Spirits of the Dead (a.k.a. "Histoires Extraordinaires") is an eerie film based on the grotesque and macabre stories of 19th century author Edgar Allan Poe. Three separate tales, each created with style and flair by three ... more »top directors--Federico Fellini, Louis Malle and Roger Vadim.« less
"Janus Films participated in the restoration of this film and you would think that that alone would ensure high standards of quality. And for the most part it did. But unmentioned in all the reviews of this DVD is the fact that the best film of the three, Toby Dammit,does not have its English soundtrack included.
Terence Stamp is English and he spoke his part in English.(and what an amazing bit of verbal it was) It just ain't the same thing in dubbed French by another actor. An earlier release of this film delivered the English soundtrack as an option but did not allow you to turn off the English subtitles! (Some of the people that put these things together are really lacking in simple, common sense.) Also the image quality on the previous release is faded and not real sharp. Image quality on this current DVD is excellent. Rich color and very sharp. So the horror of it all is you are left with a very well done restoration with a rather important detail inexplicably left out. The English soundtrack exists and isn't this the whole point of DVD's? I took a chance buying this DVD hoping for an improved version that fixed some of the problems on the earlier release.
The frustrating thing is that it is so close to being there, but a French speaking Terence Stamp is just absurd. Janus Films was also involed in the Criterion Collection new version of Amarcord and they did it perfectly. Everything is there. Wish they used as much care on this one."
Heavy Theta | Lorton, Va United States | 02/05/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"As originally conceived by Fellini, the Toby Dammitt segment was, imho, the greatest work he ever committed to film. Taut, lean, stylish and very effective. I saw the film when it was first released and am fortunate enough to have this segment on an old beta tape.
Beyond Terrence Stamp's wonderful delivery, is the crucial element of the english actor being alone and isolated in Italy by his language, slowly pushing him deeper into surrender and madness. All of this is lost in the current French dubbed edition.
(On the other hand, it must be a plus to have the first two segments, overdubbed into English for US release, back to their original French. However, these segments are competent, or somewhat interesting at best, compared to fantastic finale.)
Please let Janus know that they have broken trust by butchering a great artist's masterwork."
Toby Dammit, pourquoi parle francais?
B. Taft | Los Angeles, CA | 01/09/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In response to the reviewer's query below concerning the French overdubbing of "Toby Dammit" - sorry, this DVD ALSO features a French actor's voice dubbed over that of Terrence Stamp. I, too, was greatly disappointed at this.
I do not know of any other version available that has Stamp's English dialogue, but I remember seeing it on television in the 80s and onscreen at the American Cinematheque in Hollywood in 2004. Maybe if there is enough demand they will remaster it and put out an English version of this delightful foray into subtle, 1960's-style psychological horror? One can hope."
Handsomely mounted, only slightly scary horror
Jeremy Heilman | Brooklyn, NY USA | 12/09/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Spirits of the Dead, a handsomely mounted 1967 film that features three segments from three European giants (Vadim, Malle, and Fellini) all based on Edgar Allen Poe short stories. The third segment, Fellini's Toby Dammit, is so incredibly different and dense when compared to the other two that you almost forget you've watched an anthology by the time the film ends. His work here is as good as he's ever been visually, and the world that he creates perfectly represents the inner turmoil of the self-destructive actor Toby Dammit (Terrance Stamp). The director presents his typical circus or parade; whichever you want to call it, and this time it shows the world of the celebrity in modern day Rome. It's obviously been liberally adapted from the original Poe story, and it's only nominally a horror tale (Toby is stalked by a Björk-ish devil figure), but the film transcends any generic or authorial labels: it's purely Fellini's, and at a little over forty minutes long it doesn't burn out the audience in the way that his longer pageants tend to. The other two segments are certainly solid, even if they might not top Fellini's work with sheer panache. Vadim's piece is the better of the remainder, and it features Jane and Peter Fonda as feuding cousins. This is the most overtly supernatural segment of the trio, and even it feels somewhat subdued when compared to modern ghost stories. Jane Fonda is excellent in her role, and she brings a combination of refinement and haughtiness to the part that vitalizes the character. Like all of the film, this bit of the film is well shot, but Vadim's captured some gorgeous outdoor scenery, whereas the others take place mostly indoors. The tale itself is spooky enough, and the running time feels sufficient. The only real negative mark here is that the film resorts to a slightly jarring voiceover narration here to fill in background details. Malle's segment is likable enough, but it feels somewhat slighter than the other two. Its gambling scene evokes Kubrick's Barry Lyndon (just as the driving sequences in the Fellini segment recall A Clockwork Orange), even if Spirits was made several years earlier, and there is genuine tension aroused at the card table. Throughout the film, there is a relatively low gore quotient, and the acting is uniformly solid. As far as psychological horror goes, the films work well, and that they realize Poe's stories were mainly internalized distortions of the world works to their advantage, even as they approach the material in vastly different ways."
Three beautiful and memorable short films make a wonderful a
Galina | Virginia, USA | 12/22/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Spirits of the Dead"(1968) presents adaptations of three Edgar Allen Poe stories by three European directors, Roger Vadim's "Metzengerstein" with Jane and Peter Fonda, Louis Malle's "William Wilson" (with Alain Delon and Briget Bardout), and Federico Fellini's "Toby Dammit". The universal opinion is that only Fellini's entry is worth watching and it is indeed, spectacular with Terence Stamp fitting so well in the Fellini's freak show that it is impossible to take your eyes off him. The reason I wanted to see the movie so much was the CD that I bought some time ago - a compilation of some of the most beautiful themes composed by Nino Rota for the films of Federico Fellini. "The Ultimate Best of Federico Fellini & Nino Rota" includes the tunes arranged in the medleys for 16 films directed by Fellini. These are the full orchestrations (as heard in the movies they come from) and just listening to the familiar melodies brings back the memories and the images. There was one track I kept listening to over and over. It was written for the Fellini's episode in the "Tre passi nel delirio" aka "Spirits of the Dead" (1968), "Toby Dammit". The soundtrack for "Toby Dammit" simply stands out among the romantic and poetic gems. It is rich, obsessive and creates uneasy and creepy atmosphere which is quite appropriate for an episode that features a desperate actor (Terence Stamp) in a pact with the devil. Besides the score "Toby Dammit" has plenty of great typically Felliniesque images , an unforgettable ending, and not the least, Terence Stamp who might've played one of his best roles as the famous English actor, drugged and drunk out of his mind who arrived in Rome for the Italian Film Academy Awards ceremony. Toby was also offered the role of Jesus in the Catholic Western but all he remembered that he had been promised a Ferrari for participating in the ceremony and Ferrari he will get...with the ride to hell that looks exactly like Rome at night where every turn takes you to the dead end and the Devil only knows the way out but you will pay him a price...
I found all three films interesting and involving on their own terms. I don't agree with the comments that call Vadim's adaptation a failure - it is certainly not. If anything, it is beautiful to look at and listen to and any film featuring Madam Roger Vadim (Jane Fonda was married to the director at the time) wearing the costumes that were certainly inspired by or even reused from "Barbarella" that was released in the same year, 1968 is worth watching. Vadim changed the short story by transforming a protagonist, 18 years old Baron Frederic Metzengerstein into 22 years old Contessa Frederica but he did not change her character. She is rich, bored, corrupted, and ruthless, a "petty Caligula", until she meets her cousin Wilhelm (played by Jane's brother, Peter Fonda). Making siblings playing cousins in love tells us something (or maybe a lot) about Vadim and his mysterious Slavic soul and reminds about Poe's own dramatic love for his first cousin, Virginia Eliza Clemm, whom he married when she was only 13 and whose death at the age of 25 from tuberculosis could have let to decline of his own mental state and his untimely death less than three years after her.
Poe explores in "William Wilson" very popular in the Art and literature subject of a man and his double that represents his conscience, his dark and hidden side. The short story brings to mind such famous works of literature as Hans Christian Andersen's "The Shadow", Adelbert Von Chamisso's "Peter Schlemiel: The Man Who Sold His Shadow", Robert Louis Stevenson's "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" and Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray".
In Louis Malle's short film, Wilson (Alain Delon) confesses his sinful and dreadful life to the priest recalling the outrageous and vicious deeds that have been prevented or disclosed by his exact double whose name is also William Wilson. Two scenes of the short film stand out. The first is a simply chilling Wilson's attempt to perform an autopsy on a living woman and the second - Wilson plays cards, cheating shamelessly, with rich and arrogant Giuseppina (Brigitte Bardot almost unrecognizable in a black wig that does almost impossible - makes her look ugly). While it may be not the best Poe's adaptation and perhaps the weakest of three films in the anthology, two Delons for the price of one is reason enough to see it. I am glad that I finally saw the film that has achieved a cult status with years but is not easily available (I had to wait for several weeks for it from Netflix even after I had bumped it to the top). What started with my interest in the musical score by Rota, ended as a memorable watching experience.