#48 in my Ranking of Alfred Hitchcock’s films.
Alfred Hitchcock’s third movie is a step down and a step away from The Lodger. It’s a love triangle dealing with two boxers and the woman in between them. For most of its runtime, it’s a flatly filmed affair with two nearly indistinguishable leads, but it does have moments of inspiration.
The film starts with “One Round” Jack at a carnival. He’s a boxer who takes on any comer, beating them all in one round. He meets his match when a disguised professional boxer, Bob, gets pushed into fighting and beats Jack. Jack impressed the boxer’s trainer to the point that Jack gets offered the chance to be Bob’s sparring partner, which he zealously takes.
Mabel, though, is the real connective tissue between them. She starts the film as Jack’s girl, but Bob is charming and starts spending more time with her. Jack and Mabel get married as Jack starts boxing professionally and moving up in the ranks, getting closer to earning his ability to fight Bob again for real. Jack ends up consumed by jealousy as Mabel won’t give up on her newfound friendship with Bob.
The scene where Jack goes off the deep end of his jealousy is the first of two real bright spots in the film. It’s a visually fascinating depiction of drunkenness at a wild party with dancing girls, booze, and Jack seeing things that aren’t there, namely Mabel and Bob getting close to each other. Mabel leaves Jack because of his jealousy, though she doesn’t say exactly where.
At the same time, Jack and Bob are prepped for their big fight. And the big fight is the second bright spot.
At this point in film history (1927), there weren’t a whole lot of boxing movies. There was no Rocky or Raging Bull or Creed, and yet the fight still manages to feel fresh. It’s a dynamically shot fight that helps provide real visual contrast between the two boxers for the first time in the film and establishes a set of stakes from which to fight, especially when Jack sees Mabel in the crowd. It’s the second time in the movie that everything really comes alive.
As I’ve referenced before, I had a real hard time differentiating the two male leads from each other. They look a lot alike. Not like twins, but enough with their similar heights, builds, hair color and cuts, and facial structures that I merely struggled to tell who was whom. Maybe they could have dyed one of them blonde.
Still, the movie’s largely kind of dull. There’s a lot of wide shots of people walking around. It’s not as dynamically filmed as The Lodger overall, and the central love triangle feels really tame and overblown at the same time. It’s an interesting curio from early in Hitchcock’s career, and little else.