REVIEW: Brotherhood Of The Bell (1970) – ManlyMovie

REVIEW: Brotherhood Of The Bell (1970)

Run Time: 90 Mins
Rated: N/A
What To Expect: An homologous precursor to Eyes Wide Shut; smaller, but no less creepy

Here is an old Glenn Ford movie, directed by Paul Wendkos, that briefly aired on television in 1970.  A morality play, it looks into the creepy and disgusting underworld of secret societies and their screwing of their fellow man.  Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut probed the power and insidiousness of freemasonry (without ever actually using the term) through the eyes of Tom Cruise’s character, but that man broke free of the mob and continued to live his life.  But what happens if you’re in the circle itself and want out?

Ford plays Andy Patterson, a successful professor married to a woman over 25 years his junior, Vivian (Rosemary Forsyth).  Patterson has long been part of a secret society known as the Brotherhood of the Bell, the members of which exchange underhand favors through rank nepotism and criminal blackmail.  If there’s something you want, anything, then someone can get it for you — the catch is that you will have to return favors eventually.  As the movie opens, a new recruit is being sworn in, with Patterson in attendance.  The green new member asks “Are we part of the establishment now”, to which an elder replies; “No, we are the establishment”.

Patterson has lived has lived an ideal life for over 20 years.  He and his family have gained (unwittingly) illegally, with Patterson believing himself to be simply a hot shot.  But the hour comes in the movie where another ‘Brother’ requires a favor — that one of Patterson’s colleagues gets threatened out of a senior position at the University.  The elders demand Patterson comply, to which he does.  When the victim commits suicide, Patterson has a crisis of conscience and wants out..  but he soon finds that you can never get ‘out’.  Note:  No spoilers have been presented here, from there on, that is where the movie unfurls.

Needless to say, a low budget film.  But very effective, Glenn Ford’s coming to terms with his own soul being long since raped and stolen shows us that this type of behavior sacrifices not just the working man but the fools who are cogs within such ‘societies’.  What makes the film better, apart from its excellent pacing and powerful acting is that this stuff is a real scourge on society and the criminals shown here are unassuming, believable.  Even before it has fully festered, JFK delivered an notorious speech on these people, perhaps his most famous.

There are no masks or fancy dress parties in this one.  The Brotherhood of the Bell tells us that such people in real life are too slight for theatrics.  They’re there, but not there.  One of Glenn Ford’s best movies.