French-Italian compendium of three short films, all based on stories by Edgar Allan Poe.
Metzengerstein (dir. Roger Vadim)
Dissolute countess mistakenly causes the death of her infuriatingly sanguine cousin, then forms inseparable bond with a wild horse, at one point embarrassingly serenading it with a flute. And that's about it. Watchable only for its 60s-style debauchery and Jane Fonda's many sexy costumes.
William Wilson (dir. Louis Malle)
Incorrigible boy grows into adult scoundrel, thwarted at every stage by an honorable doppelganger. Notable for the rogue's nefarious schemes, including a long card game with a dark-haired Brigitte Bardot that ends -- or almost -- with her being whipped with a riding crop.
Toby Dammit (dir. Federico Fellini)
The standout here (based on "Never Bet the Devil Your Head"), though not for its satirical story of an alcoholic English actor being fêted in Rome (he is there to film the world's "first Catholic Western"); rather for the actor's waking nightmare of a young girl with a big white ball, who leads him at breakneck speed, in a Ferrari, through the narrow streets of Rome toward a violent, masterfully edited climax.
The Stories & The Adaptations
"Metzengerstein" - Young baron reaps the vengeance of his hated neighbor in the form of a fabulous horse with which he becomes fascinated. Not one of the author's better stories (unlike the other two represented here), but enjoyable enough, particularly for the clever way in which Poe fulfills his prophecy. Vadim's adaptation, allowing for the substitution of a woman for the count, has many surface similarities with the story; however, that substitution leaves Vadim free to alter the characters' motivations beyond all recognition, which, of course, he (rather dully) proceeds to do.
"William Wilson" - Well-told tale of mystery and suspense as a dissolute man flees from city to city to escape his doppelganger, discovering too late the true nature of the other man’s existence. In other words, a substantial match for Malle's adaptation -- though, again, where Poe showed us a man cheated at cards, Malle gives us a woman (in this case, merely altering the subtext). Otherwise, a reasonable, if somewhat more literal, version of the story.
"Never Bet the Devil Your Head" (Toby Dammit) - One of Poe's humorous tales, this one tells the story of a man whose inveterate use of a particular gambling phrase ultimately gets him into serious trouble. And if that doesn't sound a bit like Fellini's "adaptation," you read the description correctly: this short film is the only one of the three to state outright that it is a loose adaptation. So loose, in fact, that if it weren't for its satirical tone, the physical presence of Evil, and an important element of the ending, it would be unrecognizable.
"'Toby Dammit,' the first new Fellini to be seen here since 'Juliet of the Spirits' in 1965, is marvelous: a short movie but a major one." - Vincent Canby, The New York Times, September 4, 1969