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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

 

Spirits of the Dead aka Histoires extraordinaires, 1968 [Blu-ray]


Roger Vadim (segment "Metzengerstein")

Louis Malle (segment "William Wilson")

Federico Fellini (segment "Toby Dammit")

 

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Produzioni Europee Associati (PEA)

Video: Arrow Video

 

 

 

Disc:

Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime:  2:01:25.319

Disc Size: 47,955,971,148 bytes

Feature Size: 34,971,623,424 bytes

Video Bitrate: 31.93 Mbps

Chapters: 10

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: October 25th, 2010

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
LPCM Audio Multiple languages1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit

 

Subtitles:

English, none

 

Extras:

• Alternative English audio for Metzengerstein and William Wilson, multi-lingual English and Italian audio for Toby Dammit as well the French dubbed version
Brand new English subtitle translation on all versions
Features rare Vincent Price voice over narration used for the US theatrical version
60 page booklet featuring Edgar Allan Poe’s original short stories Metzengerstein, William Wilson and Never Bet the Devil Your Head (Toby Dammit)
Spirits of the Dead Revisited’ essay by critic and author Tim Lucas
‘Literature and Cinema’ essay by scholar and author Peter Bondanella on Toby Dammit
Re-prints of original lobby cards and posters

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: Federico Fellini, Louis Malle and Roger Vadim adapt works by macabre author Edgar Allan Poe in the anthology film Spirits of the Dead [Histoires extraordinaires]. Dealing with tormented characters experiencing a personal hell, filled with angst and delirium, Spirits of the Dead was a ground-breaking departure for the adaptation of Poe in cinema.

Vadim directs Jane Fonda as Countess Metzengerstein, a debauched heiress leading a life Caligula would commend. The Countess becomes tormented by the denial of her incestuous desire for her cousin Baron Berlifitzing (fittingly played by her brother Peter Fonda). Malle directs Alain Delon as William Wilson, an Austrian Solider who is haunted by his doppelgänger, tormenting him at times in his life where he is at his most cruel and sadistic. Fellini’s famed segment sees Terence Stamp as a Toby Dammit, an actor arriving in Rome to meet the producers of his new film, the first Catholic Western. Drugged and drunk, Dammit is disturbed by the haunting image of the devil, which like Mario Bava’s Kill, Baby... Kill! and Bunuel’s Simon of the Desert, is actually a young girl, ominously bouncing a ball.

Spirits of the Dead is presented in a brand new transfer from a new High Definition restoration of the original film negative. Reinstating Terence Stamp’s superb performance with his original English audio as well as alternate English audio options for Metzengerstein and William Wilson.

 

 

The Film:

Fellini's film is an adaptation set in contemporary Rome of Poe's Never Bet the Devil Your Head published in 1841. Poe's work is a brief comic satire of the transcendentalist movements that were then popular in Europe and America. Fellini's work takes two elements from Poe's story: First the plot of a drunk who confronts a mysterious stranger on a bridge and bets him his head; the man fails to see that the stranger is the devil who subsequently wins the bet. Second Fellini takes the name Toby Dammit, Toby being an English slang term for ass in Poe's time. (1) In short Toby Dammit is a dammed ass.

Included is the 2008, Toby Dammit cinema version restored under the personal supervision of its renowned cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno. Screened at the Tribeca Film Festival, where it was widely acclaimed by the press as a lost Fellini masterpiece.


Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
 

I wasn't anticipating pristine visuals with this release but, regardless it certainly exceeded my expectations. It's spotlessly clean, with excellent colors (especially notable in Metzengerstein). The three 40+-minute pieces play consecutively as one film as it did theatrically and they look predictably softish in spots. This is dual-layered with a very strong bitrate and excellent grain shows through evenly. I applaud what Arrow has done with the transfer - there were many moments where I was impressed and surprised with the quality of the visuals. I wouldn't say that this Blu-ray is demo material but also it has no distinguishing black-marks. It is advertised as being a 'brand new transfer of Spirits of the Dead from a new HD restoration of the original negative' and I wouldn't expect we will see this clandestine gem looking any superior for home viewing in our lifetimes.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Menu + Audio:

The disc menu allows you to choose from "Auditorium" (to simply 'play'), "Reel Change" to chose a chapter (3 for each film and one for 'end credits). "Kiosk" lets you choose 'French Language version', 'French Language version with English subtitles', a 'Vincent price Voiceover' and the original theatrical trailer for 3:40 in HD. Lastly "Projection Booth" gives many options for the language (Multi-lingual or English DUB) and subtitles (English for French and Italian or English throughout. It covers all bases.

 

 

The mono audio is rendered to a lossless liner PCM track without much notable to it although it did exhibit a strange strength. Unfortunately it is indicative of the time and production limitations. Often it looks out-of-sync and sounds hollow - replacing range - but, overall is consistent (for each segment) enough to enjoy. My Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.

 

 

Extras :

Extras digitally only consist of another audio option - the US theatrical version Vincent Price voice over narration and a theatrical trailer, but there is also a 60 page booklet featuring Edgar Allan Poe’s original short stories Metzengerstein, William Wilson and Never Bet the Devil Your Head (Toby Dammit) with a ‘Spirits of the Dead Revisited’ essay by critic and author Tim Lucas and a ‘Literature and Cinema’ essay by scholar and author Peter Bondanella on Toby Dammit plus some original lobby cards and posters re-prints.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
I really like what Arrow Films are doing here. This Blu-ray gave me a very enjoyable presentation. I was desperately keen to see Spirits of the Dead - Vadim, Malle and Fellini each adapt a Poe short story to the screen! Very cool. You may recall Arrow also brought us Two Evil Eyes on Blu-ray - where George Romero and Dario Argento did their own shockers inspired by the tales of Edgar Allan Poe. I liked Spirits of the Dead a lot - especially Fellini's - filled with his burlesque aura of colorful Euro-trashy characters. It had Terrence Stamp replacing Peter O'Toole and he does a great job. Vadim's effort was also interesting with a vixen-ish Fonda seeking unrequited intimacy with a... horse. Many might enjoy Malle's the best with Bardot and Delon playing a subversive cat and mouse existence. I had a lot of fun watching this late 60's triptych of masterful filmmakers. Yes, we recommend - absolutely! 

Gary Tooze

October 15th, 2010

 

 

 

 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be it, but film will always be my first love and I list my favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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