Fun Size Review: Hell’s Hinges (1916)

A new preacher arrives at the sinningest town West of the Pecos. William S. Hart is a gunfighter with a homicidal streak determined to prevent law and religion from taking hold in Hell’s Hinges. There is shooting. So much shooting.

One of Hart’s best good-bad men pictures, a splendidly apocalyptic Victorian throwback with an apocalyptic ending that is justly famous. I love this picture to bits and pieces and highly recommend it, especially for viewers who may have been told that the “adult” western was invented in 1939.

How does it end? Hover or tap below for a spoiler.
The townspeople burn the church so Hart burns the entire town to the ground. It’s kind of amazing.

Read my full-length review here.

If it were a dessert it would be: Jack Daniel’s Fudge. Old-fashioned and intense with a kick at the end.

Availability: Released on DVD by ReelclassicDVD. Also available for free and legal streaming via the NFPF.

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18 Replies to “Fun Size Review: Hell’s Hinges (1916)”

  1. This is my favorite Hart and I’m frustrated that the only good home video edition is part of the very expensive Treasures from American Film Archives. (The individual copy on sale is from a disreputable source.) It’s such an eye-popping film!

    1. ReelclassicDVD is a pretty swell outfit. They hire proper accompanists for scores and so forth. In any case the NFPF streaming version is identical to what is on the Treasures DVD.

  2. Hell’s Hinges (full length review) was the first post I ever read here at MS, a full two years after it was written. A random Google search for all things Hart/Hell’s Hinges had brought me here in 2015. I remember by the time I got down to the photo captioned Blaze’s bible study I was hooked on the writing style of someone I’d somehow never read before, but decided right then to read daily. May I recommend the MS Archives to any who have not yet perused them. They are treasure chests!

    Not to “get all gooey” as one of my sisters puts it, but this is THE most comprehensive and entertaining silent film site I’ve ever read, and I’ve read plenty (yes, I am an old fossil, why do you ask?). Patreon sponsorship is the least that partner and I can do to support our beloved silent films through supporting Movies Silently. Swag is pretty nice too- in fact it’s where I get all my notebooks for film screenings- they’re the perfect size!

  3. Thanks for the hint! I thought the best version was out of print, but there it is for free streaming. Never seen anything from Hart yet.

    Silent movies challenge the definition of western, because any films placed on countryside are almost westerns even though, for example, The Wind isn’t really a genre film.

    1. Yes, I am so glad the NFPF put it online because it makes it so much easier to recommend it!

      Silent westerns are so underrated; they were doing things that weren’t done again until the 50s and 60s– up to and including Euro-westerns. 😀

  4. An all-time classic. Still packs a punch.

    ” ,,, especially for viewers who may have been told that the “adult” western was invented in 1939.”

    I’ve heard people say the adult western was invented in the 1950s, by “High Noon” (or maybe “Shane,” or maybe “The Searchers,” or … you get the idea). Nope, Bill Hart invented the adult western in the 1910s.

      1. I was fortunate enough to find the Treasures boxed set back when it didn’t cost your first-born child. One of the reasons for getting it was to have a good quality edition of Hell’s Hinges. What a great ending.

  5. About two months ago I found the “Treasures” disc with “Hell’s Hinges” sold separately on eBay for a very low price. Yes, I was lucky, but this was my first attempt to run it down & the print is wonderful. So that might be worth a try. This was the authentic & complete Treasures disc with container, so I presume i didn’t participate in an illegal act. But it’s good to know that the streaming version is identical.

    I waver between this & “The Toll Gate” as my favorite Hart–but why choose? Both films are superb examples of the early onset of the adult western.

    By the way, does anyone here know if Hart’s “The Aryan” exists anywhere? The title may seem alarming, but from what I have read about it, it doesn’t seem to be racist, at least not in the expected way.

      1. Thanks for the link.

        Sometime last year I read that it was being reconstructed, but nothing seems to have come of that so far. It is apparently another dark western–certainly “adult”–where the Hart character becomes embittered & renounces his Aryan heritage in favor of Native Indian.

        I’m not really a western movie guy but was delighted, many years ago, to discover the richness of the genre in the silent era.

      2. These things always take a bit of time. I know of one reconstruction project that has been held up forever due to rights issues and other woes. I’m sure it will emerge sooner or later if there is enough material for a proper reconstruction.

  6. I really enjoy William S. Hart’s westerns too. This one is terrific, and for anybody who has seen Decasia might know that one of the film clips is from William S, Hart’s Truthful Tulliver from 1917. The film is still extant but does not seem available to the general public.

    1. It really is a pity that relatively little of Hart’s filmography is available in quality editions (the Olive Bluray release of WAGON TRACKS is absolutely stunning) because he has one of the best survival rates of any major silent star. There’s a notion that all his movies were the same but that’s simply not true. I would love to see Travelin’ On get a proper release because it’s hilarious.

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