Spirits of the Dead(1968):Fondas,Fellini,& a Fistful of Poe
Metzengerstein was first published in 1832 in the Saturday Courier magazine, and was included in the 1864 publication of Baudelaire's translations. However the story it contains is very different than the one shown on screen. Director Roger Vadim had just completed filming on Barbarella when he was tasked with the project, and he chose to gender swap the main character from Poe's story to continue working with his previous film's star, Jane Fonda. He also injected the unrequited love story (and thank goodness it wasn't requited as Vadim cast her younger brother Peter Fonda in the role) in the place of the family rivalry of Poe's original tale. At its core, the story remains virtually the same. Both the film and the story concern one man (or woman) and their cavalier attitude toward life. As with most Poe stories, the evil are punished and we are lead to believe that the deceased have something to do with it from beyond the grave. Vadim successfully creates tension on the screen, and Jane Fonda, looking radiant, grabs the viewer with her dynamic performance.
William Wilson. Alain Delon stars as the titular character and the doppelganger who troubles his life. As the story begins, William convinces a priest to take his confession despite the fact that he is not Catholic, and he begins his tale by describing his experience at boarding school. Young William Wilson is clearly a little tyrant terrorizing all of his schoolmates, but when a new boy arrives with his same name, same face, and same manner, William's position is threatened. in the dead of the night, he attempts to strangle the new William Wilson, and for his troubles, they are both kicked out of school. Over the years, the other William Wilson always seems to be there to stop William Wilson just as he intends to do something violent,perverse, or deceptive. Finally unable to stand any further interference, William stabs his double to death, but soon finds his life in mortal jeopardy.
Never Bet The Devil Your Head, is a satirical screed against morality tales and transcendentalism and was first published in 1841 in Graham Magazine. However, in the hands of Federico Fellini, Poe's story is twisted into a tale of addiction, the falseness of the entertainment industry, and artist's internal battle with demons. So in other words, the same sort of ground that the director looked at in 8 1/2 and throughout his career. The whole segment is a fevered dream, and it floats effortlessly between the absurd (Toby having his picture taken with his blond, lanky, pale stunt double who proudly states that he also doubled Tomas Milian.) to the intensely visual (Toby's wild ride, the disturbing visuals of the satanic, yet innocent, child.). In the end, Poe and Fellini come to the same conclusion in their stories, a person must have their wits about them or they are prone to lose their head. Where Poe's tale comes off like a wan joke, Fellini's film hits like a hard right. I should also mention that this is Stamp at his best, wild eyed and perfectly pitched.