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The Bells (1926)

Lionel Barrymore , Caroline Frances Cooke , James Young  |  NR |  DVD
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Lionel Barrymore, Caroline Frances Cooke, Gustav von Seyffertitz, Lorimer Johnston, Eddie Phillips
  • Directors: James Young
  • Writers: James Young, Alexandre Chatrian, Emile Erckmann, Leopold Lewis
  • Producers: I.E. Chadwick
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, NTSC, Silent
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Image Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: March 28, 2000
  • Run Time: 92 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6305773882
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #232,116 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Bells" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Digitally mastered from an original tinted-and-toned nitrate 35mm print and backed with a musical score compiled by Eric Beheim
  • Also featured on this DVD is the original American edition of Rene Clair's The Crazy Ray (1922, 19 min.), a delightfully surreal fantasy in which an eccentric scientist freezes the population of Paris with a mechanical ray of his own invention

Editorial Reviews

Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's poem. A classic American horror film that combines elements of the traditional ghost story, Poe and "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari." "The Bells" (1926, 68 min.) follows an ambitious innkeeper (Lionel Barrymore) on a downward trajectory into insanity after murdering a wealthy traveler to settle his debts. Though he is not suspected of the crime, the innkeeper is haunted by a hypnotist in a traveling carnival (Boris Karloff), and his conscience is tormented by a blood-smeared apparition of the dead man who comes seeking a confession of his own. "The Bells" is digitally mastered from an original tinted-and-toned nitrate 35mm print and backed with a musical score compiled by Eric Beheim.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth a look May 23, 2000
Format:DVD
THE BELLS is a 1926 release starring Lionel Barrymore as Mathias the tavern owner. The film is much more melodrama than horror (or even fantasy) but has a touch of grim murder nevertheless. The story begins quite similarly to BABES IN TOYLAND, actually... Mathias is poor yet possesses a generous heart; he is in debt to the cruel Frantz who would gladly settle the debt if he could wed Mathias' daughter Catharine. The plot similarity ends there, however. After establishing Mathias as a kind but ambitious man, we're set up for the event that changes his life - the murder of a wandering Polish Jew (as he is introduced via intertitle) named Baruch. In the meantime, we've also been introduced to the Mesmerist in the person of top-hatted Boris Karloff, leering in memorable fashion. When Baruch's brother comes to the village seeking the murderer, he brings the Mesmerist along and threatens to have him cast a spell which will force the murderer to reveal himself. Mathias, newly elected Burgomaster of the village, will have none of those devilish goings-on.
The story is supposedly based on an Edgar (Allan) Poe poem. In reality its only relation to Poe is that the title only matches that of one of his poems. To be honest, though, it's fair to bring Poe to mind regarding the story, because it's got a lot in common with THE TELL-TALE HEART (and other Poe stories) in that it's an all-consuming guilty conscience that drives much of the narrative. The ending is disappointingly abrupt, but it does seem typical of silent movies in general.
Despite modern-day second billing, Karloff is only a small player here. He has only a few lines of dialogue (or rather, a few intertitles) but a memorable countenance and sly grin.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bells of conscience ring January 15, 2001
Format:DVD
The Bells, a 1926 release starring Lionel Barrymore as Mathias, an overly-generous tavern owner giving away more than he possesses, owes a great deal to Poe's 'Tell-Tale Heart'. Generosity leads Mathias into considerable debt, in which no resolve seems evident. Along comes Baruch, a wealthy traveler, seeking refuge from a fierce storm. After drinks, he foolishly reveals to Mathias a money-belt containing a great quantity of gold. Seeing no other recourse, Mathias seizes the opportunity to redeem himself as well as pay off his debts via murdering the unsuspecting traveler and taking his gold. Amidst a brutal snowstorm, Mathias kills Baruch, the sound of the sleigh bells reverberating throughout the scene. Once it's over, Mathias returns to his tavern with his ill-gotten fortune. Paying off his debts and marrying his daughter to the chief investigater, Mathias seems to be in the clear. However, in true 'Tell-Tale Heart' fashion, his conscience is tormented by the unrelenting 'bells', seen numerous times in a super-imposed manner. A trial commences and as luck would have it, Mathias oversees the preceding. Earlier in the film, Karoff, appears as a mesmerist, capable of casting a spell that will force the murderer to reveal himself. His role is minor but the possibilities prove endless in regards to the trial. In true Dr Caligari fashion, Karloff delights. His presence is enough to spook Mathias and the trial rapidly ascends into chaos. The print of the film is marvelous. For it's vintage, the picture quality is crisp and for the most part clear of any flaws. A few instances of jitter and film deterioration exist. The musical score provided byEric Beheim is adequate and proves to enhance the film's mood changes. If you're at all fascinated by Gothic horror, Poe, and/or Barrymore or Karloff, this DVD is well worth it. Regardless of whether or not you purchase this disc, a viewing is a must.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I can make criminals confess their crimes... March 6, 2005
Format:DVD
Generous mill and tavern owner Mathias (Lionel Barrymore) is both politically ambitious and deeply in debt. His dreams of becoming town Burgomaster are endangered when Frantz (Gustav von Seyffertitz) threatens to call in his loan. A type of salvation arrives when a wealthy man stops off at his tavern one Christmas Eve.

THE BELLS (1926) is based on the play `Le Juif Polonaise' by Alexandre Chatrian and Emile Erckmann. `Le Juif' was translated to `The Bells' and was a popular English play in its time, from the early 1870s on. It was probably familiar to audiences in 1926, the year the movie THE BELLS was released. You can find texts of the English version fairly easily on the internet; an engaging exercise for those interested in how plays are adapted for the screen. The biggest difference between play and screenplay concerns time and character. The movie compresses both and has, in my opinion, a better product to show for it. In both the stage play and the movie Mathias murders the wealthy stranger and is haunted by the crime, haunted by the sound of the bells on the Polish Jew's sleigh. In the play the crime occurred fifteen years in the past and Mathias is a vaguely sinister character. In the movie the crime happens in the present, and Mathias is a deeply sympathetic character. His troubles are a result not of greed, but of his generosity. There's a ghost of the slain man in the movie that's not in the stage play. The ghost and the bells appear in double-exposed sequences, one of which, Mathias playing cards with the ghost, is a pretty amazing technical achievement.

Lionel Barrymore is brilliant as the merchant slowly going mad after committing a crime quite beyond his character.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
love the silent films
Published 23 days ago by Douglas Thomas
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting flick for a few reasons
This movie has Boris Karloff and Lionell Barrymore (He's the villian in It's a Wonderfull Life Christmas story staring James Stewart. Read more
Published on August 8, 2011 by Rick M. Pilotte
5.0 out of 5 stars Pioneering Horror Melodrama
Though ostensibly based on Poe's "The Bells," the play from which this movie was derived owed more to LeFanu's classic short story, "Mr. Read more
Published on October 31, 2010 by Brent R. Swanson
3.0 out of 5 stars Best Described as "A Competent" Rather Than "A Great" Silent Film
Although more than one promoter has been quick to exploit the idea that THE BELLS was inspired by the 1848 Edgar Allen Poe poem of the same name, nothing could be further from the... Read more
Published on August 25, 2007 by Gary F. Taylor
4.0 out of 5 stars Two intriguing and enjoyable films on one DVD
There are many special highlights in both films on this DVD, such as great names like Lionel Barrymore and Boris Karloff in "The Bells", and the exceptionally good and enjoyable... Read more
Published on April 5, 2007 by Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood
3.0 out of 5 stars Dated but worthwhile
I gave this DVD 3 stars, because any thoughtful presentation of a significant silent film deserves at least 3 stars, but that said, as a movie The Bells is more of a 2 star... Read more
Published on August 28, 2006 by Timothy Ramzyk
4.0 out of 5 stars For lovers of theatre and silent drama...
A must for lovers of silent drama and theatre history, this edition of The Bells offers the only surviving film version of the 19th-century play, formerly popularized by the great... Read more
Published on December 14, 2004 by volodyovsky
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