Alfred Hitchcock Collectors’ Guide: The Ring (1927)

by Brent Reid
  • The Master of Suspense turns in a technical tour de force in this prize winning tale
  • Danish actor Carl Brisson, star of two Hitchcocks, suffers a hit in love in both rounds
  • Don’t entertain the rough crowd of badly beaten-up bootlegs: they’ll leave you punch drunk
  • This simple guide makes it easy to buy the best Blu-ray, DVD and streaming releases
  • Official contenders have two versions, three transfer speeds and three scores!

Note: this is one of 100-odd Hitchcock articles coming over the next few months. Any dead links are to those not yet published. Subscribe to the email list to be notified when new ones appear.

The Ring aka Der Weltmeister (The World Champion, 1927, dir. Alfred Hitchcock) German poster

German poster



L-R Gordon Harker, Carl Brisson and Harry Terry in The Ring (1927, dir. Alfred Hitchcock)

L-R Gordon Harker, Carl Brisson and Harry Terry

‘One Round’ Jack Sanders is a skilled young boxer who travels the country fairs with his portable boxing booth. In love with the beautiful cashier, Jack’s only ambition is to beat all of his competitors and make enough money to marry her. But when an Australian champion, Bob, challenges him to a fight, Jack realises too late that he is not the only one competing for the lovely cashier’s affections. – Australian Madman 2-DVD (2009)

This technically virtuosic and very entertaining film is Alfred Hitchcock’s first to be based on an original screenplay. It’s a tale of passion and betrayal concerning fairground folk who are as competitive outside ‘the ring’ as inside of it. Once again, as with Hitch’s earlier film The Lodger and its triangle motif, a geometric shape is the running theme. However, this time, as with fellow British wunderkind director Anthony Asquith’s Shooting Stars, released just a few months later, this time its indicated commencing with the very title. “The Ring” is a deliberate play on words, meant to be interpreted in several different ways: boxing; armband; wedding; ménage à trois; and finally, the story itself, which concludes by coming full circle.

The Ring is often described as Hitch’s only solo-written original screenplay, but this is extremely unlikely. As Charles Barr explains in English Hitchcock (1999), Eliot Stannard, the writer or co-writer of all Hitch’s other silents, almost certainly had a strong hand in it, as did Walter C. Mycroft. The latter actually said in his long-posthumously published memoir The Time of My Life (2006) that he was mainly responsible for The Ring’s screenplay himself and his claim has a lot of credence. In addition to being credited with the story upon which Champagne is based, he co-wrote Elstree Calling and Murder! for Hitch, and wrote, produced and directed many other notable British films of the 1930s and 1940s. Among them are Spring Meeting and Banana Ridge featuring Nova Pilbeam, star of The Man Who Knew Too Much and Young and Innocent.

Hitch was notoriously mean when it came to crediting his many collaborators (something else he had in common with Chaplin), especially his writers, and many of the most important ones actively protested their marginalisation during Hitch’s cultural rehabilitation in the 1960s. However, according to several biographers it seems he did at least privately acknowledge Stannard’s contribution to The Ring’s screenplay.

The end result is an accomplished work to be sure, but the plot itself is not a complex one. It’s primarily concerned with a straightforward, age-old love triangle. But it revolves around skewed gender politics, a real rarity for a Hitchcock film (ha – if only!), which ultimately keep it from being a contender for the uppermost ranks of the Master’s canon. The moral of this boxing ring-bound drama? Beat up the bloke making love to your missus and she’ll be so overcome with new-found respect, she’ll willingly submit to being dragged back to your cave by her hair.

To its further detriment, it also jabs the viewer with the one-two punch of racism and sexism. The ‘N’ word is present and incorrect, accompanied by a suitably stereotyped Black man. And the underwritten female lead is shallow, selfish and can’t seem to make her mind up what – or rather, whom – she wants almost from one scene to the next. Having said that though, this reflects just as badly on the men, particularly her husband, for enabling and putting up with her fickle ways. Just as in real life, except in extreme circumstances, people can only treat you the way you allow yourself to be treated.

Harry Terry and Lillian Hall-Davis in The Ring (1927, dir. Alfred Hitchcock)

Harry Terry and Lillian Hall-Davis: joy and pain

Now, having said all that, The Ring still has more than enough to recommend it, and the good far outweighs the bad. The conniving wife, Lillian Hall-Davis (credited here as Lilian), went on to a much more sympathetic role in her next Hitchcock. There, her faithful though still-underwritten part is the quiet strength at the heart of the film. Meanwhile, Danish actor Carl Brisson, here putting in an excellent turn as the too-trusting doormat, appeared to be typecast by Hitch at least, as he played pretty much the same character in The Manxman. Show stealing support is provided by the constantly-mugging Gordon Harker in his first of four Hitchcocks, ahead of The Farmer’s WifeChampagne and Elstree Calling.


The Ring was first officially released on home video in 1999, with an excellent transfer of a copy preserved by the BFI Archive, which is the de facto version worldwide. However, it was also restored as part of the Hitchcock 9 project, and transferred at 20fps (105min). That version first came out punching on 13 July 2012 at the Hackney Empire, London, tagged with a new jazz score by Soweto Kinch. Although it’s so far unreleased, Kinch and his fellow musicians also made a studio recording of their score which is already included on the current DCP, so it’s good to go for home video.

“The BFI National Archive received the original nitrate negative of The Ring from the Associated British Picture Corporation in 1959. The negative was already severely unstable and a new ‘fine grain’ positive was made immediately. The restoration team, working with Deluxe 142, scanned this element at 2k resolution, and careful grading and manual restoration work enabled the removal of many of the defects of definition, contrast and warping inherent in the fine grain (the original negative was no longer extant). The intertitles have been painstakingly reconstructed and an alphabet in the hand-crafted font of the original was created by scanning all the titles.” – BFI programme notes

Carl Brisson and Lillian Hall-Davis in The Ring (1927, dir. Alfred Hitchcock)

Carl is fighting mad at Lillian’s stepping out

Home video releases

The restored version has so far only been released in the US, with an adept new piano score by Meg Morley and audio commentary by critic Nick Pinkerton. Note it’s been stripped and ripped in lower quality for an anonymous Spanish bootleg BD-R, likely from Resen.

The previous preserved version may not be fully restored but is still very solid and certainly won’t give any cause for complaint. It’s widely available on DVD and is transferred at 24fps (90min), though the PAL discs have an additional 4% speed-up (86min). The US DVD (and deleted HD stream) has an edge in detail over its PAL counterparts, as the Hitchcock Zone’s comparative screenshots amply demonstrate. All preserved releases feature a very effective piano score by Xavier Berthelot, bar the UK BFI VHS (109min) with Neil Brand’s exclusive piano score.

Many releases of Hitch’s Studiocanal-owned British films, commencing with The Ring, have 3-6-minute ‘introductions’ recorded by French actor-critic-historian Noël Simsolo in 2004. But it’s more accurate to describe them as mini-discussions and spoilers abound. Also unfortunate is although they do contain many interesting nuggets, collectively there is much by way of speculation, theorising and outright errors, in which Simsolo perpetuates various long-held fallacies. They’re certainly worth watching – though not before you’ve seen the films! – but don’t take everything he says as gospel. His French dialogue is subtitled on non-domestic releases, and Juno and the Paycock and Elstree Calling are the only Studiocanals to escape his attentions. Apart from that, most releases are barebones.

As with the other fully copyrighted but much-bootlegged British Hitches, there are many ropy looking copies of this title that are dead on their feet. They’re all missing snippets of footage and have wildly varying run times due to being transferred either too fast or too slow; anything from 76-136 minutes – really! Then there’s the ‘music’: awful, lo-fi public domain needle-drop scores if they have any at all, as many are completely silent. Don’t take a hit from that rubbish; stick to the champs on the list.

Lillian Hall-Davis and Carl Brisson in The Ring (1927, dir. Alfred Hitchcock)

Staying in his corner: Lillian and Carl reunited

Note that at the end of 2022, The Ring entered the US public domain only, 95 years after its original 1927 release. But there’s more to it than that. It only applies to unrestored prints, not any of the preserved or restored, newly scored versions. In all cases, they meet the threshold of originality and easily qualify as derivative works with full-term copyrights. In the rest of the world, all versions of the film, restored or otherwise, remain copyrighted until at least 2050: Hitch’s 1980 death + 70 years.

Forever and a Day (1943)

Forever and a Day (1943) US poster

US one sheet poster

“Superb performances” – Bosley Crowther, The New York Times

An unforgettable cast makes Forever and a Day a once in a lifetime event. Conceived as a tribute to the people of England during World War II, this phenomenal film features nearly 80 stars—virtually every Hollywood actor with English roots. Moving episodes and humorous bits chronicle nearly 140 years of life in a regal London home, from the Napoleonic era through its years as a hotel, boarding house, and finally, an air-raid shelter during the Nazi blitz. Great performances include Charles Laughton as a comic butler, Cedric Hardwicke and Buster Keaton as plumbers, Merle Oberon and Robert Cummings as young lovers, and Gladys Cooper and Roland Young as a couple whose son is killed in action. This touching memorial to wartime courage remains top entertainment today. – US Home Vision VHS (1998)

Onscreen Ring love rat Ian Hunter, fresh from his stint as another adulterous cad in Downhill, was directed by Hitch in a total of three films. After this one he played a more, ahem, conventionally upstanding character in Easy Virtue. He was also due to be directed by Hitch in a fourth, RKO’s American-shot, ensemble wartime propaganda effort with an all-star cast and crew including many other Hitch regulars. Hunter had a small part as a wealthy industrialist but in the event, due to overruns with Suspicion, Hitch was unable to direct his own segment with Cary Grant and both had to drop out, leaving René Clair and Brian Aherne to stand in for them. However, in the finished article Hitch and Charles Bennett, his frequent screenwriter, did receive a co-writing credit.

The film, intended to raise both funds and morale for folk back in Blighty, is stuffed to the gills with famous British faces – and Buster Keaton! It’s worth watching for them alone. As with Millions Like Us, the other Hitch-related home front flag-waver released later that same year, Forever and a Day succeeds admirably nowadays as pure entertainment and I strongly recommend it.

For more detailed specifications of official releases mentioned, check out the ever-useful DVDCompare. This article is regularly updated, so please leave a comment if you have any questions or suggestions.

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John Fowler
John Fowler
29th October 2019 13:24

Updated special features from Kino:
-New scores by Meg Morley (The Ring), Jon Mirsalis (The Farmer’s Wife), Ben Model (Champagne), and Andrew Earle Simpson (The Manxman)
-Hitchcock/Truffaut: Icon interviews Icon (archival audio)
-Audio commentary on The Ring by film critic Nick Pinkerton
-Audio commentaries on Champagne and The Manxman by film historian Farran Smith Nehme

Fr. Matthew Hardesty
Fr. Matthew Hardesty
20th June 2022 04:39

Hello, your link to Millions Like Us is broken, just FYI

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