Sunday, October 13, 2013

Halloween Hootenanny - First Impressions: A Bell from Hell (Claudio Guerín & Juan Antonio Bardem, 1973)

As I've been having that much fun over in Spain of the early seventies for the last few days, I decided I'd stay over again for one last night. And compared to the previous three films, of which I knew a bit about before watching, I was in completely uncharted territory with this one, having absolutely no idea what I was in for...  As is often the case though, it turns out that going in completely cold was totally the right way to throw myself into this strange trip of a movie. A quick disclaimer before we begin though, it was late and I was pretty tired when I watched this, and hell, I'm still pretty knackered right now... so if this review goes completely loopy, it's because I've just gone insane from sleep deprivation... you have been warned!

The film begins mysteriously (and as it bloody well means to go on), with someone (seen above) making a mould of their head, for reasons which will remain unexplained for some time. Following this, we see a young man (it's unclear whether it's the same one... well, it was to me on this Mill Creek pan-and-scan DVD at least) leaving a mental institution. The dude in question, John (Renaud Verley), has been released into the care of his aunt, who just happens to have three lovely daughters, which is somewhat important as I think it might be implied that the guy is something of a sex fiend, or maybe just a generally decadent character... at any rate, it's almost immediately obvious that he's something of a free-spirited type, as evidenced by his motorbike and a predilection for pranks and generally eccentric behaviour. Beyond that, my lips are pretty much sealed on this one...

As you might imagine though, getting these characters (who are ambivalent towards each other, to say the least) together is an extremely bad idea, as there's some seriously bad blood that's been brewing over the years, which is now threatening to rain down on them in torrents à la The Shining. You may think you know where this is headed, and to be fair, you might have a general idea... but by the end of the movie, if you can honestly say you saw half of the craziness that unfolds coming, then I tip my hat to you, as you're clearly a more imaginative soul that I. It's probably stating the obvious (this being an early seventies Euro thriller and all) that sex and death are both involved, but to say anything more specific would really spoil the ride. What I will say is this, I was pleasantly surprised at how philosophical a lot of this gets, and especially the dialogue, some of which was frankly poetic... unfortunately though, the sound on this Mill Creek DVD is pretty terrible, with small sections of dialogue being frankly unintelligible... needless to say, I'll definitely be on the look out for a better version of the movie, though don't get me wrong, the Mill Creek copy was still a blessing for introducing me to the film, and especially for next to nothing.      

Finally, I should probably tell you that a rather large shadow hangs over this film. I'm not going to tell you exactly what it is, but I will do somewhat indirectly. I knew before watching that Claudio Guerín didn't direct the entire movie, and that Juan Antonio Bardem (uncle of Javier) finished it, but I had no idea why, and I didn't find out until an hour or two ago. Like I say, I won't reveal what happened here, as it was one of those true Holy Shit moments that made me instantly re-evaluate the film, but a quick look at Guerín's IMDb page will reveal all for you instantly... I leave it up to you whether you investigate this matter before or after checking the film out... I highly doubt it would adversely effect your appreciation (in fact it will probably enhance it), but it will certainly alter your perception of it considerably. At any rate, I highly recommend this morbid and completely mental movie to all Euro horror enthusiasts!

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