Spirits Of The Dead (Histoires Extraordinaires)


(out of 5)

Three of the world’s most famous and celebrated directors get together to make a film based on Edgar Allan Poe stories, and together they do not accomplish much worth remembering. The first segment, “Metzengerstein”, is directed by Roger Vadim and stars Jane Fonda as a sadistic medieval aristocrat whose fascination, passion and hatred for another nobleman (an incestuously cast Peter Fonda) leads her to burn down his property and kill him in the process. Following his death, a black stallion shows up at her castle and she suspects it is his spirit returned for her companionship. Louis Malle directs the second story, “William Wilson”, about a vain soldier (Alain Delon) who meets a man identical to him and longs to kill him for pride. The third tale, directed by Federico Fellini and based on “Toby Dammit”, is the best of the three, mainly by comparison. Terence Stamp plays a movie star who has just arrived in Rome to play Christ in a Biblical western, and all the while is constantly haunted by visions of the devil as a little girl with a big yellow bouncing ball. “Dammit” has more life than the other two, and Stamp is haunting in the role, but compared with Fellini’s best work it is a shabby little film. Die hard Poe fans will definitely not want to ruin their appreciation of their beloved author by enduring this dull trilogy.

France/Italy, 1968

Directed by Roger Vadim, Louis Malle, Federico Fellini

Screenplay by Roger Vadim, Pascal Cousin, Louis Malle, Clement Biddle Wood, Daniel Boulanger, Federico Fellini, Bernardino Zapponi, based on the stories Metzengerstein, William Wilson, Never Bet The Devil Your Head by Edgar Allan Poe

Cinematography by Tonino Delli Colli, Claude Renoir, Giuseppe Rotunno

Film Festivals: