Wednesday, June 23, 2021

#2,589. Hell Bent (1918)


This silent film is an early western by John Ford, who in the years that followed would establish himself as one of that genre’s most accomplished directors. But Hell Bent is more than just a curiosity; throughout the movie, there are hints of the artistry Ford would refine in such later films as Stagecoach, My Darling Clementine, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and The Searchers.

Petty crook Cheyenne Harry (Harry Carey) falls for saloon girl Bess Thurston (Neva Gerber), a love that convinces him to change his thieving ways. Things get a bit complicated, however, when Cheyenne learns that Bess’s out-of-work brother, Jack (Vester Pegg), has joined forces with notorious criminal Beau Ross (Joe Harris). X Can Cheyenne convince Jack to go straight before Bess finds out?

Story-wise, Hell Bent is nothing special, nor are many of the film’s action scenes. But Ford’s penchant for shooting outdoors – exploring the vast landscapes of the American West - is on display, and an early shot where a painting morphs into a real life scenario is flawlessly executed (as is a late sequence involving a sandstorm).

Hell Bent may not be John Ford’s finest western, but it has its charms, and fans of the great director won’t want to miss it.
Rating: 6 out of 10

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