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Spirits of the Dead (1968)

Histoires extraordinaires (original title)
Anthology film from three European directors based on stories by Edgar Allan Poe: a cruel princess haunted by a ghostly horse, a sadistic young man haunted by his double, and an alcoholic actor haunted by the Devil.

Writers:

Edgar Allan Poe (story "Metzengerstein") (as Edgar Allan Poë), Roger Vadim (adaptation) | 8 more credits »
Reviews
2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Brigitte Bardot ... Giuseppina (segment "William Wilson")
Alain Delon ... William Wilson (segment "William Wilson")
Jane Fonda ... Contessa Frederique de Metzengerstein (segment "Metzengerstein")
Terence Stamp ... Toby Dammit (segment "Toby Dammit")
James Robertson Justice ... Countess' Advisor (segment "Metzengerstein")
Salvo Randone ... Priest (segment "Toby Dammit")
Françoise Prévost ... Friend of Countess (segment "Metzengerstein") (as Francoise Prevost)
Peter Fonda ... Baron Wilhelm Berlifitzing (segment "Metzengerstein")
Marlène Alexandre Marlène Alexandre ... (segment "Metzengerstein")
David Bresson David Bresson
Katia Christine ... Young girl on the dissection table (segment "William Wilson") (as Katia Christina)
Peter Dane Peter Dane
Georges Douking ... Le licier (segment "Metzengerstein")
Philippe Lemaire ... Philippe (segment "Metzengerstein")
Carla Marlier ... Claude (segment "Metzengerstein")
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Storyline

Three directors each adapt a Poe short story to the screen: "Toby Dammit" features a disheveled, drugged and drunk English movie star who nods acceptance in the Italian press and his producers fawn over him. "Metzengerstein" features a medieval countess who has a love-hate relationship with a black stallion - who, it turns out, is really her dead lover. "William Wilson" tells the story of a sadistic Austrian student with an exact double whom he later kills. Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Edgar Allen Poe's ultimate orgy! See more »

Genres:

Drama | Horror | Mystery

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

France | Italy

Language:

French | Italian | English

Release Date:

23 July 1969 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Spirits of the Dead See more »

Filming Locations:

Bergamo, Lombardia, Italy See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Electric)

Color:

Color | Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.75 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film was originally to have been directed by Orson Welles, Luis Buñuel and Federico Fellini. See more »

Goofs

During the final card game between Wilson (Alain Delon) and Giuseppina (Brigitte Bardot), Wilson deals himself two cards in a row during the final hand. He should have dealt Giuseppina a fifth card first before taking his. See more »

Quotes

TV Reporter #3: How did critics like your Hamlet?
Toby Dammit (segment "Toby Dammit"): Obviously the critics didn't understand a thing.
See more »

Alternate Versions

The whipping of Giuseppina was cut in the original 1973 UK cinema release (titled "Tales of Mystery"), and subsequent releases were also edited. The 15-rated 1986 video (as "Powers of Evil") completely missed the entire 'William Wilson' story, and the 18-rated 1990 French Collection VHS (titled "Histoires Extraordinaires: Tales of Mystery and Imagination") received over a minute of cuts to the whipping scene and shots of Wilson caressing a girl with a scalpel. The Arrow blu-ray release (titled "Spirits of the Dead") is the full uncut version. See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Mother and the Whore (1973) See more »

Soundtracks

Ruby
Sung by Ray Charles
Lyrics by Mitchell Parish
Music by Heinz Roemheld
See more »

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User Reviews

Malle's Homage to Cocteau's Les Enfants Terribles
3 January 2012 | by bensonjSee all my reviews

It's interesting that no IMDb commenters seem to have caught Malle's significant homage in "William Wilson."

Malle makes Wilson far more sadistic than Poe's character. In the opening school sequence, Poe's Wilson is, to be sure, a leader of the other students: "the ardor, the enthusiasm, and the imperiousness of my disposition, soon rendered me a marked character among my schoolmates, and by slow, but natural gradations, gave me an ascendancy over all not greatly older than myself." Any sadism is, at most, implied: "If there is on earth a supreme and unqualified despotism, it is the despotism of a master mind in boyhood over the less energetic spirits of its companions." In Poe, Wilson does not try to strangle his doppelganger, nor is he expelled from the school. He approaches the other's bed at night, apparently sees his own face on the sleeping boy and "passed silently from the chamber, and left at once, the halls of that old academy, never to enter them again."

In Malle's film, Wilson is torturing another student as a snowball fight rages in the background. The doppelganger makes his first appearance by hitting Wilson with a snowball. The snow fight, the torture, the significant hit by a snowball, the expulsion from school are not in Poe's tale.

But all these elements ARE in Jean Cocteau's novel LES ENFANTS TERRIBLES. The snowball fight not only is featured in Jean-Pierre Melville's film of the novel, but Cocteau filmed the scene earlier in his own BLOOD OF A POET. The torture is briefly in Melville's film, but described more fully in the novel: "By the spasmodic flaring of the gas lamp he could be seen to be a small boy with his back against the wall, hemmed in by his captives...One of these...was squatting between his legs and twisting his ears...Weeping, he sought to close his eyes, to avert his head. But every time he struggled, his torturer seized a fistful of gray snow and scrubbed his ears with it." As the snow fight continues, Cocteau's iconic character Dargelos throws a snowball that hits another student and puts in motion the events of the novel/film.

Dargelos is the same sort of malignant leader of his schoolmates as Malle's young Wilson. The headmaster calls his influence on his classmates unhealthy, and after an outrageous act he is expelled from the school. Even more to the point, Dargelos has a doppelganger in the form of the character Agathe. In Melville's film Dargelos and Agathe are played by same person, and their mysterious resemblance is important to the story.

All of these added Cocteau elements are so strong that one assumes that Malle intended viewers to recognize the reference.


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