That Sound is Just… – A Bell From Hell (1973)

a bell from hell
La campana del infierno or A Bell From Hell is a strange and surreal horror film that sees Renaud Verley’s character Jaun released from the mental hospital and sent to live with his aunt and her three daughters who coincidentally, also committed him.  Juan is glad to be free but not happy to be living with the woman responsible for his incarceration.  So what else is a young man to do except exact his revenge upon those responsible?  What follows is a slowly paced thriller that follows Juan upon the task he has set out for himself which includes sleeping with his cousins, plotting tricks and of course, a final and more permanent solution.

a bell from hell4There is a scene near the end of the movie of which the film takes its name from and is also why the movie is probably as widely known as it is because its director, Claudio Guerín, mysteriously died after falling from that same bell tower before filming was finished.  While what really happened will always be unknown, thankfully the film was all but complete and it in no way hampered what was to end up on the big screen.  Finishing up the final sequence would be Juan Antonio Bardem and with the work shot by Guerín, the film would be released upon the public.  Like many Italian and Spanish films, of which this is one of the latter, things happen in a chaotically organized manner with you sometimes rarely understanding what is going on until it is finally made clear later on.  Scenes that seem utterly random and lead nowhere, eventually do and while it makes it a little frustrating at times, it all works itself out in the end.

a bell from hell3There was at least one unnecessary scene which involved the slaughtering of the cow and it will more than likely make you turn away, but it speaks volumes towards Juan’s character, of what he wants to do, of how he feels and yet casting doubt upon his past just a little with his hesitation, though it could be a red herring meant to fool you into thinking him somewhat human.  Renaud Verley does a great job of portraying the deranged Juan who is not really so deranged and while he seems fairly unlikeable on the whole with his deviousness and his cruelty, there are a few moments, especially towards the end of the film, when you feel just a little bit sorry for the man.  The rest of the cast is just as good with Viveca Lindfors as Juan’s aunt and Maribel Martín, Nuria Gimeno and Christina von Blanc as his cousins.  a bell from hell7Lindfors who plays Juan’s aunt is not a stupid woman and she knows that he is up to something, but the girls whom he seduces are clueless until he starts to put his plan in motion and is ready to slaughter them like he did the cow.

There is quite a bit of gore in the film, though it mostly comes from said cow and there is a little bit of nudity which comes from said cousins and both those two things as well as some great direction and cinematography adds to the overall mood of the picture which is a touch dreary, a shade mysterious and a little frantic at times.  While the film might jump from here to there, should you stick it out to the end with its very different score, you will find it pays off and you will discover A Bell From Hell an enjoyable and rewarding picture.

4 out of 5
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