Spirits of the Dead
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
American International Pictures distributed this horror anthology film featuring three stories by Edgar Allan Poe directed by European directors Roger Vadim, Louis Malle and Federico Fellini. Jane Fonda, Alain Delon, Peter Fonda, Brigitte Bardot, and Terence Stamp are among the stars. The English language version features narration by Vincent Price.
At the age of 22, Countess Federica inherits the Metzengerstein estate and lives a life of promiscuity and debauchery. While in the forest, her leg is caught in a trap and she is freed by her neighbor Baron Wilhelm, whom she has never met because of a long-standing family feud. She becomes enamored with Wilhelm, but he rejects her for her wicked ways. His rejection infuriates Federica and she sets his stables on fire -- Wilhelm is killed attempting to save his prized horses.
One black horse somehow escapes and makes its way to the Metzengerstein castle. The horse is very wild and Federica takes it upon herself to tame it. She notices at one point that a damaged tapestry depicts a horse eerily similar to the one that she has just taken in. Become obsessed with it, she orders its repair. During a thunderstorm, Federica is carried off by the spooked horse into a fire caused by lightning that has struck.
"William Wilson" segment
During the 19th century, northern Italy is occupied by Austrian forces. A man named William Wilson rushes to confess to a priest (in a church of the "Città alta" of Bergamo) that he has committed murder. Wilson then relates the story of his cruel ways throughout his life. While playing cards, his doppelgänger, also named William Wilson, convinces people that Wilson has cheated at cards. In a rage, the protagonist Wilson stabs the other. After making his confession, Wilson commits suicide by jumping from the tower of "Palazzo della Ragione" but finally seen with a knife stuck on his breast.
"Toby Dammit" segment
- see Toby Dammit
Former Shakespearean actor Toby Dammit is losing his acting career as he is tempted by alcohol. He agrees to work on a film where he will be paid with a Ferrari. After helping a young girl who has lost her ball, Dammit begins to have visions of the girl and the ball. After being awarded his Ferrari at a large ceremony, Dammit rushes, inebriated, in his new car. Workers try to get Dammit to stop the car at a fallen bridge across a ravine, but Dammit speeds ahead. When his car reaches the other side, Dammit's head has been cut off by a wire that was stretched across the ravine. The young girl is seen again.
Roger Vadim's segment was filmed just after Vadim had completed shooting on his previous movie Barbarella, which also starred Jane Fonda. Scriptwriter and novelist Terry Southern, who had worked on the screenplay for Barbarella, travelled to Rome with Vadim and according to Southern's biographer Lee Hill, it was during the making of this segment that Peter Fonda told Southern of his idea to make a 'modern Western' movie. Southern was enthusiastic about the idea and agreed to work on the project, which eventually became the renowned independent film Easy Rider.<ref>Lee Hill - A Grand Guy: The Life and Art of Terry Southern (Bloomsbury, 2001)</ref>
Louis Malle accepted the job of directing the segment “William Wilson” in order to raise money for his next film Le Souffle au coeur (Murmur of the Heart). The financial process of raising money for Murmur took him three years after completing “William Wilson” and in the meantime he shot two documentaries about India. Malle stated that he did not considered his collaboration in Histoires Extraordinaires a very personal one and that he agreed to make some compromises with the producer, Raymond Eger, in order to make the film more attractive to mainstream spectators. Malle’s original conception of the film was closer to Poe’s tale than the final result. The most important changes were: casting Brigitte Bardot in the role of Giuseppina with the purpose of adding some erotic touches to the film, the inclusion of the dissection scene, and a somewhat explicit use of violence in some scenes.