Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Ring (1927)

Beefing on Hitchcock
The Ring

An undefeated carnival boxer, "One Round" Jack, is finally taken down by a challenger, who it turns out is a boxing champ looking to recruit a sparring partner. The boxer, Bob Corby, eyes and puts the move on Jack's fiancée, Mabel, while Jack is off signing a deal, and a love triangle begins. While Jack makes his way up the boxing ranks, Bob and Mabel (now Jack's wife) move increasingly closer together... even in front of Jack's very eyes. Jack is determined to fight Bob for the love of his life, who has left him after a brutal argument. The two have the boxing match of their lives, all while Mabel watches from Bob's corner. When she sees her estranged husband being defeated, her heart wrenches and she slowly makes her way around the boxing ring and begins to cheer for Jack. Jack, bloodied and beaten, spies Mabel beside him, and he gathers the strength to finally defeat his foe.

The Ring is flawed in only one real way, and that is the lack of sympathy for Mabel. Throughout the entire film, especially near the end, when she changes sides back to Jack's, you really don't want the two to end up back together. She proves herself not worthy of Jack time and time again, and I personally feel the story could have worked better with a second woman for Jack to end up with. (Much as the story in The Pleasure Garden) To be fair, this was Hitchcock's first and only screen-writing credit, so I'll cut him some slack. As well, I suppose an argument to my one gripe could be that she changed sides when Jack was clearly losing the boxing match, as opposed to only supporting him if he was winning... but she really was not very likable, as Jack did not deserve her ill treatment.

The symbolism of "the ring" through the whole film came in a few different forms: First, there was the boxing ring, of course. Secondly, the bracelet Bob gave Mabel, which she promptly tries to hide from her fiancée. Thirdly, the wedding ring, and fourthly, the love triangle itself. This sort of multiple meaning is definitely typical of Hitchcock, and he makes very certain the symbolism is not lost on the audience.

Another typical "Hitchcock" style twist in The Ring is the focus of who the protagonist actually is. When we begin, the viewer is immediately certain that Bob is the hero. We're unaware of his profession, or that the whole boxing match is a set-up to find a suitable opponent. For all we know, he's just a carnival goer who doesn't actually want to fight and only wants to make eyes at Mabel... Eventually, we (very suddenly) find ourselves emoting for Jack, who had come across as a pompous jerk at the very start of the film. To say you feel sympathetic towards Jack would be an understatement, and he is very truly the hero of this film. Despite his depressed and drunken altercation with Mabel at the end of the second act (to which he had been pushed to a breaking point), he had proven himself to be the better man time and time again.

This film is a fantastic, solid movie, and I enjoyed it very much. You can definitely see Hitchcock finding his story style and visual feel as we go along.

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