Horror Movie Review: Bells (1981)

Bells aka Murder By Phone introduces us to environmentalist Nat Bridger (Richard Chamberlain) who finds a recent death quite interesting. Not in a morbid way but rather how a woman in the subway died. It seems as though (according to a witness) a public telephone emitted lightening and blew her up.

Bridger begins to investigate and finds the telephone company in question is desperately trying to cover up something very dark. A bitter and angry employee who has found a way to transmit a killer signal down telephone wires. Don’t answer the phone, otherwise it could be the last thing you ever do.


The idea of a killer telephone call has b-movie written all over it but that isn’t quite what Bells is. In fact, it doesn’t actually seem to know what it is itself.

On the one hand it’s a bit of a conspiracy thriller with the rich and powerful using the tools at their disposal to cover up the increasing number of phone related deaths. It’s not very exciting even if Richard Chamberlain puts his all into his underdog/whistleblower role of Nat Bridger.

On the other hand we have very silly phone related deaths. Ones where the victims begin to shake, start to bleed from their eyes and ears before being blown up and thrown across the room. It’s at complete odds with the ‘serious’ conspiracy story Bells tries to tell. Even if the latter half of the movie then focuses on trying to stop the madman responsible.

Talking of which…what a rubbish villain this guy is. He doesn’t excite because he doesn’t come across like a maniac. Rather then push the idea of a madman with the power to destroy phone users, we instead get a man with a list of petty grievances. Yawn.

It is possible to get a kick out of parts of Bells though. As we said Richard Chamberlain is good and a lot of the other cast do well too. The conspiracy story does have some tension to it, especially when you relate it to modern times. Imagine such a signal being transmitted nowadays? We’d all be dead!

  • The Final Score - 4.5/10
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