Hell's Hinges (1916)

Genres - Western  |   Sub-Genres - B-Western  |   Release Date - Mar 5, 1916 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 64 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Hans J. Wollstein

"A different kind of smile, sweet, honest, and trustful, and seeming to say 'how do you do, friend?'" With these words, the minister's demure sister, and the heroine of this classic Western, is introduced to William S. Hart's Good-Bad man, "one who is evil looking for the first time upon that which is good," as he is described. Unfortunately, the girl is played by that homeliest of silent screen actresses, Clara Williams, hardly the type to inspire such a swift about-face in a man assigned to keep the hellhole of Hell's Hinges free from the sanctimonious influence of organized religion. It is quite easy, in contrast, to see why Hart was so appealing a screen type for his day, a Victorian stage actor bringing his kind of theatrical verisimilitude to the masses in terms easily understood by all. Of all his surviving films, Hell's Hinges remains perhaps the quintessential Hart Western, realistic in setting and melodramatic in concept. The plot would be repeated ad nauseam in the future, sometimes performed by screen personalities less robustly theatrical than Hart, but never better. Along with the Selig company's The Spoilers from 1914, Hell's Hinges is early silent Western melodrama at its zenith and should not be missed by anyone even remotely interested in the genre.