Monday, 25 October 2010

Vincent Price's voice-over in Spirits of the Dead comes to Blu-ray

In an era long, long ago, a group of celebrated actors and directors pooled their collective talents to create a haunting homage to the work of Edgar Allan Poe. To top it off, that master of the macabre, Vincent Price, lent his mellifluous tones to introduce each tale of terror.

The film in question is 1969's Spirits of the Dead (aka Histories extraordinaires), a curious mix of European art-house cinema and American International Pictures horror hokum, that gave esteemed directors Roger Vadim, Louis Malle and Frederico Fellini a chance at bring Poe's vision to the big screen, following Roger Corman's successful efforts that made Vincent Price the king of horror.

In Metzengerstein, Vadim directs his then-wife Jane Fonda (they had just completed the sci-fi romp Barberella) in a campy, operatic tale about a debauched heiress who harbours an incestuous desire for her cousin (played by Peter Fonda).

In the Louis Malle-helmed William Wilson, loosely based on one of Poe's best stories, France's matinee idol of the day Alain Delon takes on the role of a 19th-century Austrian solider in occupied Italy who becomes tormented by his doppleganger.

The final tale is by the celebrated director, Frederico Fellini. Derived from Poe's Never Bet the Devil Your Head, Toby Dammit sees Terence Stamp playing a washed-up alcoholic actor who enters Faustian territory when he begins having visions of a little girl and her lost ball.

While Vadim and Malle's efforts drew mix reactions on the film's original release, Fellini's entry was highly praised - thanks to its dreamlike visuals and dark themes, heavily influenced by Fellini's La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2. Until 2008, when Toby Dammit was restored, Fellini's effort was long regarded as a lost masterpiece.

Thankfully, that is no more as Arrow's new Blu-ray release contains a new transfer from a new High Definition restoration of the original film negative, and is a huge improvement over previous releases.

And that's not all, as Stamp's original English soundtrack has been reinstated, as well as the rare Vincent Price narration that was used for the US cinema release.

Other special features include, a 60-page booklet featuring Edgar Allan Poe’s original short stories, essays by Tim Lucas and Peter Bondanella, and reprints of the original lobby cards and posters.

For lovers of European cinema, Edgar Allan Poe and Vincent Price, this is a serious must-have.

Released 25 October

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