From there, “The Night of the Hunter” becomes a perverse Southern Gothic fairy tale that details the struggle of innocent children in an unforgiving world inhabited by people like Powell. We meet John (Billy Chapin) and Pearl (Sally Jane Bruce), simple-minded country children whose father Ben Harper (Peter Graves) has killed two men while robbing a bank. Harper is caught for his crime, but hides the money beforehand, only revealing its location to John and Pearl. While imprisoned, he shares a cell with Powell who, once free, sets about marrying the children’s mother Willa (a doe-eyed Shelly Winters) in an attempt to procure the location of the cash. After Powell fails to earn the children’s obedience, he kills the widow Harper, and the children flee downriver on their father’s skiff, eventually landing at Miz Cooper’s (Lillian Gish), a haven for unfortunate and abandoned children.