“Why am I telling you this? Why did you ask me here? What do you want from me?”
Three mean-spirited individuals — Jane Fonda, Alain Delon, and Terence Stamp — meet appropriately grisly endings.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Actors and Actresses
- Brigitte Bardot Films
- Edgar Allan Poe Films
- Episodic Films
- Fellini Films
- Horror Films
- Jane Fonda Films
- Living Nightmare
- Louis Malle Films
- Peter Fonda Films
- Roger Vadim Films
- Terence Stamp Films
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary is clearly not a fan of this “disappointing horror anthology for which three Poe tales were adapted by internationally known directors and which starred actors who usually stayed away from the genre”. Roger Vadim helmed the first episode, “Metzengerstein”, starring Jane Fonda as a cruel, “depraved libertine” who secretly covets her humble cousin (played by her real-life brother, Peter — kinky). It seems to exist primarily as an excuse for Fonda to wear yet more “revealing costumes” (after her starring role in Vadim’s Barbarella) while riding horses, staring at tapestries, and engaging in orgies that “must give TV censors fits”; unfortunately, it’s a real snooze. Next is a slightly more compelling but still disappointing episode — directed by Louis Malle — “about a sadist… who keeps seeing his moral counterpart, a lookalike named William Wilson”. Peary argues it is “poorly dubbed, unnecessarily vicious, and, surprisingly, contains no surprises”; its most memorable (if squeamishly disturbing) sequence involves Brigitte Bardot as “a cigar-smoking brunette who loses to the cheating Wilson at cards and must submit to his beating”.
Peary writes that “the most praised episode is Federico Fellini’s ‘Never Bet the Devil Your Head’, starring Terence Stamp as a booze-soaked, self-loathing American actor [Toby Dammit] who has come to Italy to make a moralistic western about redemption”, and “encounters Fellini’s usual array of grotesque movie- and press-types and the devil — a little blonde girl who keeps turning up in creepy settings”. He argues that while Fellini’s story is “too long and self-consciously arty”, “at least its violent ending… is carried out in an original manner”. Most other critics give Fellini’s short film even greater due, with DVD Savant (for instance) noting that “for once, a critique of showbiz goes beyond the obvious representations of phoniness and insincerity, and takes the extra step into insanity.” Indeed, this final episode — a deliciously surreal satire with a relentless pace and consistently jarring imagery — at least partially redeems the entire film. But as a whole, Spirits of the Dead remains an unpleasant outing that is more of a curiosity than essential viewing.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Claude Renoir’s cinematography in “Metzengerstein”
- Terence Stamp as Toby Dammit
- Typically surreal imagery by Fellini
No, though you may be curious to check out the third story.