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Heaven and Hell to Play With: The Filming of The Night of the Hunter Paperback – August 1, 2004

4.4 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Jones interviewed Stanley Cortez at length...[his] recollections about the creation of this landmark film make for highly compelling reading." -- American Cinematographer, March 2003

...offers the kind of back story actually worth one's undivided attention. -- Film Comment (March 2003)

...one of the most delightful, funny, serious and detailed books on a classic movie ever -- Tom Tykwer, writer/director

Combining these interviews into a group diary is welcome and the resulting anecdotes and gossip are terrifically entertaining. -- Video Watchdog, April 2003

Impressively detailed! -- Leonard Maltin, November 2003
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Limelight Editions; 1 edition (August 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879109742
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879109745
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,332,293 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By William Latham on February 25, 2006
Format: Paperback
Heaven & Hell To Play With: The Filming of The Night of the Hunter by Preston Neal Jones is by no means a trivial read, and it is its sheer density that makes it so special. Jones compiled numerous interviews and basically provides an oral history of what many consider a compelling masterpiece, offering as thorough a history as one could ask for. Yes, there is much detail here, and perhaps those not familiar with Laughton's film (or fond of it) may be overwhelmed, but consider for a moment what you have here.

How many of us dream of actually observing the creation and production of a favorite film? Jones provides just that -- even without interviews from Laughton or the principal performers (save Robert Mitchum and Lillian Gish), we see the film of Davis Grubb's novel being imagined, created, and released as described by those who were there, including Davis Grubb. Where a director's commentary on a DVD is typically a trifle, providing some interesting notes and observations limited by the film's running time, this book is all about immersion -- you almost feel you are there, and you're invited to stay for awhile. Jones rarely intrudes upon the first person accounts of the participants, and when he does, it's usually to point out potential discrepancies between remembered versions of events.

The "loose" narrative of oral history, any oral history, fills in an amazing amount of detail by accident, rather than by authorial intent, and this book leaves one feeling completely satisfied (or for those with shorter attention spans on the subject, perhaps a bit full) on a subject that seemed lost -- that we're seeing this book in 2002, nearly two generations separated from the film's creation, shows us the result of determined and dedicated sleuthing.
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Format: Paperback
Night of the Hunter is the kind of movie that jolts your senses in every way. Preston Jones account on the genesis of this cinematic masterpiece is engrossing as the film itself. Meticulously researched, Jones covers every aspect of the making of this classic. Any serious film aficionado would benefit greatly to add this superb book to their library.
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Format: Paperback
Preston Neal Jones has written the best book ever about the production of a particular movie, "Heaven and Hell To Play With," which treats the making of Charles Laughton's neo-D. W. Griffith "The Night of the Hunter." Not only is his book the best of its general category but also it represents an almost-unique category of its own, which is to say that it is the story of a movie production told almost entirely in the words of those who participated in that production. It is built from detailed oral history, and the author, Mr. Jones, is almost entirely absent from the narrative. It is a great book that I read in one day. You just can't put it down. (Now, if only we could have a sumptuous re-recording of Walter Schumann's carefully crafted score. The state of movie music today would be far better if directors were willing to bring composers into their projects early in the process as Laughton did. Schumann was in on "The Night of the Hunter" almost from the beginning, and its shows in the results) GET THIS BOOK NOW !
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My first encounter with this classic film was as a youngster. Even then, it was apparent to me that I was watching very atypical Hollywood fare--likely the reason it failed during its initial release. However, NIGHT OF THE HUNTER continues to work its magic. Years later, while enjoying the Coen Brothers' THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE, I realized one of that film's most bizarre scenes was, obviously inspired by a similar sequence in NIGHT OF THE HUNTER. Like the Coens and countless others through the years, I was affected by NIGHT OF THE HUNTER because of its lyrical mixture of the comical and the frightening.

The book is full of fascinating first-person interviews with those involved with the production, including the author of the film's source material. They all provide a personal look at first-time director Charles Laughton's techniques and offer clues as to why he never directed again. HEAVEN & HELL TO PLAY WITH is a must-read for anyone who relishes the dark rural fable called NIGHT OF THE HUNTER.
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Have read all of the books pertaining to this film, and this is one of the best. It shows how much of a genius actor Charles Laughton was as a director, as well as a great actor!
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