#297. Independent Women

Because movies are generally produced to make money for their respective studios, one of the biggest modern challenges for films is diversity. Not only have we seen Oscar ceremonies ridiculed for their whiteness, but we often find women under-represented in film as well. This makes sense, since most films are created with the appeal toward white males between the ages of 18 and 35. As one of the target demographic, I can say this is certainly true since there are many films created each year which I find myself interested in watching for some reason or other. While it can be challenging to create films with independent women as the main focus, especially if the film wants to make lots of money, there are plenty of great films out there featuring independent women. This week’s two films examine the lives of independent women.

AmélieAmélie
Year: 2001
Rating: R
Length: 122 minutes / 2.03 hours

Perhaps the baseline test for films about independent women is the Bechdel test. A piece of fiction which features two women who talk to each other about something other than a man would pass this test. More than half of all films can pass this test, but there are at least 10% of all films that fail all three criteria. While the Bechdel test might seem like a feminist stamp of approval on a piece of media, often it is a good indicator of an excellent protagonist. Take, for instance, the French-language film, Amélie (2001), which passes the Bechdel test: the eponymous main character is interesting, imaginative, and fun . . . all without necessarily focusing on her love life. Even films like Juno (2007), which clearly include story arcs about a woman’s romantic life, can pass the Bechdel test with realistic representations of independent women.

Surrounded by a number of eccentric people at the café where she works, Amélie Poulain (Audrey Tautou) often finds herself in the world of her own imagination. Upon discovering a small box of mementos left over from the previous tenant of her apartment, she makes a decision to bring happiness to those she meets, starting with tracking down the owner of the box to return it to him. Through finding information about the box’s owner, she meets her neighbor, Raymond Dufayel (Serge Merlin), who is moved by Amélie’s goal and decides to reconcile with his estranged daughter so he can meet his grandson for the first time. While Amélie works to help those around her achieve their happiness, Raymond notices that she’s neglecting her own happiness in the process. He suggests she pursue the man she met outside a photo booth and see where the relationship could take her.

PersepolisPersepolis
Year: 2007
Rating: PG-13
Length: 96 minutes / 1.6 hours

Another similar test to the Bechdel test is known as the “Mako Mori test.” Despite Pacific Rim (2013) clearly being a film meant to attract male viewers, one of the strong, independent women (if not the only one) in the film was none other than Mako Mori (portrayed by Rinko Kikuchi), who had a very distinct and strong character arc that didn’t support any of the character’s male counterparts’ stories. While the two aforementioned films of Amélie and Juno feature independent women, both are of the Caucasian persuasion. In countries like the United States and France, women are generally seen more as equals when compared to other parts of the world like Japan or Iran. What’s even more impressive is a story about an independent woman in a location where women are seen as second class citizens. This is why Marjane Satrapi’s memoir in Persepolis (2007) is so inspiring.

Set in 1980’s Iran, we follow Marjane (voiced by Chiara Mastroianni) as she grows up through multiple revolutions. From a Czar to an Islamic state to war with Iraq, the instability of Iran causes Marjane’s parents to send her to Europe for safety. However, the fact that she is from Iran causes some tension at first, due to racial profiling and stereotypes. Eventually, her homesickness gets the better of her, and Marjane heads back to Iran. Thinking that time has changed the strict society of Iran, Marjane is disappointed to find that sentiments have largely remained the same. While her grandmother told her to be free, the only way for her to do so is to leave Iran once again, never to return.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 fantastic females

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#296. Osteogenesis Imperfecta

Disabilities aren’t what they used to be. What was once a death sentence for many people has become mostly an inconvenience today due to the advancements of medical science and pharmacological solutions. Still, even the technological advancements in medicine haven’t yet solved some of the rarer diseases. If anything, providing a comfortable way to live life is the closest some people will ever get to obtaining a cure. Despite a handful of diseases being so rare that there aren’t enough subjects to study for a cure, a few have symptoms just interesting enough to raise awareness. Cancer, diabetes, and heart disease are mostly understood, but what if someone has brittle bones? What type of life could someone with Osteogenesis Imperfecta live? This week’s two films highlight characters who have Osteogenesis Imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease.

Unbreakable
Year: 2000
Rating: PG-13
Length: 106 minutes / 1.76 hours

Osteogenesis Imperfecta is seen in about one in every 20,000 births, which calculates out to a 0.005% chance a newborn would have this disability. While there are a number of different types of this disease, most involve a deficiency of collagen. There are a few types of Osteogenesis Imperfecta which are fatal, but there are also a number of types of this disease which can be survived. As with any severe disease, a person’s attitude can often determine their quality of life while enduring the symptoms. Some are likely to “give up”, but those with strong wills can find ways to live with their ailment, sometimes even making it a part of their identity. The more people who live with a rare disease and are able to educate the public on it, the more accepting society will become of these cases. Unfortunately, sometimes the means to do this are a little . . . misguided.

Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) was born in the 1960’s with a mild type of Osteogenesis Imperfecta. Because of his fragile nature, he spent a large amount of time sitting quietly and reading comic books. While this led to his eventual career as an art dealer specializing in comics, it also gave him an idea. What if, somewhere out there, a person with an equally opposite body existed? What if there was someone who was “unbreakable”? When he learns of David Dunn (Bruce Willis), the sole survivor of a train crash, he immediately gets in touch with the man to explain his theory. Of course, this theory follows all the tropes of comic books, including the weakness of the hero being something simple, like David’s inability to swim. As Elijah learns more about David’s powers, David soon realizes Elijah has some secrets of his own.

AmélieAmélie
Year: 2001
Rating: R
Length: 122 minutes / 2.03 hours

The people who have a rare disease like Osteogenesis Imperfecta have a choice to make: they can live their life in pity of their condition, or they can live their life to the fullest extent possible. Granted, with a limiting disease like Osteogenesis Imperfecta, the “fullest extent” isn’t the same as for people who do not have the disease. Still, introverts may thrive with such a disease, since it allows for a very low-impact lifestyle, often spent indoors reading or painting. The key to understanding these diseases is in the people who have them. They are still people, with hopes and dreams. Just because they have a disability doesn’t make them any less of a person. In fact, the less we focus on people’s limitations and focus more on their passions; often we’ll find that we all have something relatable inside of us.

Because of an incorrect diagnosis of a heart defect, Amélie Poulain (Audrey Tautou) was homeschooled by her parents. Consequently, her loneliness spurred her to develop an active and disruptive imagination. After the death of her parents, she obtained a job as a waitress and moved into an apartment where she eventually meets her neighbor, Raymond Dufayel (Serge Merlin). While he is quite reclusive due to his Osteogenesis Imperfecta, he allows her into his apartment where it is revealed he is recreating a Renoir painting. As he continues to paint for the next few weeks, he watches as the young woman manipulates the people around her at the cost of ignoring her own loneliness. Now fast friends, Raymond and Amélie meet often as he finishes his painting. With a gentle nudge in the right direction, Ray sends Amélie out into the world to find love.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 broken bones

#239. Beauty

Perhaps the most subjective adjective in the history of mankind, beauty can be a difficult concept to define. The idiom of “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” has remained true since the ancient days when the idea was put to words. Often, we find that the context that allowed something to be called beautiful is often lost outside of the culture that used the label at the time. That being said, each of us has a personal preference that is usually fueled in-part by what we would define as “beautiful”. Our five senses can each apply the “beautiful” adjective individually or together as a whole. Sometimes excluding one of our senses can cause something to be beautiful, just because the “ugly” parts are now covered up. I find many films to be beautiful creations, but this week’s two films give some examples of beauty in a dramatic context.

Beauty and the BeastBeauty and the Beast
Year: 1946
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 93 minutes / 1.55 hours

Since beauty is such an abstract concept, it’s no wonder that it can be applied to abstract concepts itself. For instance, the 2001 Best Picture, A Beautiful Mind uses the adjective to define the unique way that John Nash (Russell Crowe) was able to find patterns in everyday situations. Unfortunately, this beauty also had an ugly side-effect: it made Nash paranoid and schizophrenic as he tried to find patterns that weren’t there. It is in these situations where beauty offsets a rather unsettling attribute in order to provide a redeeming value to someone or something that might be overlooked because of this flaw. At a young age, most of us were taught to look past the external surface of others and to see the beauty within. Stories like the Ugly Duckling, the Frog Prince, and Beauty and the Beast teach us that there can be something beautiful covered by an otherwise unseemly exterior.

The eponymous “Beauty” of this film, both literally (as her name is French for “beauty”) and figuratively is that of Belle (Josette Day), a humble girl who has placed it upon herself to take care of her father, even despite marriage proposals from Avenant (Jean Marais). Through an unfortunate series of events, Belle’s father is captured in a magical castle and is only allowed to return home in exchange for his daughter’s freedom. Now trapped rejecting marriage proposals from the Beast (Jean Marais), Belle finds the hairy creature to be reasonable, especially when her father takes ill. In her absence to take care of said father, the Beast is attacked by Avenant. Upon her return, she finds the Beast slowly dying and realizes that she does indeed love him. Through a reversal of fortune, Avenant is turned into a Beast, thus breaking the curse and showing the original Beast to be a handsome prince.

American BeautyAmerican Beauty
Year: 1999
Rating: R
Length: 122 minutes / 2.03 hours

On the flip side of hidden beauty is the idea that “beauty is only skin-deep”. Many times, something that is visually beautiful can distract from the obvious faults. Much of our American society is focused on the hyper-sexualization presented in advertising since it is touted as the “ideal” of beauty. However, with all of the focus being on the external beauties (especially of women), very few are advocating for the development of inner beauties. This is how we arrive at the “dumb blonde” cliché, which itself is then tied to a number of other clichés including cheerleaders, fashion models, and the narcissistic nature of the exorbitantly wealthy. Fortunately, some things will always be beautiful. These traditionally beautiful objects and experiences will outlast the monetized versions of beauty, or at least it is my deepest hope that they will.

What is beautiful? Is it a meticulously decorated house in the suburbs? Is it the young body of a high school cheerleader? Is it a plastic bag caught in an updraft? In American Beauty, we follow the lives of a group of neighbors as they live their lives. Each one is unique, whether it’s the strict disciplinarian / closet homosexual Colonel Frank Fitts (Chris Cooper), the obsessively vain housewife / adulteress Carolyn Burnham (Annette Benning), or the emasculated office worker / nostalgia-seeking pedophile Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey). They all have their problems, as do their children, including pot-smoking, free-spirited Ricky Fitts (Wes Bentley) and angst-filled, unconfident Jane Burnham (Thora Birch). Nevertheless, each has their own definition of beauty set forth in this suburban American neighborhood.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 definitions of beauty

#238. Beauty and the Beast

Contrast is the key to a good story. When two ends of a spectrum are forced together, the resulting interaction merely highlights their differences. Because two characters come from such different backgrounds, their misunderstandings of each other add conflict, which is essential to any story. Good vs. Evil. Right vs. Wrong. Rich vs. Poor. These common dichotomies have been used countless times in numerous plots. Perhaps the reason for this is the timeless nature of contrast. Another such contrast is that of Man vs. Woman. One is uncouth and primal; the other is refined and sophisticated. When this contrast is taken to its logical extremes, we arrive at the contrast of Beauty vs. Beast. While this contrast is generally relegated to monster movies, this week’s two films show some successful uses of the “Beauty and the Beast” plotline.

KingKing Kong Kong
Year: 1933
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 100 minutes / 1.67 hours

Sitting right on the edge of horror films is that of monster movies. In the early days of film, these pieces would be comparable to the science fiction pulp that was never taken seriously, but was still popular nonetheless. Most of these pieces would feature some enormous animal or mutated monster with a scantily-clad woman in its clutches. While these films do follow the “man vs. nature” plotline, the contrast of a woman to the monster invokes another layer on top of this common theme. The innocence of a woman taken away by a monstrous beast can be a metaphor for many things and is often a soapbox to comment on society as a whole. That being said, King Kong truly set the stage for many of these monster films, most of which only try to imitate the perfection that was achieved back in 1933.

Part of the timeless notoriety of King Kong comes from the special effects it utilized, many of which were years ahead of their time. These effects were able to bring an enormous gorilla into our world and have it interact with the people who invaded its habitat. Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) was reluctant to bring a woman along on his next nature film, but since audiences wanted a dame on screen, he hired Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) to come on an expedition to Skull Island. Once there, the natives kidnap her in order to offer a “golden” sacrifice to their god known as “Kong”. While the crew of the ship fights to regain Ann, Kong also fights to keep her. In the end, the crew wins and Kong is carted back to New York, where his obsession with Ann leads him to climb the tallest building in town: the Empire State Building. When Kong is shot down, Denham remarks that “it was Beauty killed the Beast”.

Beauty and the BeastBeauty and the Beast
Year: 1946
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 93 minutes / 1.55 hours

Inside every man lurks a beast. Most can control their baser urges and interact with the fairer sex in everyday situations. However, whenever we act out of line, we can be accused of being a “beast”. That being said, sometimes we are misunderstood and merely long for a woman to get to know us better in order to see that we’re not that bad. After all, women can make men do really stupid things sometimes (like climb the Empire State Building, for instance). Unlike the aforementioned monster movies, fairy tales have beasts in a more romantic context. These beasts tend to be men who found themselves in unfortunate, magical circumstances and therefore only a beast in exterior context only. For the beautiful woman who is able to see past the rough outer covering to the tender heart within, many riches (both literal and metaphorical) await her.

Once again, part of what sets this film apart from its counterparts is the excellent special effects that were used to create the magical grounds where the Beast (Jean Marais) whiles away his time. One day, a man (Marcel André) appears in the forest surrounding the castle, lost, penniless, and tired. The magical castle leads him inside where he falls asleep, only to be awakened by the roar of the Beast. In his hasty retreat, he remembers a request from his daughter, Belle (Josette Day), and takes a rose from the garden. This triggers the Beast’s appearance and bargain to trade the father’s life for imprisonment of one of his daughters. Belle takes it upon herself to be held by the Beast, eventually learning of the tragic circumstances of his transformation. She is released for a week when her father falls ill, but this event triggers the death of the Beast at the hands of Belle’s brother and suitor.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 beauties and beasts

#235. Minimal Dialogue

The medium of cinema is inherently visual. Seeing as a film is merely a series of pictures strung together, this makes sense: the base of a movie will always be the moving pictures. Everything added on to these pictures merely enhances the experience. A musical score, sound effects, and dialogue help to enforce the visual themes represented on the screen. That being said, a film can be made that has one, two, or three of these auditory additions. A film can also be made that has none of them, and the point will still get across. Perhaps this is why early films relied heavily on their visual elements: adding sound proved to be somewhat difficult because it required synchronizing with the pictures on the screen. This week’s two films examine some examples of cinema that doesn’t rely on dialogue to tell their story.

The Red BalloonThe Red Balloon
Year: 1956
Rating: G
Length: 34 minutes / 0.57 hours

Much like the picture books of our childhood, sometimes words are not needed for a simple story. Short films are regularly created in the same way. More often than not, animated shorts have no dialogue because their main characters are expressive enough to be able to drive the plot by their actions alone. In fact, many of the animated shorts that have won (and been nominated for) the Best Animated Short Oscar have had no dialogue at all. Even in feature-length animated films, like Up (2009), there are long segments, often in montage, that can portray a whole lifetime’s worth of plot without resorting to dialogue. But what about live-action shorts? These too can hold to a minimal amount of dialogue, especially if the plot is simple and the storytelling is well done. One of the best examples of this is the French short film, Le Ballon Rouge.

Even though the few lines of dialogue in this film are in French, the plot of The Red Balloon is simple to understand because the dialogue is so minimal. Of course, when one of the main characters, the eponymous Red Balloon, cannot speak, it makes sense that there is little to talk about. Despite this verbal inadequacy, the Red Balloon is quite sentient and develops an attachment to a young boy. As they play, the boy must soon go to school, which causes the balloon to follow him there and cause him to get in trouble for disrupting the class. Once out of school, the two of them find a young girl with a Blue Balloon that exhibits the same unique properties as the red one. Jealous of the boy’s aerial friend, some bullies pop the red balloon. To comfort the young boy, all the sentient balloons in Paris come to him and lift him into the air.

Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
Year: 1975Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 201 minutes / 3.35 hours

Now I know what you’re thinking: aren’t there a whole set of films that have no dialogue at all? What about silent films? While I do recognize that these films didn’t have actors speaking their lines, most of them did have some form of dialogue between characters, usually in the form of subtitles. Of course, there are exceptions in some of the earliest films, but a recent silent film, The Artist (2011), has shown that we can still make silent films today, even if they do have a few spoken lines in them as well. What’s more impressive, however, are films that are of epic length utilizing minimal dialogue. Some early silent films (notably by D.W. Griffith) are more than three hours long without a single spoken word. They did have dialogue, though, which is why Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) is such an impressive film.

With a running time quite a bit over three hours, Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles examines the life of a single mother and homemaker. Since most of her time is spent alone in her house, there is little dialogue during the day. When her son comes home from school, they talk and eat dinner. Covering a timeframe of three days, the audience gets an intimate and uneventful look into Jeanne’s (Delphine Seyrig) life and her many routines, including her stay-at-home profession as a prostitute. That being said, the tiny nuances in her schedule reveal that something is wrong. Small failures like dropping a freshly cleaned spoon on the floor and ruining dinner get to Jeanne in a way that eventually explodes out in a session with a client, both sexually and violently. While a film of this length with as little dialogue as it has might seem boring at first, its voyeuristic approach is enthralling up to the very end.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 quiet characters

 

#234. Balloons

If there’s one celebratory item that we have all encountered in our life, it would be that of the balloon. Thoughts of balloons will often conjure up memories of birthday parties, circuses, and school dances. The balloon is almost so ubiquitous in its connection to parties that you might even consider such an event to not be a party if there aren’t any balloons. Surprisingly enough, even though we all have many balloon-related memories, there are very few films that focus on these inflatable decorations as a main point of their plot. Sure, they might play a supporting role in various settings, but the number of movies that revolve around balloons could probably be counted on a single hand. That being said, there are at least two, which is why this week’s two films are ones that use balloons as their main plot device.

UpUp
Year: 2009
Rating: PG
Length: 96 minutes / 1.6 hours

I would wager that one of the most difficult things to do while holding a balloon would be to frown. That being said, oftentimes a trait of old men is that of frowning. Perhaps this is why the dichotomy of the two is beautifully mixed together in the 2009 Pixar film, Up. While other films over the years have shown travelling by balloon as part of its plot (most notably the 1956 Best Picture, Around the World in 80 Days), most of these have been with a single, hot air balloon. Very rarely are clusters of balloons used to travel long distances. Not only are helium balloons unable to carry that much weight, but the cost to fill enough balloons with said helium is exorbitantly prohibitive. However, with the physics and economics-defying ability of animation, an old widower is able to lift his entire house and fly all the way to South America.

From a young age, Ellie and Carl (Ed Asner) first met through an event in an abandoned house involving a single balloon. Years pass and they experience a loving, if not tragic life together as husband and wife. When Ellie suddenly dies, Carl decides to honor her memory by finally visiting the alleged location of their mutual hero: Charles F. Muntz (Christopher Plummer). In order to do this, he ties a multitude of colorful balloons to his house and uses it to fly to South America and Paradise Falls. Arriving just short of his destination after a thunderstorm puts him off course, Carl sets forth to carry the floating house over to the falls. Along the way, he and Russell (Jordan Nagai), a young boy who was inadvertently brought along for the ride, find a strange bird whom Russell names Kevin. They then meet Dug, a simple dog working under Muntz. Having now met his disappointing hero, Carl decides to do the right thing.

The Red BalloonThe Red Balloon
Year: 1956
Rating: G
Length: 34 minutes / 0.57 hours

The most iconic version of the balloon is the red one. While many balloons come in a full spectrum of colors and shapes, the inverted teardrop in bright fire-truck red is the go-to image that we conjure up when we think of a balloon. It’s no wonder that many instances of the red balloon have made it into our popular culture. From “99 Red Balloons”, the English version of the German anti-war song, to Billy’s Balloon, an animated short by Don Hertzfeldt, this symbol of childhood permeates our culture in many ways. The simplicity of such a plot device allows for some interesting films, no matter their length. In the aforementioned Billy’s Balloon, we find a sentient balloon (and its brethren) interacting with a young child. This is no doubt a somewhat more twisted re-imagining of the 1956 French short, Le Ballon Rouge (i.e. The Red Balloon).

On a day like any other, Pascal (Pascal Lamorisse) is heading to school when he finds the eponymous Red Balloon and decides to play with it. After some time interacting with the helium-filled friend, Pascal starts to notice that the balloon does what it wants. In fact, continuing his march toward school, he finds that the balloon follows him. This curious phenomenon is noticed by everyone he passes until he finally arrives at his destination. At school, the balloon causes a disturbance that leads to Pascal being sent to the principal’s office. After school, he and the balloon meet a girl who has a similar, sentient Blue Balloon. Unfortunately, the attention brought to Pascal’s plastic friend causes some bullies to pop the balloon out of jealousy. In an act of community, all the remaining balloons in Paris come to comfort Pascal at his loss, lifting him up for a ride into the sky.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 floating flicks

#203. Priestly Step-fathers

One of the most overused clichés in fairy tales is that of the step-family. How often have you heard the story of the evil step-mother? The nasty step-sisters? Often, the birth parents have both died, which eventually leads to this less-than-desired situation. First, the mother dies (probably through childbirth), which leads to the father re-marrying. Once the father dies, the step-mother’s true nature is finally revealed and the antagonist is enforced. Unfortunately, this cliché is not just relegated to the realm of fairy tales, or to the matriarch of the mixed family. Step-fathers can also be quite nasty, especially since they are the ones in charge of the new family, regardless of the mother’s authority. To add insult to injury, some step-fathers are part of the church, just adding to their antagonist rap sheet. This week’s two films focus on priestly step-fathers as villains.

Fanny and AlexanderFanny and Alexander
Year: 1982
Rating: R
Length: 188 minutes / 3.13 hours

While priests are often thought of as celibate singles who dedicate their lives to the church, some sects do allow them to marry. However, the rigors of obeying the multitude of religious laws and regulations often causes these men to develop very strict child-rearing techniques. Behaviors that question or belittle their authority are quickly and severely corrected with sometimes severe disciplinary actions. Children in these types of households are often stifled and required to act like adults, even at a young age. There is no love, only rules. Considering the main teachings of Jesus, this is quite ironic, but it highlights just how distorted religion has made the gospel message about sin management instead of grace and forgiveness. Add to this the different set of rules from a previous marriage and suddenly the kids are up in arms against their priestly step-father.

Edvard Vergérus (Jan Malmsjö) is a widower and bishop in the small Swedish town of Uppsala. Living with his family (which includes his mother, sister, and aunt), Edvard is the only male in the house. That was until he married recently widowed Emilie (Ewa Fröling), who brought two young children into his home. Now the eponymous Fanny (Pernilla Allwin) and Alexander (Bertil Guve) are finding their new step-father to be rather strict, even despite their mother’s attempts at livening up their new home. Unfortunately, Alexander, the new male in the house, is constantly at odds with Edvard, himself being a strict disciplinarian. Even though Emilie now finds herself pregnant with the bishop’s child, she manages to escape with her two children from the oppressive household. She is not allowed to divorce Edvard, so the only option for their freedom is his death.

The Night of the HunterThe Night of the Hunter
Year: 1955
Rating: Approved
Length: 92 minutes / 1.53 hours

Taking the cliché of the priestly step-father a step further, often we find criminals posing as men of the cloth in order to avoid suspicion from the authorities. These wolves in sheep’s clothing have realized that the reputation of a priest often precedes them, even if it is an erroneous assumption. In this way, they can continue to commit crimes without being suspected of any wrongdoing. After all, if the man who teaches that we should not sin ends up sinning himself, his credibility would come under intense scrutiny. Because of this, these pretend priests still need to be careful to conduct their crimes in secrecy, lest the word get out about who they really are. If they are able to successfully do so, they are usually the last person the police would suspect, and thus will get away with the crime with no repercussions.

Reverend Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) is a literal ladykiller, in both senses of the word. With his cover as a self-proclaimed priest firmly in place, he is unable to be touched by the law, which never suspects the switchblade-wielding man of the cloth. His latest target is Willa Harper (Shelley Winters), a recent widow whose former husband revealed the secret of a stolen fortune to their two kids, John (Billy Chapin) and Pearl (Sally Jane Bruce). Willa is oblivious to Powell’s intentions and allows him to get close to the family in order to find the ill-gotten gains. This ignorance leads to her death, and now John and Pearl are forced to flee the serial killer. Fortunately, they come across Rachel Cooper (Lillian Gish), a tough woman who has a penchant for looking after lost children. Now all they have to do is wait for the police to realize Powell’s true nature and come to arrest him.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 paternal priests