28 July 2014

Spirits of the Dead (1968)
121 min.
Directed by Roger Vadim, Louis Malle, Federico Fellini.
With Brigitte Bardot, Jane Fonda, Peter Fonda, Alain Delon, Terence Stamp, Salvo Randone, James Robertson Justice, Françoise Prévost, Marlène Alexandre.
Filmed by directors Roger Vadim, Louis Malle and Federico Fellini, Spirits of the Dead is an adaptation of three Edgar Allan Poe stories that amount to one really odd bird.

Vadim helms Metzengerstein, the story of spoiled aristocrat Contessa Frederica (Jane Fonda) who falls in love with her cousin Wilhelm (Jane's real life brother, Peter). Weird.

When Wilhelm dies tragically, the Countess becomes obsessed with a black stallion that may or may not be the reincarnation of her loving dead cousin.

The second tale, William Wilson, is directed by Louis Malle, and stars Alain Delon as corrupt officer William Wilson who discovers he has a mysterious doppleganger.

Unfortunately, Wilson's ghostly twin is determined to show his earthly brother the error of his criminal ways.

Federico Fellini directs Toby Dammit, the final (and most satisfying) segment in this trilogy of the macabre. It's a bizarre tale of alcoholic/drug-addicted actor Toby Dammit (Stamp), who races to a clandestine rendezvous...with the Devil himself.

Or is Toby merely seeing reflections of his own soul?

On the whole, Spirits of the Dead is a mixed bag.

Uneven in parts, and strangely paced, it's never as effective as it'd like to be. Not surprisingly, the acting is good (the Fondas, Bardot, and Delon deliver solid performances), the visuals are appropriately lush, and the production is technically superior.

But as far as generating chills, it's only Fellini's segment that gives up the goods.

Stamp is truly creepy as the dysfunctionally scary Toby, and Fellini outdoes himself conjuring up his trademark Fellini-esque mood and unsettling atmosphere. Toby Dammit alone makes Spirits of the Dead worth a spin.

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