It. tit.: Indemoniato; Scen.: Jack Ford, Harry Carey; F.: Ben Reynolds; Int.: Harry Carey (Cheyenne Harry), Neva Gerber (Bess Thurston, la sua ragazza), Duke Lee (Cimarron Bill, l’amico), Vester Pegg (Jack Thurston), Joseph Harris (Beau, un bandito), M. K. Wilson, Steve Clemente; Prod.: Universal-Special Attraction; Pri. pro.: 29 giugno 1918. 35mm. L. or.: 1737 m. L.: 1478 m. D.: 68’ a 18 f/s. Col.
In their rapidly-turned-out early collaborations for Universal, Ford and Harry Carey were able to wring many variations from the limited budgets, small stock company, spartan settings, and habitual thematic material, which usually was centered around a “good bad man”’s redemption. In Hell Bent, which was rediscovered in a print with German intertitles, Carey plays a rough-and-tumble gunfighter who battles an outlaw to free the man’s kidnapped sister. The twist is that Cheyenne Harry spends the entire picture in a state of drunkenness. That unusual Fordian touch – an early sign of his characteristic use of alcohol as a comical device for liberating his characters from conventional codes of conduct – gives the rowdy goings-on of Hell Bent a giddy, out-of-control sense of exuberance and danger. Carey plays this unaccustomed variation in his usually dignified persona with tongue-in-cheek bravura. In only his second year as a director, young Jack Ford shows his remarkable sophistication both in orchestrating this film’s blend of comedy and drama and also in his self-conscious visual homage to one of his role models as a Western artist, the great frontier painter Frederic Remington. Hell Bent starts with an imitation of Remington’s sardonic painting A Misdeal, showing the bloody aftermath of a card game in a saloon filled with smoke and dead bodies. After his brother Francis Ford and D. W. Griffith, Remington, Charles Russell, and Charles Schreyvogel would be Ford’s primary visual influences in his long career as a Western filmmaker, which continued into the 1960s and encompassed fiftyfour Westerns.
“Typical Harry Carey picture, which means that thrills and excitement are plentifully distributed about, and that speed and more speed is the keynote… A tickling tone of merriment.” “Exhibitors’ Trade Review”, 1918