Watching: One Film Wonders

And the first shall be last …

By The Watching Team

Dear Watchers,

We know your watching time is limited. And the amount of things available to watch … is not. Looking for a movie? Nearly any movie ever made? It’s probably streaming somewhere. That’s a lot of movies.

Below, we’re suggesting two of them, the latest of our weekly double-feature recommendations. We think the movies will pair well — with each other and with you.

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Your weekly double feature: One film wonders

Robert Mitchum in “The Night of the Hunter.”Park Circus

‘The Night of the Hunter’ and ‘Carnival of Souls’

It may seem odd to talk about Charles Laughton, an extraordinarily accomplished actor of stage and screen, as one of the biggest “what if” stories in film history. But his sole directorial effort, the Southern gothic noir “The Night of the Hunter,” is just that good. Laughton was in his 50s when he made it, and he died seven years later. It’s hard not to imagine the handful of other great films he might have made if critics and audiences hadn’t rejected it.

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Leaving the Criterion Channel at the end of the month, “The Night of the Hunter” has the atmospheric richness of the best film noir. But the film also has a storybook quality all its own, tied to children in peril and biblical notions of good and evil. With his imposing frame and deep, sonorous voice, Robert Mitchum makes the perfect religious charlatan, a two-faced grifter who offers himself as an austere voice of authority. Mitchum’s phony reverend promises to bring order to the lives of a widow and her two children, but he’s really after the $10,000 in stolen loot that her husband tucked away before he died.

Herk Harvey had nothing like Laughton’s credentials when he made the ultra-low-budget fantasy “Carnival of Souls.” He stuck around the University of Kansas as a student and instructor, and he mostly made industrial and educational films for the Centron Corporation in Lawrence. Making an asset out of limited resources and locations, particularly an abandoned pavilion outside Salt Lake City, Harvey created this eerie piece of outsider art that follows the sole survivor of a drag-race crash (Candace Hilligoss). After emerging from the sunken car and finding work as an organ player in Utah, she encounters some odd, supernatural phenomena that suggest she isn’t firmly planted in the mortal realm. SCOTT TOBIAS

Stream “The Night of the Hunter” on the Criterion Channel. Rent it on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.

Stream “Carnival of Souls” on Amazon Prime Video, the Criterion Channel and HBO Max. Rent it on Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.

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