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January 1, 2021

A Binge too Far #14: Film Heritage (1968 – 1975)

Spirits of the Dead (1968) European poster

Recently, I purchased and read the entire Midnight Movie Monographs series by PS Publishing’s Electric Dreamhouse subdivision – namely Jez Winship’s (2016) take on Martin (1977); John Llewellyn Probert (2016) on Theatre of Blood (1973); Sean Hogan (2017) on Death Line (1972); Maura McHugh (2017) on Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992); John Connolly (2018) on Horror Express (1972); Tim Lucas (2018) on Spirits of the Dead (1968); Tim Major (2018) on Les Vampires (1915); Kit Power (2019) on Tommy (1975); and Stephen R Bissette (2020) on The Brood (1979). What makes these publications unique is that each one of them are so different from each other in their approaches to the subject on hand (there seems to be no standard format and each writer went his original way), resulting in keeping my interest throughout despite reading them all in less than a couple of months. These books were so fun to read while also remaining very in-depth that I will obviously buy any future volumes and let you know all about them via this column, so stay tuned! Until then, we are now about to take a brief look at two of the films tackled in the series…




Spirits of the Dead (1968)


Spirits of the Dead (1968) U.S. one-sheet

As you probably already know, this co-production between Italy and France, gathers three European art-house directors and lets them tackle as many Edgar Allan Poe stories, resulting in an anthology-formed 2-hour epic that is loved by many and hated by me.


First, Roger Vadim directs ‘Metzengerstein’, starring Jane Fonda and Peter Fonda, and it is the most decent episode in the film, as it resembles a Poe adaptation in the vein of Roger Corman’s similar opuses from the era, if nowhere near as good.


Then, Louis Malle directs ‘William Wilson’, starring Brigitte Bardot and Alain Delon, a segment full of misogyny and violence, from uncomfortable scenes of whipping to utterly disgusting scenes such as the one in which the lead lady is tied naked and ready to become the subject of an experiment by fully-dressed male doctors, all in the name of science.


Finally, Federico Fellini directs ‘Toby Dammit’ starring Terence Stamp, and as is always the case with Fellini’s films it fails because it tries so hard to be artistic, resulting in a most annoying viewing experience.


This was distributed in the U.S. by American International Pictures, and a narration by Vincent Price was also added.


Tommy (1975) poster
Tommy (1975)


Another film that has a place among many ‘100 films you must see before you die’ lists and that I don’t particularly like is this rock opera by The Who (a major band that I am not very fond of) and writer/director Ken Russell (a major figure amongst art-house aficionados that I am not very fond of either).


Cult film material since its inception and impossible to define and therefore market, this is essentially a failed experiment (Pink Floyd and Alan Parker did it better in 1982), albeit one that is somewhat salvaged by its impressive cast (main star Oliver Reed is quite amazing).


The end result is not without its merits as the endless bombardment of images has you glued to the screen and nauseating. There is also an air of importance about the proceedings especially in scenes such as the Marilyn Monroe worshiping one. This is high art; if your expectations are low.

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