Director’s Spotlight: Alfred Hitchcock’s The Ring (1927)

Synopsis:

Jack “One Round” Sander (Carl Brisson, The Manxman) is a carny boxer who is trying to save up money to marry girlfriend Nellie (Lillian Hall-Davis, The Farmer’s Wife). The the romantic pair meet Australian boxing champion Bob Corby (Ian Hunter, The Adventures of Robin Hood), who offers Jack a chance to fight professionally. Things get complicated when Nellie falls for Bob.

Reaction & Thoughts:

This is Alfred Hitchcock’s sixth film, but the director, in his usual ornery manner, told interviewer François Truffaut that The Ring was really his second movie (the first one being The Lodger). Once again, Hitchcock’s pronouncement reflected the pride he felt over having total creative control for the second time in his career; Hitch selected the story, the cast, even wrote the screenplay himself. That’s why the film is every bit as personal as Hitchcock’s classics The Wrong Man, Vertigo, etc.

Because he is mostly associated with thrillers, it is interesting to see how emotional invested Hitchcock really is in what constitutes an old-fashioned love triangle with a sports background. At first glance, the film is closer to Rocky (1976) than to Psycho (1960). But if you look closer at the director’s oeuvre, Hitchcock was always as much interested in love as he was in murder — in his movies, romantic entanglements are usually filled with drama and mystery.

The title refers to both a boxing ring and a wedding band. It also alludes to a bracelet given to the girl by her new admirer. This is a particularly interesting item that seems to have been carefully selected by the director. It’s a serpent, an obvious reference to the original sin. Hitchcock liked his biblical allegories and here, although not all that subtle, the reference is an effective way of keeping the topic of forbidden sexual desire in the audience’s mind.

And the bracelet emphasizes the cyclical nature of life — the film ends exactly the way it began, with things returning back to the way they were. This is an idea that Hitchcock loved to explore. In The 39 Steps (1935), Rear Window (1954), Trouble with Harry (1955), etc., characters and situations come full circle — it is about the journey, not the destination, Hitchcock insisted.

There are many visual innovations throughout the entire film so one has to pay careful attention in order to notice them. Some touches are so subtle – the flat champagne is one of them — that you’ll probably miss them.

I was also greatly surprised by how well Hitchcock shot the boxing matches. It’s not Raging Bull-good, but the action in the ring is pretty great (for a silent movie). John Cox, the director’s cameraman for most of his pre-Hollywood career (The Manxman, Blackmail, etc.), is able to achieve a nice level of realism.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

The Ring is one of the director’s most satisfying non-suspense films. It serves to remind viewers that Hitchcock was not just the master of suspense; he was a storyteller of the first order. B&W,  80 minutes, Not Rated.

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