Saturday, 6 December 2008

HISTOIRES EXTRAORDINAIRES /Spirits of the Dead(1968)

I think that American International made a half-hearted attempt to sell this as part of their Edgar Allan Poe series but this French production is a very different kettle of fish. Three stories by Poe adapted by famous European directors with big name stars sounds like a sure fire recipe for a superior horror movie. The first episode is directed by Roger Vadim and is based on the tale "Metzegerstein" and stars brother and sister Peter and Jane Fonda. The biggest problem, as you might expect comes from Roger Vadim's usual non-direction but close behind comes the total impossibility of convincing anybody that Jane Fonda is some perverted Countess Bathory wanabe who is forever indulging in salacious orgies and such like - Fonda just looks so sweet and American and innocent even when clad in outrageous and revealing costumes and the dissolute orgies laughable. The second story is "William Wilson" Poe's doppelganger story which stars Alain Delon (who would return to the theme with much better results in Joseph Losey's MR. KLEIN) and is directed by Louis Malle, seemingly without any enthusiasm. Brigitte Bardot also appears but does little to raise the general blandness of the segment. The final and longest story is "Toby Dammit" based (supposedly) on Poe's "Never Bet the Devil your Head" directed by Federico Fellini. Now I'll happily shout from the rooftops that virtually everything that Fellini has done since I VITTELONI leaves me cold. But here he wins hands down. Not because I think his segment is particularly good but simply because the other two are so bland and uninteresting. Terence Stamp plays a wrecked drug addled actor at Cine-Citta who has a more than close encounter with the Devil in the shape of a small child bouncing a ball - an image that Fellini lifted from Mario Bava's OPERAZIONE PAURA made two years previously. At least Fellini steals from the best. Rating **

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