Hitchcock brings the “love triangle” motif found in The Pleasure Garden and The Lodger to the foreground of his next film The Ring, unique for being the only original screenplay he ever wrote.
We follow the rivalry between two boxers – ‘One-Round’ Jack (Carl Brisson) and Bob Corby (Ian Hunter). Things become personal when Jack’s love interest Mabel (Lillian Hall-Davis) begins to fall for his more successful rival. Jack pops the question with a wedding ring, but Bob presents her with an arm bracelet. “Mine is bigger than yours”, if you will.
The boxing setting plays perfectly into the themes of emasculation and competitive sexual jealousy, although the character of Mabel suffers as a consequence. Her attraction to one man over the other wavers haphazardly, without clear motivation, to give the men a “prize” to compete over. A bit of a step back from the more psychologically realised women of Hitchcock’s previous two films.
As for the rest of the cast, Brisson is a charming actor but he’s too slender for us to really buy into the idea that he’s a boxer. Once again, we get some enjoyable wacky side characters for comic relief such as a bumbling trainer who inadvertently flips off the priest at the wedding while picking his nose and an eccentric old fortune-teller puffing away on her pipe.
Where the film truly succeeds is in its technical achievements. Hitchcock displays some of his best editing yet: well-paced montages, effective use of double exposure and a thrilling rapid tempo during the fights.
It’s also got some nice juicy slabs of symbolism. The title refers most directly to the boxing ring where the bulk of action takes places, but also acts as a metaphor for the spiralling love triangle between the lead characters – further represented by the arm bracelet versus wedding ring. Rings within rings.
Upon its release The Bioscope heralded The Ring as “the most magnificent British film ever made.” While it remains a tribute to Hitchcock’s technical mastery, it is perhaps less accessible than The Lodger for modern moviegoers.
There’s also an unpleasant use of the N-Word. Yikes. Maybe it’s a good thing this was Hitch’s only screenplay.