Category Archives: Moody/Stylish

Walkabout (1971)

walkabout 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Lost in the outback.

A teenage girl (Jenny Agutter) and her younger brother (Luc Roeg, but billed as Lucien John) find themselves trapped amidst the harsh climate of the Australian outback. After spending a couple of days walking in the heat they manage to come upon a watering hole, but find to their horror that it dries up overnight. Feeling almost ready to give up they spot an aborigine (David Gulpilil in his film debut) marauding through the desert as part of his walkabout where young men are cast off into the wilderness for several months as part of their journey to manhood. He helps find them water, food and shelter, but eventually the cultural differences between the three and their inability to effectively communicate become a problem.

The legendary Nicholas Roeg makes his directorial debut here and even casts his own son, who is excellent, as the 9-year-old boy.  The way the camera captures the desert by focusing on the different types of animal life and rock formations is impressive.  I also enjoyed the editing which cuts back and forth between the desert and modern civilization while examining how each are uniquely connected and commenting on how our advanced culture has made us regress and less able to survive the savage elements that our ancestors were able to.

There are also scenes of animal cruelty as the aborigine hunts a kangaroo by first injuring him and then, as the animal gives out a whimpering cry, he spears it. Later the viewer is shown scenes involving big game hunters who mow down water buffalo for sport while graphically slitting their throats.

The film was controversial for capturing Agutter, who was only 17 at the time that this was filmed, in the nude while swimming at a watering hole. The actress felt uncomfortable doing the scene and required only the minimum of the crew to be present while it was shot. To me the scene was unnecessary as it didn’t fit the character who was prim and proper and didn’t at all come off like the type of person who would suddenly become carefree and risk being spotted by the aborigine that she really didn’t know or the ‘embarrassment’ of being seen by her younger brother. The camera stays on her naked body far longer than needed and comes off like shameless voyeurism.

I had the same issue with the scene involving researchers at a weather station that resembles footage to a soft core porn flick instead as the men ogle the only woman in their group, become overtly aroused at glimpses of her bosom and in one truly absurd moment even has one of the them sucking on her finger. I realize scientists have sex drives too, but I would think they would be able to behave in a professional capacity when on the job and not act like they hadn’t gotten laid in years and like with the swimming sequence this scene has nothing to do with the main story and could’ve been cut out completely.

The presence of the radio weakens the story as well as supposedly they’re in the middle of nowhere and miles from civilization and yet somehow are able to pick up different radio stations that come in crystal clear without any static, which would mean that they must be much closer to a city than it seems and thus hurts the desolate feeling that the film otherwise tries hard to create.

Spoiler Alert!

The film is based on a 1959 novel of the same name that was written by Donald Gordon Payne under the pseudonym of James Vance Marshall. The script though differs from the book in two major ways, one of which I liked and the other I didn’t.

The first difference involves the reason for how the two children get stranded. In the book they are victims of a plane crash, but in the film it is because their father tries to kill them, which is offbeat and sends the message that this movie will be different from any you’ve seen before, which I liked. Normally I would’ve wanted an explanation for his behavior, but by keeping it a mystery it elevates the intrigue and if anything was a far more creative explanation for their predicament than the formulaic plane crash one.

However, the way the aborigine dies is ludicrous. In the book he is stricken with the flu virus that was inadvertently passed onto him by the boy, but in the movie he ends up killing himself when the girl does not respond to his attempts at courtship, which seemed excessively rash.

Rejection is a part of the human experience and transcends all cultures. Everyone will have to deal with it at some point in their lives. If everyone killed themselves the minute they are rebuffed by someone they were attracted to then virtually no one on would make it past adolescence. The idea that a normal, healthy and otherwise happy young man with no signs of mental illness, and the film does not show him as having any so we must assume that he doesn’t, would suddenly off himself over a girl he has just met and barely knew is absurd. In reality he probably would’ve just gotten frustrated and left them stranded while going back to his own tribe where I presume he’d meet other women who he’d bond better with due to being more culturally connected and most likely would’ve found more attractive anyways.

End of Spoiler Alert!

walkabout 2

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: July 1, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes

Rated R

Director: Nicholas Roeg

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

Petulia (1968)

petulia 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 9 out of 10

4-Word Review: A very brief affair.

While attending a medical fundraiser Petulia (Julie Christie) who is a married rich socialite, decides to come-on to Archie (George C. Scott), a doctor who performed a life-saving surgery on a young Hispanic boy (Vincent Arias) that she brought to him a few months earlier. Archie is still hurting from his recent divorce to his wife Polo (Shirley Knight) and not sure he wants to jump into another relationship so quickly especially with a woman that behaves in such an eccentric way. However, her kooky personality and good-looks get the better of him and the two spend the night together. In the days that follow Archie learns of her abusive relationship with her husband David (Richard Chamberlain), but when he makes an attempt to help her get out of it she resists, which causes him a great deal of frustration as he is unable to get a good grasp on why she behaves the way that she does.

The film is based on the novel ‘Me and My Arch Kook Petulia’, which was written by John Haase who worked as a dentist and wrote his stories between his appointments. What makes this plot stand out from the rest of the romances is that it focuses on the chance meeting between two people who share an immediate attraction, but are unable due to various extraneous circumstances to ever get it into a relationship stage. They become like two-ships-passing-in-the-night and go on with their lives and even other relationships while quietly longing for ‘the-one-that-got-away’. Most movies portray romances where everything falls into line and works out while blithely ignoring the ones that get shown in this film even though these are much more common.

Director Richard Lester, who is better known for his slapstick comedies, shows an astute eye for detail and his fragmented narrative works seamlessly. I enjoyed the quick edits and color detail as well as the subliminal symbolism including showing the David and Petulia characters wearing all-white to display their sterile marriage as well as capturing David’s father (Joseph Cotton) sitting in front of a giant window that looked like a cobweb to help illustrate how he had entangled Petulia into his own personal web. The film, which was shot on-location in San Francisco, features great shots of the Golden Gate Bridge and the world famous cable cars as well as an interesting scene at the Jack Tar Motel, which has now been demolished but was famous for its ability to check customers into their rooms without the use of a live clerk, but instead through close circuit TV and a room key that would light up when the person passed by their assigned room.

The two leads give strong performances particularly Scott who for a change doesn’t play a character with a forceful personality, but instead someone who inadvertently gets bowled over by a woman who has an even stronger one than he. Even Chamberlain does well. Normally I find him to be quite bland, but here he is surprisingly effective.

This movie also marks the film debuts of many performers who are seen in brief, but quirky bits including: Richard Dysart as a virtual hotel clerk, Howard Hesseman as a hippie, Rene Auberjonois as a seat cushion salesman and Austin Pendleton as a hospital orderly. Members of the Grateful Dead get some funny moments while inside a grocery store and Janis Joplin can be seen onstage singing during the opening party sequence.

Romance fans will like this, but so will those living in the Bay area during the ‘60s as the city gets captured well. However, fans of that decade will also like it as it expertly exudes the vibe from the period and making it seem very real to the viewer even if they weren’t alive during the time it was made. Also, John Barry’s haunting theme nicely reflects the character’s mood and evasive film style.

petulia 1

My Rating: 9 out of 10

Released: June 10, 1968

Runtime: 1Hour 45Minutes

Rated R

Director: Richard Lester

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

The Music Lovers (1971)

music lovers 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Madness has no bounds.

This is a revealing look at Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Richard Chamberlain) and based on his own personal correspondences as he fought his homosexual tendencies by marrying Nina (Glenda Jackson) a woman he really did not love. Her nymphomania becomes something he cannot satisfy and he eventually abandons her where they then both go on to suffer their own personal forms of madness.

Pianists and composers were like what rock stars are today and I liked how director Ken Russell handles the concert sequence by infusing in the thoughts of the people as they listen to the music and therefore allowing the viewer to visualize the experience of a concert goer.

The scenes with Nina in the asylum are a good example of the grotesque imagery, but they are also well orchestrated and quite memorable. However at times it also gets overdone and unintentionally comical especially the sequence involving Chamberlain’s ill-fated attempt at lovemaking to Jackson on a shadowy, bouncing train car.

Russell shows no feeling for the subject and seems more interested in using it only as an excuse to show off his flashy style. The viewer is never allowed to get emotionally attached to the characters as we are only given a fragment of what these people were like and never the whole picture. The emphasis seems exclusively on their dark and self-destructive sides and watching their descent into madness is not very inspiring or insightful.

The casting of Chamberlain was a poor choice as the guy seems to have a very limited acting range. He is good looking, but lacks the charisma and his facial expressions rarely change while he shifts badly from underplaying the part to overplaying it.

Jackson fares far better and this could be considered a real find for her fans because she plays a type of character that she has never done before, or since. Usually she plays strong willed people, but here her character is weak allows herself to be dominated and exploited shamelessly even by her own mother while also taking part in a very provocative nude scene.

Overall if you like Russell’s style then you will enjoy it more than others. Otherwise it comes off as shallow, moody, and fragmented with some real slow spots during the middle half.

music lovers 2

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: January 24, 1971

Runtime: 2Hours 4Minutes

Rated R

Director: Ken Russell

Studio: United Artists

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Blood Simple. (1984)

blood simple 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Love triangle turns deadly.

Julian (Dan Hedaya) is a jealous and controlling husband who suspects that his wife Abby (Frances McDormand) is cheating on him. He hires a sleazy private detective named Loren (M. Emmet Walsh) to follow her around only for Julian to ultimately learn, to his shock, that not only is she fooling around, but it is with Ray (John Getz) who is one of his employees. Filled with rage Julian then asks the detective if he’d be willing to kill both of them for a price. Loren says he will, but then fakes the murder simply so he can collect the cash, which then leads to a myriad of twists.

This marks the Coen brother’s feature film debut and I was surprised to learn that every major studio passed on it and it wasn’t released to theaters until it got a favorable response after being screened at the Toronto Film Festival. The film is filled with the directorial flair that we’ve become accustomed to in their movies. I particularly enjoyed the inventive camerawork with my favorite shot being a tracking one done down a bar top in which the camera somehow leaps over a drunk’s head. The opening shots showing the desolate, dry and heat soaked Texas landscape helps give the film a gritty flair and the brief, clip-like dialogue that seems more like sound bites is quite interesting and helps reveal more by what the characters don’t say than by what they do.

McDormand is terrific in her film debut and her angelic-looking blue eyes help make her character more appealing to the viewer while the rest of them come off as being pretty vile. I was also impressed with how her Texas accent here sounds just as effective as the Minnesota one that she did in Fargo.

Hedaya does well playing the type of part he’s become best known for and I’ll give him credit for allowing himself to be put into a hole and having dirt thrown on him, but when he gets shot it is clear that his eye lids are fluttering and chest moving up and down, which should’ve been equally obvious to his shooter as well.

The story is slick, but the character’s actions not so much. Both Julian and the detective sneak into Ray’s house, but park their cars, which have very distinctive features, right in front of the home in which any neighbor looking out their window could report seeing it later when speaking to the police. Ray’s actions are even dumber as he gets fingerprints all over the murder weapon and then foolishly carries a dead body into his car where it doesn’t take a genius to know that the victim’s blood will most likely seep all over his backseat cushions.

The story appears to take place in the summer as the daytime scenes show the characters sweating, but then at nighttime we see the character’s breath, which makes it seem more like a winter time setting. I also thought the viewer should’ve been shown how the detective was able to doctor the photos to make it look like Abby and Ray had been shot as this was well before the age of personal computers or photo cropping.

There is another scene near the end where Abby, in an effort to escape from her killer, climbs out of her bedroom window and into a neighboring room. However, there was no ledge for her to climb onto making it almost impossible for her to do what she did, which is why I think they didn’t even attempt to show it and was simply something that we are expected to ‘forgive’ in order to enjoy the rest of the movie.

Despite these minor flaws I still found it to be an inventive film and one of the better attempts at creating a modern-day film noir that should be considered the standard for all others that followed.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: October 12, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes

Rated R

Director: Joel Coen

Studio: Circle Films

Available: DVD, Blu-ray

The Tenant (1976)

tenant 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 10 out of 10

4-Word Review: He loses his identity.

This intriguingly odd horror film may well be Roman Polanski’s best work and even better than Rosemary’s Baby as it manages to be scary in a unique way while also bringing to light many of the subtle ugliness of everyday life. Here Polanski plays a tenant who moves into an apartment were all the residents, and even the landlord (Melvyn Douglas), act slightly peculiar. The woman who lived in the apartment before him killed herself by jumping out the window and as he continues to live there he starts to feel a connection towards her while also getting the idea that somehow the other residents are in a conspiracy against him.

The film’s brilliance comes from the fact that the horror and tension is not based on any of the usual devices.  No ghosts, monsters, or psychos here. Instead the viewer gets sucked into the harsh realities of the modern urban world. The feelings of isolation, people who are cold and impersonal and apartments that are bleak and small as well as showing how these urban jungles swallow up our identities until we’re just another face-in-the- crowd.

This amazingly deep and penetrating study gets astutely underplayed with no action and little or any true scares. The tension comes through its psychological implications and the paranoia that only the Polanski character feels. Are these people really out to get him, or is it all just in his head? There are no definite answers, but theme and ideas are quite real. It’s a sort of twisted version of Rear Window and extension of Repulsion that may require a second viewing in order to completely appreciate.

Polanski scores on all levels as his performance is interesting and his ability as a director to make you feel the smallness and bleakness of the character’s apartment is also amazing. You are given a very real sense of the room’s dimensions without any inclination that it was done on a stage, or with the presence of a film crew. The eerie segments are subtle but successful with imagery that is both strange and lasting.

My Rating: 10 out of 10

Released: May 26, 1976

Runtime: 2Hours 5Minutes

Rated R

Director: Roman Polanski

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Eraserhead (1977)

Eraserhead

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Couple has deformed baby.

In David Lynch’s first feature length film, a movie that took almost 5 years to make and had a good deal of it financed by Sissy Spacek and her husband, we have a surreal almost cryptic-like tale detailing a lonely man named Henry (Jack Nance) and his ultimate descent into a madness as he is forced to take care of severely deformed child while also harboring the dark urge to kill it.

It is hard to say whether one can like or dislike this as it goes so far out of the conventional form of film narrative that it seemingly defies all genres and puts itself into a category all its own. On a sheer technical level it is quite impressive especially when you factor in its shoestring budget and array of production set-backs. Each scene is meticulously detailed with wild and unsettling imagery that on a purely visual level will be more than enough to leave an impact. Overall the film is cold, ugly and unyielding, but helped tremendously by Nance’s presence as a sort of detached everyman who seems as confused and aloof to his surroundings as the viewer.

To me the most jarring image is the baby, which is incredibly lifelike. Had it came off looking fake, or like some puppet or Claymation attempt the film would’ve been a failure, or deemed laughable, but this thing is freaky looking to the extreme and Lynch spares no expense in getting the camera close up to it, which could force some viewers to turn away. Supposedly it was made from the embalmed fetus of a calf, but no one knows for sure and the crew was forced to blind fold themselves when Lynch set it up, so the secret would never come out. Either way it is effective and it manages to move its eyes and mouth almost like it were real and coming off as far more authentic than any computerized effect.

Spoiler Alert!

Of course the most confounding thing about the film is its story and symbolism’s that can be interpreted in a million different ways depending on the viewer’s own perspective. For what it’s worth I’ll give you my interpretation, which isn’t that complicated. To me the deformed baby symbolizes Henry’s soul, which has been mangled by the soulless world that he lives in, which would explain why he is so extremely passive because he is simply a walking zombie. The scene where his head pops off and the ugly child’s head pops into its place only reinforces this. The lady that he sees in the radiator is an angel from heaven and the beautiful lady that lives across the hall from him is the devil who entices him with sex, but when she realizes he has no soul to take, just an ugly mangled remnant of one, which gets exposed to her when she sees him standing in the doorway, she quickly loses interest and moves onto someone else. When he finally kills the baby he is essentially killing himself, which then explains why he ends up in the final scene in heaven with the lady in the radiator.

The man in the planet that we see at the beginning represents Henry’s own subconscious as he quarrels within his mind at the thoughts of killing the child. The man could also represent the world at large and how it controls everyone with its levers, which when Henry finally kills himself they start to have sparks fly from them and the man struggles in containing them, which shows that Henry has now ‘broken free’ from the man and this world by taking his own life.

End of Spoiler Alert!

Some consider this a horror pic, but I found certain parts of it to be quite funny in a darkly humorous way particularly the segment where Henry goes to visit his girlfriend’s parents. To me the most horrifying thing about is the way it challenges the viewers to question their own morality by forcing them to face the difficult quandary or what they would do if put into the same situation as Henry and forced to care for a hideous looking baby that some would consider would be better off dead.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: September 28, 1977

Runtime: 1Hour 29Minutes

Not Rated

Director: David Lynch

Studio: Libra Films International

Available: DVD (Criterion Collection), Amazon Instant Video

Mickey One (1965)

mickey one 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Comic hides his identity.

Warren Beatty plays a successful night club comic who’s living the good life until he falls into disfavor with the mob. He decides to go on the run by burning his social security card and getting a new one with a Russian name on it that is so hard to pronounce that everyone just calls him Mickey One. After spending time on the streets of Chicago he finally gets himself another gig at a club run by Ed Castle (Hurd Hatfield), but the better things get for Mickey the more paranoid he becomes convinced that he is being watched and followed at every turn and unable to relax for even a second.

This film marks the first pairing of Beatty and director Arthur Penn and their next project, Bonnie and Clyde, was a great success, but the results here are only so-so. The idea of trying to replicate the artsy French New Wave films of the late ‘50s and early 60s is intriguing, but poor pacing and a lack of consistent style hurts it. An early scene taking place inside an automobile junkyard has just the right combination of crisp editing and camerawork to give it an enticing visual quality, but then the film veers off into too many talky segments. It manages to recover at the end by giving the viewer a strong sense of the paranoia that the main character is feeling, but wide shifts in the film’s dramatic tone hurts it overall making this more of an interesting curio than a classic.

Beatty is okay, but he tends to be a bit too detached and his attempts at stand-up comedy are unfunny despite the many shots of audience members laughing. Hatfield is terrific in support and his presence significantly helps. Franchot Tone is also quite good in a part that features no lines of dialogue.

The film does have some unique and memorable moments. Tone’s strange art exhibit that he names the Yes Machine that he constructs on the ice rink of the Marina Towers is engaging particularly when he sets it on fire only to have it put out and ruined by the Chicago fire department. The best moment though is when Beatty tries to do a stand-up routine in an empty and darkened room with only a bright spotlight shining on him and a mysterious, unseen man sitting behind it, which has the perfect blend of mood and style and a scene I wished had been extended.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: September 27, 1965

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Arthur Penn

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD-R, Amazon Instant Video

A Zed & Two Noughts (1985)

zed 3

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: They’re really into decay.

Oswald and Oliver (Brian and Eric Deacon) are twin brothers working at a zoo who become devastated to learn that both of their wives have died in the same freak accident in a car driven by Alba (Andrea Ferreol) who survives, but without her leg. Initially the brothers’ are angered with her, but this slowly grows into a strange attraction, which eventually forms into a ménage a trois. To help with their grief they begin doing time-lapse photography of the decaying process. They start with dead animals before deciding on a human subject with Alba as their chosen ‘star’.

From a completely visual level this film can be considered a great success. This was the first of ten projects that Director Peter Greenaway and cinematographer Sacha Vierny collaborated on and the result is stunning. The vivid contrasting colors, lighting and symmetrically designed sets make each and every shot look like its own painting. This is also one of the few films that completely transcend its era. Usually one can tell what decade a movie is from by watching it for only a few minutes, but this film is unlike any other ‘80s movie made, which is an achievement unto itself.

The best part of the movie is its depiction of the real-life decaying process captured in time-lapse form. I realize this may sound extremely morbid and ‘sick’, but it’s a natural process of the world we live in and if taken from a purely scientific perspective quite an interesting and fascinating phenomenon to watch. It gives the film a unique one-of-a-kind edge and something I wished had been shown even more.

The film’s drawbacks are the characters that come off as too weird and twisted, which is an issue in a lot of Greenaway’s movies that are always technically brilliant, but lacking in emotion or empathy. A good movie, no matter how ‘artistic’ it may be still needs relatable characters to help propel it and instead this movie has what amounts to mouth pieces in disguise as people who are simply used to relay a concept, but in no way connected to anyone you’d ever meet in real life. This results in leaving the viewer cold and making the film more of an ‘Avant-garde experiment’ than an actual story.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: October 4, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 55Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Peter Greenaway

Studio: British Film Institute

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray

Poor Pretty Eddie (1975)

poor pretty eddie 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Wrong turn to hickville.

Liz Weatherly (Leslie Uggams) was simply looking for a break from her hectic touring schedule and a chance to take some nature photos when her car breaks down on a lonely southern dirt road near an isolated lodge run by an aging, overweight lush (Shelley Winters) and her much younger boyfriend Eddie (Michael Christian). Eddie recognizes Liz as being a famous singer and since he has dreams of that nature as well tries to convince her to help him get his foot-in-the-door, but his talents do not match his ambitions and he fails to impress her. He then delays the repairing of her car hoping to wear her down and work things into a sexual relationship. When she resists this he rapes her and traps her at the remote hotel with no vehicle for escape. When she goes to the police the backwoods sheriff (Slim Pickens) humiliates her further, which crumbles her inner strength and makes her feel like a droid to the perversion around her that ultimately has her forced into a shotgun wedding.

This turgid drama is full of provocative southern gothic elements and wallows in areas that others fear to tread. The creative camerawork and backdrop sounds are impressive especially for a low budget film and the slow motion violence adds an evocative touch that stays with you long after it’s over. The character’s sexual repression gets relayed in an equally interesting way by showing scenes of them sucking and slurping their food like it’s a sexual substitute.

poor pretty eddie 3

Prolific character actor Pickens gets one of his best roles as the slimy hick sheriff in a part he seems almost born to play and Dub Taylor is spot-on as a self-imposed backwoods judge who creates a makeshift trial in the middle of his ragtag bar while also amusingly comparing Yankees to hemorrhoids. Ted Cassidy is good as well and makes a strong impression despite having limited lines.

I was not as impressed with the female performances as star Uggams comes off as too cold and one-dimensionally rigid without showing any type of preliminary vulnerability. Winters is competent as always, but playing a lonely, aging, pathetic woman begging for love is too similar to the character that she played in Lolita and making it seem more like typecasting.

The climactic bloody shootout is fun, but ends up being more of a spectacle than anything.  B.W. Sandefur’s script lacks any type of twist, introduces psychological elements that it fails to follow through on and wades in tired southern stereotypes making this a warped piece of ‘70s cinema that falls just short of being a cult classic.

poor pretty eddie 2

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Alternate Titles: Redneck County, Heartbreak Hotel, Black Vengeance

Released: June 16, 1975

Runtime: 1Hour 22Minutes

Rated R

Director: Richard Robinson, David Worth

Studio: WestAmerican Films

Available: DVD

A Bell from Hell (1973)

bell from hell

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: A psycho returns home.

After being locked up for years in an insane asylum Juan (Renaud Verley) is released and allowed to return home to his wheelchair bound mother Marta (Viveca Lindfors) and three sisters who had him put away in an attempt to get at his inheritance. Now Juan wants revenge and does so by trying to have his mother stung to death by a horde of angry bees and his sisters cut up at a meat processing plant, but both of his attempts fail. They survive and turn-the-tables by having him encased alive at the local church’s bell tower that is being erected, but just when they think he’s dead they find that he may not be.

This film’s most notorious claim to fame is that its young director Claudio Guerin fell to his death from the very bell tower he had constructed for the movie on the last day of shooting, which is a shame since he showed strong potential for being a gifted filmmaker. If there is one thing that holds it all together and keeps it captivating it’s with its visual quality. Despite the limited budget Guerin shows a keen eye for an array of interesting camera angles and shots. The atmosphere is thick and remains creepy throughout even though it doesn’t have any actual scares.

Unfortunately the script by Santiago Moncada lacks the same type of creativity with a cliché-ridden storyline that meanders and at times feels like it’s going nowhere. The muffled English dubbing makes it hard to hear all of the words that the characters are saying and the ending plays like a tired rehashing of an Edgar Allan Poe story that provides no surprises.

The film’s most provocative moment is when Juan kidnaps his sisters and hangs them naked on meat hooks at the processing plant, which is filled with imaginative close-ups and edits and a major precursor to the so-called ‘horror porn’ that we’ve become used to today. However, the film doesn’t go far enough with it and pulls back after an interesting set-up, which becomes a testament to the production as a whole that has great potential, but only mediocre results.

bell from hell 2

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: October 1, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 33Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Claudio Guerin

Studio: AVCO Embassy Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video