The Ringer (1952) | A starry cast makes this vintage Edgar Wallace thriller worth a revisit

The Ringer DVD

When the sister of criminal mastermind The Ringer is found drowned, unscrupulous lawyer Maurice Meister (Herbert Lom) is blamed and Scotland Yard suspect The Ringer is out to kill him. Meister hires an ex-con (William Hartnell) as his bodyguard, while the Yard put the house under surveillance. But can they unmask The Ringer (who is a master of disguise) before he succeeds in his quest for vengeance?

Donald Wolfit in The Ringer

You’ll be baffled as to why Scotland Yard fail to unmask Donald Wolfit’s forensics expert Dr Lomond as The Ringer as soon as he makes his appearance in this 1952 British thriller, especially considering the phoney accent and obvious makeup. But given it’s based on the oft-performed 1925 play, The Gaunt Stranger, by famed crime writer (and original King Kong scribe) Edgar Wallace, and had been filmed a number of times in its wake, 1950s audiences were probably already familiar with the story and just wanted to see the update for its gallery of classy character actors, which included an eloquent Herbert Lom as slimy lawyer Meister, a pre-Doctor Who William Hartnell as his Cockney rhyming bodyguard and, of course, Wolfit, whose master criminal gets to fool London’s finest even after his unmasking. And providing the colour to the black and white who-will-do-it is a young Denholm Elliott and a ravishing Mai Zetterling as young lovers caught up in the intrigue, and Dora Bryan as Hartnell’s hilarious high-pitched wife.

Herbert Lom in The Ringer

It might be predictable and stagy for modern audiences, but what makes the vintage thriller worth a revisit is seeing these great British characters actors going full throttle with Val Valentine and Lesley Storm’s wordy script. The other reason of course is that it also marks the directorial debut of Guy Hamilton, who’s best known for lensing four James Bond films. The Ringer may not be in the same league as those iconic British films, but Hamilton does do an efficient job in racking up the tension of this filler thriller.

Network Distributing DVD release, part of their British Film collection, is presented in a brand-new transfer from original film elements in its as-exhibited theatrical aspect ratio, and includes an image gallery and promotional material (pdf) as extras.


About Peter Fuller

Peter Fuller is an award-winning print, radio and television journalist and producer, with over 30 years experience covering film and television, with a special interest in world cinema and popular culture. He is a leading expert on the life and career of Vincent Price and actively promotes the actor's legacy through publications, websites and special events.

Posted on January 27, 2014, in British Film, Might-See and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: