Movie Review: The Ring (@IFFK)

(This appeared on THE WEEK web site. Click here to read it online.)

Film: The Ring (1927)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: Carl Brisson, Lillian Hall-Davis, Ian Hunter

Watching a silent film is an experience. Watching a silent film ‘written and directed’ by Alfred Hitchcock with live orchestration is like a dream come true for any film buff. What sets The Ring apart from other Hitchcock films is not that it is the only one he has written the screenplay for, but the absence of a suspense-driven plot.

The film opens at a fair, where “One Round” Jack (Brisson)—because none of his opponents last for more than a round— challenges the crowd to prove his name wrong. His pretty girfriend Mabel (Hall-Davis) sits at the ticket counter. Her eyes fall on Bob Corby (Hunter) and evidently smitten by the handsome stranger, Mabel playfully nudges Bob into the competition. Much to everyone’s surprise Bob defeats Jack in two rounds, only to later reveal that he is a heavyweight champion.

He, too, is so swept off his feet by the young lady, that he offers Jack a chance to become his sparring partner. Overwhelmed by this offer, Jack proposes Mabel and they get married. But she is confused because she has taken a liking for Bob, who had gifted her an arm band with the prize money he had won. Initially, Mabel is seen hiding the band from Jack, but her dilemma is conveyed perfectly in the scene where it falls down as Jack gives her the wedding ring. She has a tough time deciding between Bob’s heroic charm and the boring domestic life that lies ahead of her with Jack.

Finally, Mabel walks out on Jack, who then decides to defeat Bob for his wife. What follows shows how Jack makes a name for himself in the boxing world to take on Bob and whether he succeeds in his resolve.

Brisson as Jack is totally believable. His subtle expressions do all the talking in this silent drama. Hall-Davis and Hunter also impress with their parts. Why the film was chosen to be restored by the British Film Institute under their project titled The Genius of Hitchcock is evident by the photographic tricks the master uses in the film. The urgency with which the trainers flap their towels, sponge the boxers and sprinkle them with champagne sets the tone for the boxing sequences, but this gets lost in the overstretched fights that look staged.

The icing on the cake was definitely the live orchestra played by the seven member team of musicians led by noted saxophonist, hip hop musician and rapper Soweto Kinch. The music blended well with the visuals and took the film to a whole new level. Hitchcock’s 1927 love triangle is quite a captivating tale and does not feel a bit outdated, even 85 years later.

 

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