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Monday, July 13, 2009

SPIRITS OF THE DEAD / HISTOIRES EXTRAORDINAIRE (1968)


Recent portmanteau pics come as cinematic appetizers (or l’amuse bouche, i.e. PARIS, JE T’AIME/’06 with 20+ episodes & 20+ meggers), but the 50s & 60s served up three or four entree-sized stories, big enough to sink your teeth into. This Edgar Allen Poe buffet offers three. First up is that alarming French hack Roger Vadim who channels his inner Hugh Hefner by tossing his then-wife, Jane Fonda, thru a series of medieval leather-orgies until she finds tru-love in the form of neighboring Count, Peter Fonda. Don’t worry, she waits until he’s reincarnated as a horse before ‘mounting.’ OY. Skip this if you haven’t a taste for camp. Things improve dramatically in Louis Malle’s immaculately realized take on a Poe-flavored doppelgänger story. A sadistic school bully grows up to be sadistic hedonist Alain Delon; he studies medicine but lives to sponge & control. His current victims are a cadaver & Brigette Bardot who only looks like a cadaver in her brunette get up. But Delon is exposed as a cheat by his mysterious double and revenge² is all but inevitable. Finally, Federico Fellini puts the narcissistic beauty of Terence Stamp thru the ringer as he takes his sports car for a spin thru a maze of streets Escher might have laid-out. (The spooky laughing girl Stamp is looking for is something of a precursor to a score of Japanese horror pics made decades later.) Fellini got the best reviews, but Malle’s segment now looks like a forgotten classic. And a very creepy one at that.

NOTE: The available DVD from HVE is in French only, with English subtitles, though the film was shot in French, English & Italian It's all dubbed in the 60s Euro-style, but watch Jane Fonda's lips and you'll see she is sometimes speaking French & sometimes speaking English. And that's her own voice in the dubbed French . . . just as flat as her normal English.

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