SPIRITS OF THE DEAD (1968)
(a.k.a. HISTOIRES EXTRAORDINAIRES /
TALES OF MYSTERY AND IMAGINATION)
Article #1612 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-13-2005
Posting Date: 1-10-2006
Directed by Roger Vadim, Louis Malle, Federico Fellini
Featuring Brigitte Bardot, Alain Delon, Jane Fonda
Three noted French/Italian directors take on three stories from Edgar Allan Poe.
To some extent, I think how you react to this anthology of Poe stories is dependent on how you feel about the individual directors. I’ve never had much use for Roger Vadim, who helms the first segment “Metzengerstein”; Vadim seems a lot more interested in outlandish costumes and hedonistic debauchery than in telling an interesting story, and the segment suffers for it. Things improve considerably with the second story; in general, I like the work of Louis Malle, and I like this story, and though it’s heavy on the sadism, at least I feel that the sadism is more the obsession of the character of William Wilson than that of the director’s; in other words, it seems relevant. However, the real keeper here is Federico Fellini’s wild and very liberal adaptation of Poe’s “Toby Dammit”. Fans of the story probably won’t recognize it until the end, but Fellini’s adaptation (which involves Terence Stamp as a drunken, arrogant British actor who comes to Rome to star in a movie in which the Christ story is told as a western, and who hopes to get a Ferrari out of the deal) allows him to indulge in his fascination with strange faces and bizarre situations, and it’s a joy. It even retains the comic feel of the original story. Far and away, the third story is the one that makes this movie worth watching.