Spirits of the Dead

Spirits of the Dead

3.0 1
Director: Federico Fellini, Louis Malle, Roger Vadim

Cast: Federico Fellini, Louis Malle, Roger Vadim, Jane Fonda


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During the 1960s, Edgar Allan Poe became fashionable again, due largely to director/producer Roger Corman's series of Poe films starring Vincent Price, among others. Made on shoestring budgets, the films wonderfully captured the surreal mood of the original source material with evocative set designs, lush cinematography, and tongue-in-cheek performances. Yes, the…  See more details below


During the 1960s, Edgar Allan Poe became fashionable again, due largely to director/producer Roger Corman's series of Poe films starring Vincent Price, among others. Made on shoestring budgets, the films wonderfully captured the surreal mood of the original source material with evocative set designs, lush cinematography, and tongue-in-cheek performances. Yes, the films weren't always faithful to the original stories, but they sure made up for it with much imagination and style. Made at the tail end of the Corman films, Spirits of the Dead likewise captures the lunacy, bombast, and fantastical terror that have continued to make Poe's stories relevant. Split into three parts, Dead allows three distinctly different directors a chance to adapt the master scribe to the screen. The first film, Metzengerstein, is directed by Roger Vadim and stars his then-wife, Jane Fonda, and her brother, Peter. Louis Malle handles the second film, William Wilson, starring Alain Delon and the kittenish Brigitte Bardot. But it's the third of the bunch that has rightly made this anthology film so memorable: Federico Fellini's Toby Dammit starring Terence Stamp as a drunken actor who is haunted by a little girl who may or may not be Old Nick himself. Home Vision Entertainment's disc is a vast improvement over earlier video presentations of this film. Letterboxed at 1.75:1 (enhanced) and available in a French-language mono soundtrack (with clear and easy-to-read subtitles), the disc is superb looking in every way. Occasionally there are hints of some compression problems, especially during the first installment. But overall, the picture and sound are great. The only real complaint is that there isn't an optional English-language soundtrack available, since Stamp's track should really be heard with his own voice to be fully appreciated. The disc also allows you to watch each segment by itself if you feel so inclined. Nice liner notes have also been included. Definitely a worthwhile disc for your collection.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide
This collection of three haunting tales of death by Edgar Allan Poe forms a stylish unit that blends together perfectly. While loosely adapted from Poe's work and less horrifying than Roger Corman's Poe films, the stories really capture the demented inner structure of the author's writing as opposed to focusing on the more graphic possibilities. "Metzengerstein" stars director Roger Vadim's then-wife Jane Fonda in the role of a sadistic baroness. Peter Fonda delivers a solemn performance as the cousin who seemingly returns to haunt Jane in the form of a majestic black horse. This opening segment is marked by its frank depiction of sexuality, as well as lush photography by Claude Renoir (notice the incredible shot of Jane riding on the cliffs above a roiling ocean) and fantastic costume design by Jacques Fonteray -- both of whom did equally impressive work on Barbarella. Jane Fonda actually spoke her own French dialogue for the part. The middle story is "William Wilson" directed by Louis Malle. The tale revolves around a nasty young man (Alain Delon) who finds himself continuously exposed as a fraud by a lookalike with the same name. This segment is the most graphic of the three (Delon's live near-dissection of a naked woman being the highlight) and is filled with a constant feeling of dread. Delon plays the role perfectly and finds an excellent foil in Brigitte Bardot whose weakness for cards results in an excruciating flogging sequence. "Toby Dammit" is the final tale and was directed by Federico Fellini with his usual surreal style that is both amusing and disturbing, often at the same time. Terence Stamp is excellent as a drunken movie star whose debauched life is haunted by the devil -- who appears to him in the form of a little girl. Stamp's frenetic performance is a topper in this eerie, beautifully directed tale, filled with the kinds of fantastic, surreal imagery that marked Fellini's work.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
[Wide Screen]

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Jane Fonda Countess Frederica
Terence Stamp Toby
Brigitte Bardot Giuseppina
Alain Delon William
James Robertson Justice Countess' Advisor [Metzengerstein]
Peter Fonda Wilhelm
Françoise Prevost Friend
Fabrizio Angeli 1st Director
Rick Boyd [Never Bet The Devil Your Head]
Katia Christina Young Girl
Ernesto Colli 2nd Director
Paul Cooper 2nd Interviewer
Umberto D'Orsi Hans
Georges Douking du Lissier [Metzengerstein]
Anny Duperey 1st Guest [Metzengerstein]
Philippe Lemaire Philippe
Carla Marlier Claude
Serge Marquand Hugues [Metzengerstein]
Polidor [Never Bet The Devil Your Head]
Salvo Randone Priest
Anne Tonietti Television Commentator
Andréas Voutsinas 2nd Guest [Metzengerstein]
Alcardo Ward 1st Interviewer
Clement Biddle Wood Narrator
Marina Yaru Child
Renzo Palmer Priest [William Wilson]
Vincent Price Narrator
Marco Stefanelli Wilson as a child
Daniele Vargas Professor

Technical Credits
Federico Fellini Director,Screenwriter
Louis Malle Director,Screenwriter
Roger Vadim Director,Screenwriter
Jean André Set Decoration/Design
Franco Arcalli Editor
Suzanne Baron Editor
Daniel Boulanger Screenwriter
Tonino Delli Colli Cinematographer
Pascal Cousin Screenwriter
Jacques Fonteray Costumes/Costume Designer
Jean Forestier Art Director
Alberto Grimaldi Producer
Carlo Leva Art Director
Diego Masson Score Composer
Ruggero Mastroianni Editor
Joseph Natamson Special Effects
Hélène Plemiannikov Editor
Jean Prodromides Score Composer
Claude Renoir Cinematographer
Nino Rota Score Composer
Giuseppe Rotunno Cinematographer
Piero Tosi Art Director,Costumes/Costume Designer
Ghislain Uhry Production Designer
Clement Biddle Wood Screenwriter
Bernardino Zapponi Screenwriter

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Scene Index

Side #1 --
0. Chapters
1. Metzengerstein:Logo & Credits [:06]
2. Young Libertine [4:49]
3. The Encounter [5:07]
4. Revenge Costs [6:28]
5. Mysterious Steed [4:46]
6. Possessed [5:45]
7. Give Me Death [7:15]
8. William Wilson:Chasing Destiny [4:54]
9. He Met His Match [2:57]
10. Let's Be Perverse [5:46]
11. How About The Military [6:54]
12. Cheater [6:32]
13. Exposed [5:20]
14. One For All [6:45]
15. Toby Dammit:Star [2:26]
16. Fortune Told [:20]
17. The Interview [4:30]
18. Have Another [5:00]
19. Lion & Tiger [4:20]
20. Toby Dammit [5:59]
21. On The Run [4:44]
22. Head's Up [4:57]
23. Credits [5:03]

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Spirits of the Dead 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
ChandlerSwain More than 1 year ago
"Spirits of the Dead" is an anthology of three tales adapted from the works of Edgar Allan Poe, directed by three of the most notable foreign directors of the Sixties. The first, "Metzengerstein" directed by Roger Vadim, concerns a sadistic hedonist Countess Frederica, awkwardly portrayed by then-Mrs. Vadim Jane Fonda as if she were searching for any hint of direction. Frederica torments her staff and guests until she becomes infatuated with her cousin Wilhelm (uncomfortably cast with Fonda's own brother Peter!). Tragedy ensues in the usual Poe fashion, but the minor mood piece is not a good fit for the sensualist Vadim who, instead of finding a cinematic equivalent to what is basically not a narrative driven tale, turns his segment into a ridiculous anti-erotic fashion show with Mrs. Vadim flouncing about in a different Barbarella outfit in, seemingly, every cut. The second segment improves somewhat with Louis Malle's adaptation of "William Wilson" with Alain Delon portraying the title character haunted by a doppelganger. The story unfolds smoothly but rather coldly, and in the end unravels at a tepid pace until it's obvious and telegraphed conclusion. An extended card playing sequence featuring Brigitte Bardot offers little dramatically except to prove she swallows with great distinction. Which leaves the third and by far best sequence, Fellini's "Toby Dammit" based upon the humorous story "Never Bet the Devil Your Head". Brilliantly photographed by Giuseppe Rotunno, in Fellini's vision Toby is tranformed into famous actor who is suffering an apocalyptic burnout. Arriving in Rome to star in a Western retelling the story of Christ, Toby arrives metaphorically already dead, on the edge of Hell. At the airport he sees visions of a sinister young girl (his view of the Devil) playing with a ball, a vision he has obviously seen before. The skies are lit with oranges and reds as if smoking brimstone surrounds the terminal, and Toby as played by the intensely magnetic Terence Stamp is ready for the abyss. Fellini pulls out his usual satirical jabs at television and celebrity but in this context it works brilliantly; this could be seen as the film that Fellini relinquishes, once and for all, any adherence to realistic narrative. In Dammit's world, everything is dreamlike, but it is only Fellini's wit that prevents us from experiencing that dream as an unbearable nightmare. The film features an extended car sequence (emphasizing the pristine artistry of editor Ruggero Mastroianni) that builds and builds with simultaneous unease and comic tension, finally unleashing into the logical (and improved upon) conclusion of Poe's tale. Poe's hilarity becomes Fellini's hysteria in what is ultimately, not only the sole reason to seek out this trilogy, but also one of the finest feats of filmmaking in that decade.