SPIRITS OF THE DEAD is a wicked anthology of Edgar Allan Poe stories from 1968, with the triple bill of Roger Vadim, Louis Malle and Federico Fellini as the episode directors. The entire production is beautifully (and in Fellini’s case insanely) photographed, and there is plenty of star power on hand. Here’s the breakdown:
METZENGERSTEIN (Vadim) stars a hot Jane Fonda as Baroness Metzengerstein, a cruel and tyrannical ruler who lives a debauched life. She grows obsessed over a black horse which she believes is the reincarnation of a cousin who she inadvertently killed. This is the least of the episodes, alternately dull and overcut. Jane rides a black horse, gets to wear a ton of suggestive clothing and look good in front of lovely landscapes. That’s something I guess.
WILLIAM WILSON (Malle) stars Alain Delon as a nasty fellow who encounters a doppleganger throughout his life that seeks to thwart his ugly schemes. This is a wonderful piece of filmmaking, with great tension and many surprises throughout. A highlight (among many) is his card game against Brigitte Bardot, just a fantastic bit of pacing and brio. I love this piece, and it is the strongest episode here.
TOBY DAMMIT (Fellini) stars Terence Stamp as a washed up British actor who comes to Italy to shoot a Catholic Western in exchange for a (super-freaking-sweet) Ferrari. The cinematography and editing is giddy and delirious, outrageously expressionistic and full of energy. Some amazing high speed car scenes, and a great sense of experimentation. I only rate it below WILLIAM WILSON as the storyline is more diffuse and slight.
I saw this on the Image Entertainment DVD release from 1996, if there is a better version out there I’d check that out. A real trip!