Thursday, January 08, 2015
Spirits of the Dead (1968) - Review
The three stories, Metzengerstein, William Wilson and Toby Dammit, or Never Bet the Devil your Head, are each given a bit of a rethink and reimagining by the writers and directors, and while the essence of them can be traced to the Poe originals, they all come over far more as experimental sixties film-making, than the more popular Poe adaptations by Roger Corman.
Metzengerstein stars Vadim's wife and muse Jane Fonda, and also her real life brother Peter Fonda in a tale which is confused in the telling, but which seems to be about a decadent woman (Fonda) who has a closer relationship with her horse than with anyone else. Peter Fonda plays her cousin for whom she harbours an incestuous love, and when he is killed in a stable fire, a black stallion appears and Jane Fonda rides off on this into the proverbial sunset. The segment is beautifully shot (overall the Blu-Ray has a brilliant transfer and presentation throughout) and the costumes are lush, sexy and original, as befitting Fonda and Vadim. His stand out film with Fonda, Barbarella, was released the same year and has a similar detail towards the costumes and outfits which Fonda wears. Unfortunately while the segment is the closest to the familiar Corman adaptations of Poe, with its cinematography, settings and approach echoing elements of The Fall of the House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum and The Masque of the Red Death, the narrative is confusing and ultimately ends with puzzlement as to exactly what it was all about ...
Overall the Blu-Ray presentation is exemplary, with various options to watch in English, or French with subtitles. There's even a version with some narration by Vincent Price (who of course was the 'face' of all of Corman's Poe adaptations). The transfers are beautiful, and allow the cinematography to be fully appreciated.
Overall this is a fascinating slice of sixties cinema, with contributions from three key contributors to the era's output. Terrance Stamp's performance is exemplary, and it's good to see Jane Fonda in another Roger Vadim production.