil Reverend Harry Powell who menaces a little boy and girl because they know the whereabouts of some money he wants. They flee down the river in one of the most beautifully eerie sequences ever filmed. As John and Pearl drift through the night on a rowboat, we see a star-speckled sky, luminous cattails, a frog, a turtle, and rabbits--all of nature combining to give the film the look and feel of a surreal storybook. Pearl sings a haunting song called "Pretty Fly" as they float, which you can hear below. The scene continues after the song, so enjoy more of the Expressionist spell Laughton cast upon this film! Too bad it wasn't well-received when it was released, or maybe we would have more masterpieces like this from him.

In the late 90s, the band Mono Puff included a cover of "Pretty Fly" on their album It's Fun to Steal. It's acapella, with just the sound of crickets in the background as accompaniment, so it casts a similar spell as the original. The singer is Robin Goldwasser, wife of Mono Puff/They Might Be Giants founder John Flansberg. Check out her plaintive rendition below and see how you think she measures up to the timeless Pearl.

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