This is the only film that actor Charles Laughton ever directed, and it's a gem.
Robert Mitchum is Harry Powell, a psychotic killer who poses as a minister. He learns from a cell mate named Ben Harper (Peter Graves) that Harper stole $10,000 in cash and hid it where nobody would ever find it.
A soon as Powell is released from jail he seeks out Harper's wife who is still grieving over her husbands arrest and execution. Harper's wife Willa (Shelley Winters)falls for Powell and his slick lines and soon they are married.
Powell tries to get Harpers' children to tell where the money is hidden, but the son (Billy Chapin) knows what kind of a man Powell really is and both he and his sister flee.
Powell kills Willa and sinks both her car and her body in a nearby lake and heads off to find the children, take the money and then kill them.
Laughton gives us some terrific imagery in this film, and there are scenes you will not soon forget. Mitchum plays a role which is very different from his usual world weary types. Here he is a man who is NOTHING but pure evil and the chase scene where the children barely escape him in a boat is chilling and Mitchum is totally insane.
I believe Criterion has released this to DVD and that's a good thing because this film needs to be seen by most people. One of the best films ever made, I can only say SEE IT!! It will not disappoint and it is a shame they cannot make movies this suspenseful today.
The cast really works well together and I credit a lot of that to the director, who new all about acting anyway and how to make things gel well.