Robert Mitchum stars as Harry Powell, a preacher whose down-home manners and lazy charm mask a perverse, truly malignant soul. When he comes to a small Southern town populated by yokels who all seem to have stumbled out of a Norman Rockwell canvas, he imagines there's no one to stop him from claiming the fortune left behind by the late husband of the lovely Willa Harper (Shelley Winters). Of course, Powell's not counting on the fierce resistance he'll face from Willa's offspring, John and Pearl (Billy Chapin and Sally Jane Bruce). When Charles Laughton turned to directing, he brought the same ferocity to it that he had to acting, with results that were arguably even more impressive. Certain aspects of the film's story have penetrated the popular imagination, such as Mitchum's tattoos bearing the word LOVE across the knuckles of one hand and HATE on the other, a bit that has been ripped off, paid homage to and parodied by everybody from The Simpsons to Spike Lee to Springsteen. But Night of the Hunter was a critical and commercial disaster in its day, so much so that Laughton never directed again. It brings to mind the career of Orson Welles, another king-size, noisy, maverick director who made a masterful debut, bombed big and was promptly slapped down by Hollywood. While Welles' story is one that film majors cry themselves to sleep thinking about, Laughton's is arguably even sadder. Welles at least was allowed to make dozens more pictures, even if he never again equaled Citizen Kane. Laughton never stepped behind the camera again and had to settle for being one of the most fascinating actors of all time. Bay Theatre, 340 Main St., Seal Beach, (562) 431-9988. Fri., 10:30 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; Mon., 8 p.m. $5-$8.
A Face in the Crowd. Andy Griffith, in his film debut, works a horrifying twist on the homespun yokel he'd later play for laughs. This punchy Elia Kazan drama has Griffith as a Southern hobo who becomes a media celebrity, only to then become mad with his new power. Walter Matthua is also on hand for an atypical, downbeat role. Shorts, newsreels and other goodies are also included on the bill. Long Beach School for Adults Auditorium, 3701 E. Willow St., Long Beach, (562) 997-8000, ext. 7198. Fri., 7 p.m. $1.
El Mago. A dying magician (Erando Gonzlez) sets out to make peace with his past in Jaime Aparicio's 2004 Mexican drama. It's the debut picture in UC Irvine's Latin American Film Festival, which continues through the end of May. UCI Film and Video Center, Humanities Instruction Bldg., Room 100, Campus & W. Peltason drs., I rvine, (949) 824-7418; www.humanities.uci.edu/fvc. Thurs., April 27, 7 p.m. $3-$5.
Instandstillnessence. New video artwork from John Oswald features very, very slowly changing photo portraits of the people of Toronto. Orange County Museum of Art, 850 San Clemente Dr., Newport Beach. (949) 759-1122. Wed.-Sun., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thurs., 11 a.m.-8 p.m. $8-$10.
The Joy Luck Club. Wayne Wang's 1993 drama about the life histories and inter-family conflict of four Asian women and their daughters. Based on the best-selling book by Amy Tan. Mission Viejo Library, 100 Civic Center, Mission Viejo, (949) 830-7100, ext. 4019; www.cmvl.org. Sat. 6:30 p.m. Free.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail. This classic comedy is absolutely resistant to rational encapsulation; it's set in the Middle Ages, sort of, and involves characters from the King Arthur legends in all sorts of bizarre hijinks. Unless you're an uptight jackass, you're guaranteed a swell time, and even you uptight jackasses should at least have some fun really hating the picture. Just, please, all you fanboys who are sure to attend in droves, please don't holler "Ni!" in the movie theater. We know you know all the dialogue, but this isn't Rocky Horror, and there's no call for a group recitation. Man, that shit was old in, like, 1977. Edwards Rancho Santa Margarita, 30632 Santa Margarita Pkwy., Rancho Santa Margarita, (949) 888-3358. Tues., 8 p.m. $6; Edwards South Coast Village, 1561 W. Sunflower Ave., Santa Ana, (800) 326-3264. Wed., 8 p.m. $6.
The Newport Beach Film Festival. This year's fest pretty much winds down with a full day of shows on Thursday, April 27 (the day this issue hits the stands). But you can still catch one more shorts program for kids on Saturday at 1:30 p.m., with Shorts for Shorties screening at the Orange County Museum of Art. Visit www.newportbeachfilmfest.com for full schedule and pricing info, or call 866-NBFF-TIX.
Pioneering video artists. The Orange County Museum of Art presents a new selection of video artwork at South Coast Plaza, including 1973's Global Groove by Nam June Paik, and Cory Arcangel and Frankie Martin's 2004 satire on early '90s pop culture, 414-RAVE-95. South Coast Plaza, Orange Lounge, third floor of the Crate & Barrel wing, 3333 Bear St., Costa Mesa. (949) 759-1122, ext. 272. Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Free.
Postcards From Italy. The GeoCinema Festival 2006 presents Steve McCurdy's travel doc, with McCurdy appearing in person. Regency Lido Cinema, 3459 Via Lido, Newport Beach, (760) 617-1448. Sat., 10:30 a.m. $8.
Mail your press releases (and a videotape, if available) to Special Screenings,OC Weekly, 1666 N. Main St., Ste. 500, Santa Ana, CA 92701-7417. Or send e-mail to email@example.com. All materials must be received at least two weeks before the screening.
Get the Film & TV Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.