A rarity among Alfred Hitchcock’s films in that he wrote as well as directed it, THE RING is perhaps his first fully rounded feature. Nearly two hours in length, this absorbing tale concerns two boxers competing for the love of a girl, and the resulting emotional see-saw is quite compelling, despite an utterly conventional plot. It is further evidence of Hitchcock’s rapid maturation as a filmmaker, and a delight from start to finish – especially when showing in this brand spanking new restored version with a live soundtrack performed by Neil Brand, as here at the Cambridge Film Festival.
Abandoning his usual preoccupations with crime and murder, he instead starts off at a funfair. Boxer “One Round” Jack Saunders invites any member of the public to challenge him in the ring, while his betrothed (Lillian Hall-Davis, credited only as “The Girl”) takes tickets on the door. One punter accepts the challenge and wins, though it later emerges he is in fact boxing champion Bob Corby, and he’s taken a shine to the lady. He tries to woo her away but Jack succeeds in getting her down the aisle. Fame and fortune have their effect on her however, and Jack finds he has to fight to keep her, culminating with an epic knockout contest at the Royal Albert Hall.
… It is further evidence of Hitchcock’s rapid maturation as a filmmaker, and a delight from start to finish …
Surprisingly, none of the three main characters are clearly defined as heroes or heroine. Traditionally Bob would have been played as the bounder, trying to seduce the honourable wife away from her hard-working upright husband. Yet Bob largely behaves with integrity; true, he buys gifts for her and snatches a kiss, but admits defeat and toasts the couple at their wedding celebrations. The testy relationship between the two men quickly sours when Bob is mistaken for her husband, and it’s this jealous streak that drives a wedge between Jack and his wife.
It is in fact The Girl who is the root cause of the problems here, in another example of Hitchcock’s misogynistic attitude towards women. She flits between her two beaus, never fully committing to either one, even at the altar; a telling shot of the bangle bought for her by Bob slipping down her arm in to view just as her wedding ring is placed on her finger by Jack during the marriage ceremony speaks volumes. It is just one brilliant touch in a film that is as subtle as it is enthralling.