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Film / Spirits of the Dead

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Spirits of the Dead is a 1968 Anthology Film from France. It consists of three short film segments based on the stories of Edgar Allan Poe. Nino Rota composed the soundtrack. The segments are as follow:

  • "Metzengerstein": Directed by Roger Vadim. Countess Frederique Metzengerstein (Jane Fonda) inherits her family's vast estates and fortune at the age of 22. Frederique is an awful person, a spoiled brat sociopath who terrorizes her inferiors and lives a life of group sex and dissipation. One day she meets her neighbor and cousin, Baron Wilhelm (played by Jane Fonda's brother Peter Fonda in the only movie they ever made together). The formerly self-centered and thoughtless Frederique develops feelings for Wilhelm, but when he rejects her for being an awful person, she lashes out and burns down his stables. Wilhelm is killed in the fire—but a strange black horse escapes and makes its way to Frederique's estage.

  • "William Wilson": Directed by Louis Malle. William Wilson (Alain Delon), an army officer, confesses to a priest. It seems that one evening he was playing cards with a prostitute, Giuseppina (Brigitte Bardot). He is accused of cheating by...a doppleganger of himself. Wilson resorts to murder.

  • "Toby Dammit": Directed by Federico Fellini. Toby Dammit (Terence Stamp) is an alcoholic actor. He gets a part on a film to be shot in Rome. He begins to have disturbing visions of a creepy little girl with a ball. He continues to be haunted by visions of the little girl, as well as other hallucinations, as he descends into madness, and possibly into Hell.


  • Anthology Film: Three Poe stories.
  • Bathtub Scene: One scene has Frederique the debauchee taking a bath with one of her pretty lady groupies.
  • A Boy and His X: "Metzengerstein" offers "A Girl and Her Horse Who Might Be The Reincarnation Of The Cousin She Was In Love With." Frederique develops an inordinate closeness to a horse that escapes from the burning barn, a horse that is strongly implied to be the reincarnation of Wilhelm.
  • The Bully: Young William Wilson is a little creep who likes to do stuff like tie up other boys and dip them into barrels filled with rats.
  • The Caligula: The narration refers to Frederique as a "petty Caligula." She does stuff like put a half-witted stable boy on a wine barrel, with a noose around his neck, and challenge her guests to shoot through the rope with arrows before the stable boy dies.
  • Cleavage Window: One of the actresses at the awards show in "Toby Dammit" is clad in a tight dress with a prominent Cleavage Window to show off her large breasts. And if that wasn't enough, Fellini zooms in for a tight closeup of said breasts as the actress gets up to accept an award.
  • Doppelgänger: William Wilson has a second William Wilson who follows him around and seems to be the "good" version, with the depraved, evil version being the protagonist.
  • Driven to Suicide: "Metzengerstein" ends with Frederique riding the horse into a fire started by lightning, to her death, seemingly accepting it as her just reward.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Toby goes on a high-speed drive along twisting rural roads in the dark and fog. Eventually he predictably crashes the car, but is totally unharmed; his demise comes in a different way.
  • Evil Counterpart: The protagonist of "William Wilson" actually is the Evil Counterpart. The doppelganger that follows him around is the good one.
  • Fixing the Game: William defeats Giuseppina at cards by cheating—he palms cards and switches them out.
  • Framing Device: William Wilson confessing to a priest about his crime.
  • Hot Gypsy Woman: A sexy gypsy woman accosts Toby's car while it's stuck in traffic, looking to read palms. Whatever she sees in Toby's palm so horrifies her that she gives his hand back and says "I don't want to."
  • Kissing Cousins: Ultimately averted. Frederique is clearly drawn to Wilhelm and there's a hint of Love Redeems, but he rejects her.
  • Laughing Mad: Toby starts cackling maniacally at the end of "Toby Dammit", when he sees the creepy little girl on the other side of the destroyed bridge, beckoning to him.
  • Looks Like Cesare: Toby looks deeply unhealthy, with the sunken eyes and dark circles of a Cesarean.
  • Man on Fire: Two men on fire, running out of Wilhelm's burning stable.
  • Narrator: The U.S. release features narration by an uncredited Vincent Price.
  • Navel-Deep Neckline: One of the many many sexy outfits that Ms. Fanservice Frederique wears is what's basically a swimming suit that is cut in the front down past her navel.
  • Ominous Fog: The fatal joyride in a Ferrari that ends "Toby Dammit" is spookily fogbound the whole way.
  • Ominous Owl: Wilhelm has a pet owl. When Frederique rides by his castle on the black horse, the owl stares at her reproachfully.
  • Overly-Nervous Flop Sweat: Lombardi, the producer at the awards show that Toby attends, is busily mopping sweat off his face as he asks Toby to give a little speech to the attendees.
  • Reincarnation Romance: Implied to be the case with Frederique and, yep, a horse. A black stallion charges out of Wilhelm's stable, escaping the fire that kills Wilhelm. Frederique is the only person who can tame the horse. The appearance of the horse coincides with the mysterious disappearance of a picture of a horse in a tapestry in Frederique's bedroom. Frederique eventually abandons her wild orgiastic ways, kicking all the party people out of her mansion, spending all her time with the horse, even drawn to it.
  • Satan: Toby believes the creepy little girl he sees to be this. He even calls her the devil when delivering his drunken speech.
  • Strapped to an Operating Table: William ties a prostitute down naked to the dissecting table with all the other students from his anatomy class there, and he traces around her body with a scalpel. He seems to be about to dissect her while she's alive when his Doppelgänger shows up and puts a stop to it.
  • The Sociopath: William Wilson is a monster. He nearly dissects a prostitute alive, just for kicks.
  • A Taste of the Lash: William the monster whips poor Giuseppina after basically winning the right to do anything he wants with her at cards.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: Toby hallucinates a little girl. The airport when he lands is tinted orange by the sunset in a way that makes it look very much like Hell. A man at the airport approaches an escalator walking backwards. He sees cardboard cut-out people instead of real people on the streets. He sees people wearing odd paper masks for faces.
  • Toplessness from the Back: Seen with most of the gorgeous women lolling around Frederique's mansion.