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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.


(story "Metzengerstein") (as Edgar Allan Poë), (adaptation) | 8 more credits »

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1 nomination. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
... Giuseppina (segment "William Wilson")
... William Wilson (segment "William Wilson")
... Contessa Frederique de Metzengerstein (segment "Metzengerstein")
... Toby Dammit (segment "Toby Dammit")
... Countess' Advisor (segment "Metzengerstein")
... Priest (segment "Toby Dammit")
... Friend of Countess (segment "Metzengerstein") (as Francoise Prevost)
... Baron Wilhelm Berlifitzing (segment "Metzengerstein")
Marlène Alexandre ... (segment "Metzengerstein")
David Bresson
... Young girl on the dissection table (segment "William Wilson") (as Katia Christina)
Peter Dane
... Le licier (segment "Metzengerstein")
... Philippe (segment "Metzengerstein")
... Claude (segment "Metzengerstein")


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


Edgar Allen Poe's ultimate orgy! See more »


Drama | Horror | Mystery


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






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Release Date:

23 July 1969 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Spirits of the Dead  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Electric)


| (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.75 : 1
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Did You Know?


Fellini had spent most of 1967 working on the " Yoyage of G. Mastorna" with Marcello Mastroianni and Dino de Laurentiis but it collapsed due to health and personal problems suffered by the director. This was his first work since " Juliet of the Spirits" in 1965. See more »


When young William Wilson splatters his fellow schoolmate with a tomato in class, the red stain on his victims face changes drastically from less to more after several moments. See more »


Father Spagna - Priest (segment "Toby Dammit"): This film will be in color. Harsh colors, rough costumes to reconcile the holy landscape with the prairie. Sort of Piero della Francesca and Fred Zinneman. An interesting formula. You'll adapt to it very well. Just let your heart speak.
Toby Dammit (segment "Toby Dammit"): Their producers promised me a Ferrari - latest model. Where is it?
See more »


Version of The Student of Prague (1913) See more »


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

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User Reviews

Young Fondas In Love, A Gorgeous Villain, and Toby Dammit
8 March 2005 | by See all my reviews

I'm a big fan of horror anthologies, especially the Poe/Hawthorne ones from Roger Corman and the Amicus films. Spirits of the Dead, based on Edgar Allen Poe stories and directed by Europe's most acclaimed filmmakers of the time, didn't disappoint...well, except for the first story.

#1, "Metzengerstein," directed by Roger Vadim. A cruel nymphomaniac countess (Jane Fonda) destroys the one man she can't have (Peter Fonda). That's right, this segment's biggest distinction is that it features a romance between real-life siblings Jane & Peter. Maybe I'm just a boor with no appreciation of high art, but watching those two gaze longingly at each other gave me the serious skeeves. Somewhere amongst the implied incest, the near- implied bestiality, and Jane's leftover costumes from Barbarella is the very thinnest of plots and narrative structure. Vadim doesn't seem to have any comprehension of suspense or what it takes to present a story that, if not scary, is at least spooky. You'll be constantly looking at your watch, but don't let "Metzengerstein" discourage you from seeing the other two stories.

#2, "William Wilson," directed by Louis Malle. An angel-faced but throughly rotten and sadistic man (Alain Delon) is hounded by a mysterious man that shares his name. This was a tight, satisfying little story. In contrast to Vadim, Malle is so talented at the art of suspense that he can make a simple card game exciting. Some reviewers have been put off by the scenes of misogyny--and to be honest, they did seem to spill over into exploitation. But I think it was necessary to present just how horrible the main character was, and to contrast it with how attractive he is physically (which to me was the most fascinating aspect of the segment). I found the ending slightly confusing, but still effective & tragic.

#3, "Toby Dammit," directed by Federico Fellini. This segment is so virtuoso and packed with Higher Meaning and Symbolism and Commentary On The Nature Of Man, God and the Devil that it really feels like its own movie. A jaded, alcoholic actor is invited to Rome to film a spaghetti western based on the life of Jesus Christ and attend a bizarre Italian version of the Oscars. The world as seen through Toby's eyes is populated with freaks, liars, and soulless puppets-- no wonder he prefers the Devil (uniquely and quite chillingly presented as a little girl). The scene where he is driving the Ferrari is a little overlong, but the ending is quite jarring and the last shot one of the unforgettable images of cinematic horror. The only real negative is that Terrance Stamp, who gives an incredible performance, has his voice completely dubbed by a French actor. If only we could have heard his own voice! It would be nice if Criterion could put this segment out on its own and give it the attention & study it deserves.

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