A young man is released from an asylum and returns home for revenge on his aunt and her three daughters, who had him declared insane in order to steal his inheritance. This legendary film is available for the first time o... more »n DVD in it?s never before seen restored version.« less
John M. Bernhard | Somerville Mass USA | 04/12/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Truely a classic of the Spanish 70's cinema, but the new dvd has been sourced from a cut print and is missing three scenes and part of a fourth. Be advised that the complete film was released in the UK, but that VHS release is out of print. The framing is indeed off...off centered to the left and overmatted top and bottom. LBX scenes from the Spanish print included in the extras confirm this. Very sloppy work from Pathfinder. Worth a rental if you've never seen it."
Beware of missing footage and improper aspect ratio
dooby | 04/10/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This 1973 Euro ArtHouse Gothic-Horror movie has been compared to works by Bunuel, Polanski, and Bava, so if you happen to like films of that sort, this may appeal to you. It has elements of horror mixed with elements of social commentary. I gave it a try but wasn't too keen on it myself. The story line is simple. A young man returns to his childhood home after being kept at a mental asylum for several years. He has been the victim of his aunt and her 3 daughters who schemed to cheat him out of his inheritance. Now he's back to wreak vengeance on all of them. After his release, he goes to work at a slaughterhouse to learn how to kill cattle (stun them, string them up, cut them open and let them bleed to death). He intends the same fate for his treacherous relatives. All smiles, he lures them into his house of horror. After setting a swarm of bees onto his wheelchair-bound aunt, he manages to get his 3 pretty cousins down to the cellar where he strings them up like meat at the slaughterhouse (the scene that gained this film its notoriety). Unfortunately he doesn't have the nerve to cut them open and the tables are turned against him. In a scene reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe, he is entombed behind a brick wall with a noose round his neck, set to hang with the next tolling of the church bell.
The horror angle is intermixed with social satire about youthful alienation, the hypocrisy of the petite bourgeoisie and oblique comments on Spanish politics.
There is little in the way of shock-horror or gore, unless you think documentary style footage of cows being slaughtered and gutted is gory. There is also little nudity or sex (in the slaughterhouse scene, we only get to see the girls from the back, just like on the DVD cover). Remember that this film was shot when Spain was still under the puritanical reign of General Francisco Franco. Apparently much of what was censored was footage of cows being killed. :)
The runtime for this movie is controversial. IMdB has a Spanish version clocking in at 106mins. This DVD version goes for just over 92mins. That's a 14min difference. On the DVD, mention is made of the "rumored" longer cut which no one seems to have seen. However if it's just more scenes of dying cows, I'm not too aggrieved.
This Spanish/French co-production was shot with an English speaking cast. It was subsequently dubbed into Spanish and French for local consumption. Unfortunately even the English version we have here is dubbed, with uneven lip-synching throughout. The sound is 2.0 mono. It also comes with alternate Spanish and French soundtracks.
The DVD transfer is pretty good for a film of its vintage. IMdB has the Original Theathrical Aspect Ratio at 2.35:1. Pathfinder's DVD is transferred in 1.85:1 (enhanced for widescreen TV). The opening credits are cut off at the edges. Otherwise visual composition looks OK. The film source is very clean with almost no dirt, debris or damage. Colors are natural with good skintones. Film grain is evident throughout. Black levels are just a tad short of that last ounce of inky blackness but quite good nonetheless. Overall a pretty good effort save for the questionable aspect ratio.
This Special Edition comes with a pretty scholarly commentary by Chris D of American Cinematheque. There is an alternate "clothed version" of one scene taken from the sanitized Spanish release, and alternate Opening and Closing credits in Spanish (La Campana del Infierno). There are also biographies of the cast and crew and a collection of stills. There are trailers for other horror films by Pathfinder but none of the film itself. No insert is included.
This is not a Hollywood type horror movie. If you're into ArtHouse-Horror, this may be for you. But take into account the missing 14mins and the questionable aspect ratio."
Timothy Ramzyk | Milwaukee, WI United States | 04/11/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've read mixed reviews about "A Bell From Hell" for years, but I've never had a chance to actually see the film, so my expectations were in check. However, after watching the new Lions Gate DVD I'm happy to say it's one of the best 60's-70's Spanish horror films I've ever seen, and I would easily stick it right up there with The House That Screamed, In A Glass Cage, and Blood Spattered Bride.
Basically it's a simple revenge story, about a young man who's recently been released from a mental institution, and is eager to teach a lesson to those were responsible for committing him. His vehicle for retribution is a series of vaguely cruel and humiliating "practical-jokes" that gain in severity until they become harrowingly grotesque.
Although it has a lot in common with the Italian "Giallos" of the time, A Bell From Hell, also displays a level poetry, and surrealism that's ultimately more lush and dreamy. Director Claudio Guerín Hill, doesn't appear all that hung up on logic, exposition, or the conventions of a linear plot, but he is a master-stylist, capable of composing highly effective scenes that are breathtaking as they veer from beauty to brutality. In fact his use of artfully shot and edited slaughterhouse footage to foreshadow future events, will undoubtedly put some viewers off, but it's inclusion doesn't have the sleazy gratuitous feel that it does in the "mondo" & Italian Cannibal films of the 70's, and I would argue for the validity of it's inclusion.
The cast is attractive, both male and female, and Bell also has the added bonus of featuring the always fascinating, Viveca Lindfors in a substantial part.
Sadly, it appears on the last day of shooting, the Director was killed when he fell (or jumped) from the bell-tower featured in film. Had he lived he probably would have made some remarkable films. "
Mysterious and sometimes shocking
A. Griffiths | London | 03/20/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I dont't know what to make of this film at all, but it certainly had me hooked all the way to the end. The story is pretty unique, and the turns of events are all surprising and unexpected.
The central character is Juan, a dashing but rather unpredictable man whose behaviour is impossible to interpret for the entire running time of the film. He starts off the story by being released from a criminal asylum on probation, but it is not clear whether he is still dangerous and/or insane. I don't know if this is down to the script or just his indifferent acting. Sadly, as is the case with a lot of 70's and 80's Euro horror films, the English dubbing takes away most of the nuances of any acting performances. Anyway, he immediatley revs up his motorbike and sets off for the nearest cattle slaughterhouse where he takes a job and learns the art of killing. Let me say first off that any animal lovers should switch off right now, as what follows is about 5 minutes of the most upsetting slaughterhouse footage I have ever seen. I flinched when I saw a live pig knifed in "Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll" (a Spanish horror flick from around the same era as this one), but this is far worse as we get to see live cows strung up, knifed, bled, dismembered and disembowelled. All the time, their harrowing death screams are recorded on the soundtrack. To my disbelief, the actor playing the part of Juan is clearly seen carrying out these tasks for real on camera. I guess this must have been par for the course in 1970's Spain, but you certainly wouldn't get any of today's Hollywood stars doing anything remotely similar! As thoroughly unpleasant as this is, it does have the desired effect of making you dread the possibities that may lie ahead in the film.
With this nasty business is out of the way, Juan returns to his former home which is an ornate mansion. Soon after this he meets up with his aunt and her three daughters, and it transpires that the two sides of the family have some kind of fued over to whom the estate and its accompanying riches should legally belong to. The aunt has been paying to keep Juan incarcerated, and at the same time taken control of the family fortune. From here on, the rest of the story charts Juan's warped plot to terrorise and generally have his revenge on the aunt and the three girls for keeping him in the asyum, alongside their plots to try and stop his demented behaviour and claim the inheritance for themselves. It's quite hard to work out who is the innocent party in this war-zone, but it's made pretty clear that Juan is one sick individual. He plays bizarre pranks of all and sundry, often taking great pains to gross people out or otherwise terrify them. But he also saves an innocent girl from a gang of would be rapists, albeit in a scene which seems unconnected with any other events of the plot. However any sympathy the viewer has for Juan soon fades when he actually starts to carry out his designs on the rest of his family, which involve some quite fiendish ideas, culminating in the climax of the film, as Juan takes all three daughters prisoner in a private fully functioning slaughterhouse that he has created by using his experience in the real thing as training. This is the most powerful scene of the movie, and it creates a sense of dread almost on a par with parts of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre". The slaughterhouse footage makes a brief re-appearance here and I guarantee that a lot of viewers will be watching through their fingers as the terrified girls await their gruesome fate. Be aware, though, that the film has more twists and turns to play out before the final credits roll, and it's well worth seeing through to the end.
The atmosphere throughout is superb. The locations and camera work are wonderful, and there are many unusual camera angles along with some creative editing and montage sequences. Although Renaud Verley makes a thoroughly indecipherable leading man, Viveca Lindfors is superb as the aunt, and her character is a masterpiece of understatement. I think the actress probably dubbed her own voice, and it is the only really effective vocal performance on the soundtrack. The three daughters are typical mid 70's Euro starlets, including the lovely Maribel Martin as the youngest.
I have read that the Pathfinder DVD edition misses out a scene involving Juan and the youngest daughter exploring grounds as well as some important lines from the aunt. The version of the movie I have seen retains this short sequence and although not vital to the plot, it is a nice sequence to watch. The DVD is also apparently framed incorrectly, and this I would find a major issue as it would undoubtedly mar the entire viewing experience. However as it is nigh on impossible to seek out the full version, which appears to only be available on the incredibly rare Duplivision UK video from the 1980's, then at least the film can be seen in this better-than-nothing DVD version. It's a good enough movie to put up with a few framing issues and cuts (be assured that none of the violence or slaughterhouse footage has been cut), but a properly remastered version would be worth adding to any collection of the greats among European horror cinema."
That Boy's Not Right...
Bindy Sue Frřnkünschtein | under the rubble | 09/28/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"John has just been released from a mental institution. He hops on his motorcycle and heads for home. Once there, he gets a job at a slaughterhouse. Enter his aunt (Vivica Lindfors) and three female cousins. It seems that John had a love affair with one of the trio and raped a second. The youngest girl is quite smitten with John. As the tale unfolds, we find out that John might have been stuck in the bug-bin out of his dear aunt's greed. It appears that she had to get him out of the way in order to inherit his mum's estate. The question is, is John really crazy? Has he been driven insane, or is he mentally stable? Well, he is a rather complex character. Yes, he plays several heartless "jokes" on unsuspecting relatives, including a fake eyeball gouging of his own eyeballs! However, he also saves a young girl from a group of would-be rapists. The revenge sequence is quite a shocker. This is where John's abatoir knowledge comes in handy! The cousins are bound, gagged, and hung up like sides of beef. Will John perform his magic on their carcasses? Watch and see! The final act is creepy and fairly unexpected. I like this one a lot..."