The Ring Reviews
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
You see, back in the days of silent movies, something was needed to keep the audience focused, not unlike today, because even title cards can set so much of the mood. Some theaters would have an orchestra that would play what amounted to mood music depending on the screen, stopping when a reel needed to be changed and for the inevitable intermission. Sometimes these orchestras had set hours, since they played for several movies and on a weekly basis, and a piano player would then step in for a bit. The music was typically chosen from a stock set of pieces, perhaps something jangly for a carnival scene, ominous for a villain's appearance, soaring for a hero, and so on.
The Ring is not a movie that spends a lot of time on those descriptive title cards, so one needs to pay some attention (and, happily, the orchestra helps inform the audience with its selections). It's always amused me how a character can speak - soundlessly, of course - extensively, with no follow-up title card explain what in the world he or she said. That's where one's focus comes into play. Once you get the crux of the usually simple plot, you can guess at the meaning of the silent dialogue. And so it was with The Ring, a tale about a man named Bob who bests a carnival boxer named One-Round Jack, winning a bunch of money, a career as a boxer, and the heart of Jack's gal, The Girl. But Bob's no one-note villain. He's not really even a villain, for this isn't a good-versus-evil melodrama. It's happy, good-hearted fun, complete with circus freaks (check out the expression on the minister at the wedding when the Tallest Man and the Shortest Man both arrive, not to mention the Siamese Twins).
It may not be one of Hitch's best-known movies, but The Ring is very well shot, particularly for the time, with low-budget film manipulations yielding evocative effects. And it would be a few more years before Hitchcock made it big, but his burgeoning talent is already evident here.
The story of 2 men fighting both physically in the boxing ring & mentally to obtain the affection of the one woman.
Filled with much of Hitchcock's early examples of tricky camera work & stylish direction. I really appreciate his silent films & he really knew how to tell a story so well cinematically. Although this isn't mega scary it is perfect example of his thriller elements sneaking in...
The plot is very thin, formulaic, and predictable, but it's retelling here is well played and, because of Hitch's touch, it's not the boring forgettable relic of days gone by it could have been. There's some good cinematogrpahy, neat camera tricks (some of which would be reused by Hitch later on), and some editing that's not half bad, although the transitions between the music tracks can be quite abrupt and jarring at times, and in need of some smoothing out. Despite that though, the msuic is actually quite amazing and really had me hooked into an otherwise so-so story. I know that music was vital to silent films, but even then, the music here just really sticks out for me and is what ultimately gives the film its strongest selling point (though the other positive stuff I mentioned contributes a lot as well).
The Plot: 'One Round' Jack Sanders is a travelling boxer in a sideshow of a carnival, who has a record of knocking out brave men from the audience in one round. One day a boxing champ called Bob challenges Jack who loses the fight to Bob, before too long Jack marries the Ticket girl of the Boxing attraction and starts a professional boxing carrer. But before too long a rivalry grows amongst Bob and Jack over the affections of jacks wife.
The ring was both written and directed by Hitchcock and quite simply it's a typical love triangle drama. But since it's a slice of the origins of Hitchcock's masterful direction and storytelling, The Ring demonstrates why the romantic myth of Hitchcock being a silent filmmaker at heart is true. If one was to turn off the sound on a later film of Hitchcock's later Hollywood Sound masterpieces, the viewer would still understand what's going on due to the body langue of the actors.
As a whole the ring is a good film from Hitchcock's early British-Silent-Era, the score on the tomatometer for me is a definite 70%