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SPIRITS OF THE DEAD ($30) is an enjoyable, albeit uneven supernatural anthology movie. Adapted from the works of Edgar Allen Poe, SPIRITS OF THE DEAD presents three separate tales envisioned by three separate directors. Starting things off is director Roger Vadim’s Metzengerstein, which is visually haunting, although ultimately proves to be the least interesting story in the film. Starring Jane Fonda and Peter Fonda, Metzengerstein tells the story of a perverse and cruel noblewoman, who becomes enamored with her reserved cousin. When he spurns her affections, her revenge has an unexpected result that leaves her haunted by a wild black stallion. Louis Malle directs Alain Delon and Brigitte Bardot in the film’s second story William Wilson. Delon stars as the title character, a young man whose sadistic tendencies are thwarted throughout his life by a doppelganger, who always makes an appearance at the least opportune moments. Director Federico Fellini is responsible for the film’s most impressive tale- Toby Dammit. In Toby Dammit, Terence Stamp portrays the title character, a jaded and drunken film actor that travels to a somewhat hellish version of Rome to appear in a movie. One is never quite sure if the demons that Toby Dammit faces in Rome are part of his drunken stupor or something far more malevolent. Fellini’s wonderfully stylized visuals give Toby Dammit a very creepy, off kilter feeling that leaves the viewer feeling uneasy throughout this haunted tale.

Home Vision Entertainment has made SPIRITS OF THE DEAD available on DVD in a 1.75:1 wide screen presentation, which has been enhanced for 16:9 displays. The visual quality of the three tales is somewhat variable, due to the different styles and production teams involved with each. Overall, SPIRITS OF THE DEAD is a good-looking European production, with a reasonably sharp and detailed image. Colors are strongly rendered, with fairly natural flesh tones. Blacks are generally accurate and shadow detail is more than respectable. The film element used for the transfer does display a number of blemish and some grain, although neither is terribly distracting. Clean dual layer authoring keeps digital compression artifacts well concealed throughout the presentation.

The Dolby Digital monaural French soundtrack is mostly free from audible distortion and hiss. Sound effects and music do sound a bit thin, but this has to be expected on thirty something year old recordings. Easy to read English subtitles are encoded onto the DVD, for the non-French speaking audience. Full motion video and sound enhance the DVD’s interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the three individual tales, as well as the scenes contained within each.

SPIRITS OF THE DEAD is an intriguing supernatural film, although by nature, film anthologies aren’t particularly even in tone. Home Vision Entertainment has done a fine job with the 16:9 enhanced presentation, which outshines everything that preceded it. Genre fans and fans of the particular directors involved will definitely want to check out this edition of SPIRITS OF THE DEAD.


Spirits of the Dead


DVD reviews are Copyright 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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