Hell’s Hinges (1916)

Hell’s Hinges is a silent Western movie with William S. Hart in the lead role. The film is attributed to director Charles Swickard, though many doubt this fact. The movie was probably mainly directed by Hart himself and distributed by Thomas H. Ince from Kay-Bee Productions in 1916. In 1994, the National Film Preservation Board of the USA decided to induct it into the National Film Register because “Hell’s Hinges” was so important culturally, aesthetically and historically.

Hell's Hinges

William S. Hart, born in 1864, was one of the biggest stars of the Western in the 1910s. At the age of fifty, he left the stage for the big screen. He fit perfectly into the picture of a weathered and bad cowboy who sees the light through love. He also falls into this typical pattern in this film. He starts off as a villain, but the sight of the beautiful Faith brings about a complete change in personality. He now helps protect the city from the other bad guys and gets the girl.

This film was released under the watchful eye of Kay-Bee Pictures. This production company has made no fewer than 256 films, ranging from “On Secret Service” in 1912 to “The Marriage Bubble” in 1918. Their studios were located in California, a state that largely consists of untouched nature, which allowed filming for “Hell’s Hinges” outside. The state also has a great diversity of nature, with every type of landscape present and available for filming. “Hell’s Hinges” takes full advantage of this as the movie takes place outdoors, with only a few scenes set indoors.

The camera regularly switches between indoor and outdoor scenes and the scenes themselves vary in duration. In general, the scenes are still fairly short, but essential scenes are spread out a bit longer. Hart also uses different camera techniques to portray emotions and add variety to his films. For example, when Blaze looks up and his eyes meet Faith’s, Hart uses the eyeline match. We move from images of Blaze staring at Faith’s profile and afterwards, we look straight into her eyes.

“Hell’s Hinges” is a silent film. There is no speaking, and to make up for this and give the story some context, intertitles are used. These indicate the different scenes and actions in the story and serve as a kind of cinematic variant of the speech bubble in the comic strip.

Happy watching,

Loes M.

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