Oh, Hells Bells…

1973’s A Bell From Hell (also known simply as the Bells) starts clearly establishing something about it’s lead Renaud Verley.  He is a bit crazy.  No, really.  He’s told by a psychiatrist that they hope he can now be a productive citizen.  He repays the hope by hopping on a motor cycle and burning his papers indicating when to return to the asylum.  He goes into a rural wooded area, where some old man asks why he has return.  The old man is accompanied by a young girl.  Renaud hops on his motorcycle and drives to the family estate.  And suddenly we are watching a cow get it’s throat slit and blood gush everywhere.

Welcome to Spanish horror, folks.

Jaun (Verley) is returning home for revenge.  He blames his aunt and two of her daughters for being institutionalized.  He’s apparently correct in this, they had him declared insane to steal his inheritance.  So, he digs a hole by the ocean, booby traps the home and plays the organ with a raven on a perch.

Welcome to Spanish horror, folks.

His aunt and her daughters visit on Tuesday.  Because, well, he invited them to come over on Tuesday.  He has also filled the house with other animals that roam freely.  He appears to be attempting to make them believe he is still insane.  He laments how he was treated, and begs to be set free.  If his aunt were to give him his passport, he would hand over everything to her and disappear.  She does not give in.  She states they cannot do that, for if anything were to happen to him, she would be blamed.  He takes her on a walk, where he leaves her alone, surrounded by bees to be stung to death (apparently he is a beekeeper).  He ties up his one innocent cousin, Esther (the very lovely Maribel Martín).  Jaun tells her than in these instances, there must be one innocent victim, and unfortunately, that is her.

He then rapes his other two cousins.    He sets them all up to be killed.  He speaks longingly of how he will mark their graves with trees.  But suddenly, he is unable to kill the three of them.  He does not have it in himself.  The film has an undercurrent of misogyny (hey, the villains are pretty much all women who, among other things, use their sexuality to take down an innocent guy to get their hands on his riches) that is rather unpleasant and unsavory.

The movie takes a turn though.  Jaun fails in his plan, and in an ending that would have charmed Edgar Allen Poe, the “protagonist” meets a grim fate.

Welcome to Spanish horror, folks.

Esther is appalled by her family’s actions, refusing to set foot in their cousin’s home.  The ending of the film borders on surreal.

The film was likely politically highly subversive for it’s time, however, the air of misogyny tends to undermine this.  But ultimately,  I think the film is summed up nicely in an early exchange:

“Did they cure you?”

“Oh yes, now I am completely mad.”

Completely mad indeed.

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