Hell Bent was rediscovered at the Czech Film Archives. Current print is presently the only one of two complete films surviving from the director’s 1917-19 beginning years at Universal Studios.
Hell Bent was Ford’s 14th film and his ninth feature. Its leading player, Harry Carey was Ford’s most frequent early star and collaborator. Here, Carey again plays his laconic Cheyenne Harry protagonist.
Harry rides into the town of Rawhide where in a long winded comic turn he strikes up a friendship with Cimmaron Bill (Duke Lee) and is then smitten by love for Bess (Neva Gerber), a ‘good girl’ forced by circumstances to work in a dance hall. B-plot mechanics take over as Harry tries to rid town of outlaws but is stymied when he learns Bess’ weak-willed brother is member of gang led by Bean Ross (Joseph Harris).
Film is enlivened by some of Ford’s special moments. As his relationship with Bess develops Harry awkwardly carries her home in the rain while in the next shot his abandoned pal wanders through the darkened saloon.