Huh, and here I thought that Gore Verbinski's "The Ring" was a remake of some Japanese film from 1998, yet apparently its source material goes all the way back to... before they had commercial televisions for ghost girls to crawl out of. Wow, I knew that Alfred Hitchcock was an innovative horror director, but he must have given a couple of people a heart attack in the 1920s, not so much with the ghost girl, but with videos that you could actually watch in your own home. ...So yeah, in case you haven't figured it out yet, folks, either I'm kidding, or "The Ring" really was quite the loose remake, because if you're expecting this to be the natural progression for Hitchcock after the nail-bitingly intense "The Lodger: The Story of London Fog", then, well, you're probably right, because "The Lodger" wasn't too much more exciting than sports. Well, the sport featured in this non-horror drama is, as the title suggests, boxing, which is a lot more interesting than a lot of other sports, so it seems as though Hitchcock even had to bring some intensity to the athletic flicks that he must not have gone on to take the pointers of. Man, the boy got so fat that, um, I don't know, he got too lazy to single-handedly write his own original screenplays. It is interesting how Hitchcock didn't make it that far into his long career as a filmmaker before, if you will, "tapping out" as a sole screenwriter, but if this was to be his only original script, it's about a decent as it can be, considering that silence limits it, and your investment with it.
While Alfred Hitchcock's more dramatic and, if you will, human answer to the, at least at a time, suspenseful "The Lodger", this film may be even less talkative than its predecessor, and a lack of dialogue that is important enough to be set in intertitles dilutes a sense of urgency and distances you, even though your investment was always to be loosened by the silence. Natural technical shortcomings limit engagement value something fierce, and to make matters worse, this film's story concept has its own natural shortcomings, being reasonably interesting and whatnot, yet thin in conflict and sparse in momentum. Just like oh so many of its fellow silent opuses of feature cinema's earlier years, this film is held back by its simply being simple, no matter how much the telling of a such a thin story entertains, at least until pacing issues ensue. In addition to an uneven usage of dialogue, Hitchcock's script also boasts inconsistencies in pacing, managing to squeeze an almost 90-minute runtime out of the interpretation of a thin narrative through some excess in material, while also driving some inconsistencies into tone by incorporating many an overly comical, or at least fluffy touch which breaks relative seriousness. Of course, I strongly stress "relative" when describing the film's seriousness, because yet another classic silent flick flaw is, of course, cheesiness, deriving from anything from hammy humor to subtlety issues which further keep you from getting attached to the narrative that they seem to beg you to be engaged by. Yeah, there's ultimately not much to talk about here, with even the problems being primarily unavoidable, yet that doesn't make them any less problematic, securing the final product as yet another forgettable piece of filler from the silent film era, despite its having such an important name attached to it. Regardless, while the film has your attention, it never lets it slip so far that the final product plummets into mediocrity, doing what it can with such a thin filmmaking style and, for that matter, story concept.
Thin to begin with, and simplified further for silent flick viewers of the time, this drama's story concept is lacking in meat, and even mighty histrionic, yet as the ballad of rival boxers and, yes, even a love triangle, it's an interesting idea, so much so to set up a certain immediate intrigue, expanded upon by a fair execution. Alfred Hitchcock, as screenwriter, can only do so much with his interpretation of subject matter so thin, and a lack of both dialogue and consistency in pacing and tone further settle momentum, but there are some clever set pieces, backed by engaging characterization that is done more justice by the performances, which, quite frankly, have aged pretty well, rarely, if ever devolving into the usual hammy over-expressiveness that, at least in this day and age, takes you out of the human depths which were always to be limited in a film without voices. Make no mistake, the film still gets kind of cheesy, but the feeling of charisma and chemistry that is projected with genuineness from most every member of this cast engages through all of the quietness, providing some visual compliments to the narrative's effectiveness which go with the audible compliments. Yes, people, I did just boast about audible compliments, as the score composed by Xavier Berthelot, while formulaic, never abates on much classical energy that, no matter how its interpreted, drives much of the tone and, for that matter entertainment value of this film. The film's musicality certainly looks good on paper, and it's hard to not find a solid interpretation, and speaking of stylistic elements that look good, Jack E. Cox's cinematography, while worn down through the years, does effective justice to Hitchcock's classic tastes in very subtly sparse lighting, and tastes in framing that is broad enough to give you a feel for the environment, but tight enough for you to get a feel on the more intimate intensity. Really, it's Hitchcock's directorial tastes that may very well most secure the final product's engagement value, which is limited, sure, partly by some of Hitchcock's dated touches, even as a director, yet reinforced by the aforementioned attention to subtle visual intensity, as well as other relatively subtle storytelling touches that steadily draw you into the depths of this film and compel with only so much material. Surely, the lack of material really does damage on the film, but Hitchcock does what he can with what he's given, and he ultimately puts up a solid enough fight as storyteller to keep you intrigued, if not entertained, more often than not, even if most every strength is met by issues.
When the match is done, the natural limitations one might expect from a silent film and this premise go stressed by inconsistencies in pacing and tone, as well as by cheesy elements, until the film stands as yet another forgettable silent piece, whose narrative intrigue is done enough justice by decent scripting, acting, scoring, filming and direction to make Alfred Hitchcock's "The Ring" a reasonably intriguing silent drama, despite the shortcomings.
2.5/5 - Fair