The film was made at Elstree Studios by the newly established British International Pictures who emerged as one of the two British major studios during the late 1920s and began hiring leading directors from Britain and abroad. It was Hitchcock's first film for the company, after joining from Gainsborough Pictures. It was also the first ever film to be released by the company.
Hitchcock was only 28 years old when he directed The Ring, but this was already the young filmmaker's fourth film. Hitchcock regularly attended boxing matches in London where he lived and he was struck by the fact that a good number of the spectators appear from good backgrounds and dressed in white. He also noticed that fighters were sprinkled with champagne at the end of each round. It was these two details that persuaded the young Hitchcock to start work on The Ring.
After directing Downhill and Easy Virtue, two stage adaptations for the Gainsborough company, Hitchcock was frustrated and jumped at the chance to develop an idea of his own. Surprisingly, The Ring is Hitchcock's one and only original screenplay, although he worked extensively alongside other writers throughout his career. Colleagues at the studio were impressed by the neatness of his script and its writer's grasp of structure. What's more, writing for silent films came naturally to a director who already thought in visual terms. He was much less comfortable with dialogue, which goes some way to explain why he took no sole writing credit in any later films.
The film, while widely considered a major work (for instance by François Truffaut in the book Hitchcock/Truffaut, and Chabrol-Rohmer in their book about Hitchcock) features photography tricks Hitchcock would use again years later in films like The Man Who Knew Too Much, most notably during the climactic boxing sequences.
A previously undefeated fairground boxer named "One Round" Jack Sander (Carl Brisson) is beaten in the ring by a mysterious challenger, who is later revealed to be professional boxer and World Heavyweight champion Bob Corby (Ian Hunter). Bob's manager is impressed with Jack's performance and offers Jack the chance to become Bob's full-time sparring partner, on the condition that he win a trial fight to be arranged at a later date.
Bob begins spending more time with Jack's girlfriend Mabel (Lillian Hall-Davis) and buys a bracelet for her to express his feelings. The two kiss but Mabel reluctantly puts a stop to it. The next day when Jack inquires about the bracelet Mabel lies to Jack, telling him that Bob bought it for her because he didn't want to take the money.
Jack wins his trial fight and is made Bob's official sparring partner. Keeping his earlier promise to Mabel he agrees to marry her the next day. Mabel goes through with the wedding although somewhat reluctantly due to her new found feelings for Bob. At the wedding reception Bob jokingly states that he wishes Mabel had been the prize at his and Jack's original fight. Jack boldly states that he would defend his wife in a fight against any man. A friendly exhibition match is arranged between the two fighters which Bob wins. After the fight Jack sees that his bride flirting with Bob and suspects that they are having an affair. Jack declares his intent to fight Bob for the heavyweight championship of the world but he is told that this can not happen yet as Jack is not ranked high enough in the league to challenge Bob to an official fight. Jack instead works his way up the rankings and eventually becomes the number one contender.
Jack arranges a party with his friends in his apartment as a way to surprise Mabel and let her know that he will be fighting for the world title. Jack and his friends wait long into the night but Mabel does not show up. After Jack's friends leave, Jack stays up and waits for Mabel and eventually she sees her getting out of Bob's car. Jack angrily confronts Mabel about her liaisons with Bob and smashes a framed picture of him. Jack then goes to the club where Bob is and confronts him, Bob tries a cheap shot but Jack knocks him out before he connects. Jack informs Bob that he is officially the number one contender and they will settle their differences in the ring.
On the day of the fight the two fighters seem evenly matched until the final rounds where Bob starts to dominate Jack. Jack considers giving up until Mabel, seeing him in pain, runs over to Jack's corner and declares that she wants to be with him, not Bob. Jack musters up his remaining energy and unleashes a flurry of punches in the final round, eventually knocking Bob out and winning the fight. Jack and Mabel embrace as Bob accepts defeat.
The film was a major critical success on its release. However, when it went on general release it was considered a box office failure.
The restoration was done by the BFI National Archive in association with media company Canal+ in 2005. Principal restoration funding was provided by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and The Film Foundation. Additional funding provided by Deluxe 142 and The Mohammed S. Farsi Foundation. A restored and remastered print of the film was released on DVD by Lionsgate Home Entertainment in 2007.Carl Brisson as 'One-Round' Jack Sander
Lillian Hall-Davis as Mabel (as Lilian Hall Davis)
Ian Hunter as Bob Corby
Forrester Harvey as James Ware
Harry Terry as Showman
Gordon Harker as Jack's Trainer
Charles Farrell as Second (uncredited)
Clare Greet as Fortune Teller (uncredited)
Tom Helmore (uncredited)
Minnie Rayner as Boxing Contestant's Wife (uncredited)
Brandy Walker as Spectator (uncredited)
Billy Wells as Boxer (uncredited)
Alto saxophonist and rapper Soweto Kinch composed a background score for the film. It was screened with the live performance by Kinch and Team.
The first such performance outside London was for the 17th International Film Festival of Kerala on the inaugural day on 8 December 2012.