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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Histoires Extraordinaires (aka Spirits of The Dead) (1968)

An anthology of three short films by three different directors based on the tales of Edgar Allan Poe: In the first story, a debauched Countess (Jane Fonda) is rejected by a Baron (Peter Fonda) so she burns down his stables in revenge. The baron is killed but a mysterious black stallion survives. In the second story, a sadistic bully (Alain Delon) is followed by his doppelganger (also Delon) who seems to have the conscience he lacks. In the third, a washed up movie actor (Terence Stamp) agrees to do a movie in Italy but he is seemingly followed by a little girl (Marina Yaru) who may or may not be the Devil. As with all portmanteau films, the quality of the three films vary. The first by Roger Vadim is interesting and atmospheric but Vadim doesn't have the dark vision necessary to make the narrative satisfactory. Instead of ending with something Wagnerian as it should, it simply fizzles out. The second story directed by Louis Malle seems quite impersonal and the segment suffers because of it. Malle doesn't seem to have the taste for either violence or sadism that a Dario Argento would have brought to the project. But the third, directed by Federico Fellini, is spectacular! Fellini works on his own playing field here (even utilizing his in house composer, Nino Rota) and it's a hypnagogic journey filled with indelible imagery and a gratifying climax. With Brigitte Bardot (the Malle segment) and James Robertson Justice (the Vadim segment).

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