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  Bell from Hell, A Ringing In The Fears
Year: 1973
Director: Claudio Guerín
Stars: Renaud Verley, Viveca Lindfors, Alfredo Mayo, Maribel Martín, Nuria Gimeno, Christina von Blanc, Saturno Cerra, Nicole Vesperini, Erasmo Pascual, Antonio Puga
Genre: Horror, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: Some time ago, John (Renaud Verley) was committed to an insane asylum by his aunt (Viveca Lindfors) and three cousins, but now he has the chance to be released into the wide world once more. Part of his personality sees him fond of practical jokes, and before he leaves he has made a cast of his face to create a wax likeness with. Is it this aspect of him that makes him burn the summons he has been given to return within just over a week as he leaves the asylum's gates? Certainly John has mischief on his mind as he sets out on his motorbike to visit his aunt...

Let's get this out of the way: the main reason A Bell from Hell, or La Campana del infierno as it was known in Spain, is most notorious is not for anything much that appears in the film itself. No, it was for what occured on the final day of shooting because that is when its promising young director, Claudio Guerín, climbed to the top of the bell tower which featured in the film and fell off to his death. Was it an accident? Or was it a suicide? We'll never know, but this is what this film's infamy rests on, and it's tempting to watch the end result, completed by Juan Antonio Bardem, searching for clues.

You will, of course, be searching in vain, as the plot does not concern any suicide although it does include murder (not that many think Guerín was murdered). What there is in this story is a curious dissatisfaction, although as the script was written by Santiago Moncada and not the director this could just as easily indicate Moncada's opinions. It is significant that A Bell from Hell was made at the time of General Franco's last days in office, where the youth of Spain was as fed up with the older generation as John is here, although he takes revenge against his cousins as well.

Still, they are all set up as privileged establishment figures in their way, and the reason John wishes vengeance upon them is because they put him away in that asylum so they could get their hands on his inheritance, which was left to him by his mother who Aunt Marta drove to her death, also as disturbed as her son turned out to be. How does John go about getting even? He falls back on his practical jokes, including pretending to gouge out his eyes at one point. However, his pranks are about to turn very serious indeed, and his new job in the animal slaughterhouse seems to have sent him round the bend for real.

But no matter how depraved John threatens to become, it's always clear that he never actually goes all the way with his threats to rape his cousins and murder his aunt. Apparently we're supposed to think, well, he may have disfigured Marta with beestings and hung up his cousins as if they were in an abattoir, but he's not such a bad chap really, as if there were degrees of such things that made them acceptable. We can forgive him, the film says, because it's just a game to him and he does not understand the consequences of his actions, unlike his relatives who knew exactly what they were doing when they made him crazy. How you feel about this is a matter of opinion, but it does fashion a unsettling, woozy atmosphere that is undeniably effective if not especially palatable. And that would be the case even if you were not aware of this film's history. Music by Adolfo Waitzman.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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