Italian film producer Alberto Grimaldi has assembled a trio of international authors for his anthology film ‘Spirits of the Dead’, which drew influence from the scary stories of Edgar Allen Poe. Federico Fellini, Louis Malle and Roger Vadim each directed a segment of the triptych, with Jane Fonda appearing in the one directed by her then-husband Vadim.
Their segment, titled “Metzengerstein,” features Fonda as Frederique, a young countess who inherits a sprawling estate and spends her days in luxury. While walking through the woods, she is caught in a trap and freed by her cousin, Baron Wilhelm (played by Fonda’s younger brother, Peter Fonda), whom she had never met before. Frederique falls in love with Wilhelm, but he rejects her, leading her to set fire to his stables. Wilhelm dies in the fire, as do his choice animals, except for a black stallion who comes to haunt his cousin.
As is the case with most anthology films, opinions on each segment varied wildly. Vincent Canby from The New York Times reflected popular critical consensus on all three: Fellini was “wonderful: a short but major one. The Vadim is as overdecorated and shrill as a drag ball, but still quite fun, and the Malle, based on one of the best stories of Poe, is simply tedious.” Overall, the film retains an 89% freshness rotten tomatoes Evaluation.