Feb 09

Spirits of the Dead

spiritsofthedeadGenre: Horror
Year: 1968
Country: France / Italy

original title: Histoires Extraordinaires
aka: Powers of Evil, Tales of Mystery and Imagination

Directors: Federico Fellini, Louis Malle, Roger Vadim
Starring: Brigitte Bardot, Alain Delon, Jane Fonda, Terence Stamp, James Robertson Justice


The ultimate orgy of evil


Spirits of the Dead is an anthology film done by American International Pictures with three stories that are all based on the work of Edgar Allan Poe. They are all done very stylish and artsy, so do not go in to this expecting a regular horror anthology like I did.

The first segment is called Metzengerstein, which is also the name of the Poe story it is based on. The story is about Countess Frederique of Metzengerstein. She spends her days ruling the estate by indulging in the depravity of meaningless murders and orgies. She falls in love with Baron Wilhelm of Berlifitzing, a family who has always been the Metzengerstein’s enemies. She is rejected by Wilhelm and takes out revenge on him which will eventually lead to his death. After he dies a mysterious black horse shows up at her estate and she seems to be the only one who can tame it and it will affect her and change her ways.

What an awful way to start an anthology movie. This was a dreadful watch with silly costumes that are supposed to show how lavish the rich people are and most of the action being Jane Fonda riding on a horse. Fonda is nice to look at and the weird costumes she is wearing is quite revealing, but other than that there is nothing worthwhile to find here. The most interesting aspect of this is that Fonda’s love interest is played by her brother Peter and the episode is directed by her french husband at the time Roger Vadim. He has an eye for style, but the substance, editing and narration got lost for me on this one.

The second segment is called William Wilson and that’s the name of the main character, who is revealing his evil ways to a priest after a murder has occurred. He spills out every humiliating act he has done towards others and how a person who looks just like him has recently started to show up to set things right. After being followed by this guy for a long time, William kills him and he is now unsure whether he has killed just another man or a part of himself.

This is done by the french director Louis Malle, who had a long career with plenty of films that I have never seen or heard about. He gets to work with Alain Delon and the outstanding beauty Brigitte Bardot on this one and it’s not a terrible episode, but it does get a little lost at times, especially in the card playing scene that just drags on and on. It is a more “classy” way of doing a Tales from the Crypt episode and it is decent at best with its main attraction being the actors involved.

The third and final segment is called Toby Dammit and it takes place in Rome, where a british actor named Toby Dammit is attending a movie award ceremony. Toby is getting close to ruining his career by abusing alcohol and he is tired of the fame and superficial stuff that comes along with his profession. This night would prove to be his final stay in the spotlight.

Saving the best for last with the Italian entry from Federico Fellini. Although to be honest it isn’t a big accomplishment to outdo the two french entries in this film. Toby Dammit manages to be both interesting and have some symbolism that I can understand, or rather keep interested enough to care about. The entire segment are presented in a dreamlike state, almost as if the audience has been indulging in as much alcohol as Toby and we are experiencing his view on the superficial world of fame and fortune. Terence Stamp is excellent as Toby and the visuals are great, but the segment suffers from first starting after 80 minutes of boredom from the two previous stories.

Perhaps I just expected too much when I went into this film last night, cause I’ve seen this pop up in several top 100 horror lists and such, even though it’s not described as a typical horror film. I can see the attraction of the Fellini segment, but the two others are not worth checking out. Spirits of the Dead was a disappointing film for me and not something I would recommend to anyone, although other more knowledgeable critiques will disagree with me.




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