Three directors each adapt a Poe short story to the screen: “Toby Dammit” features a disheveled, drugged and drunk English movie star who nods acceptance in the Italian press and his producers fawn over him. “Metzengerstein” features a medieval countess who has a love-hate relationship with a black stallion – who, it turns out, is really her dead lover. “William Wilson” tells the story of a sadistic Austrian student with an exact double whom he later kills.
User Reviews: Roger Vadim’s "Metzengerstein" is incredibly beautiful. It was shot around great-looking, crumbling oceanfront castles and is remarkably photographed, costumed and scored, it’s just a shame the core plotting is so weak. The evil Baroness Frederique (Jane Fonda, the directors wife at the time) is an insatiable tyrant who presides over orgies and sadistic, dehumanizing games. When she destroys a pure soul, her distant cousin Wilhelm (Peter Fonda), horses and fire play a key role in her demise.
"William Wilson," by Louis Malle, is an entertaining reworking of the old doppelganger theme starring Alain Delon as a pure lout AND his better half, a exact copy who drives him crazy by putting a halt to his evil impulses. Odd story structure here and Brigitte Bardot (in a black wig) is good support during a fateful card game. And then comes the really good stuff.
"Toby Dammit" (released separately as "Never Bet the Devil Your Head"), a brilliant and sometimes chilling piece of enigmatic film-making from Federico Fellini. Terence Stamp is a marvel of facial expressions as boozy, obnoxious British movie star Toby Dammit, who falls apart at the seems upon arriving in Italy to start production on a Western reworking of the story of Christ. Instead he becomes imprisoned in his own personal hell. In every possible technical department, this segment is a triumph and the creepy finale (borrowing a key image from Mario Bava’s KILL, BABY, KILL!) has lost absolutely none of its impact.
The score by Nino Rota and cinematography by Giuseppe Rotunno deserve special recognition, as well. The version I saw (titled TALES OF MYSTERY AND IMAGINATION) is subtitled, but a dubbed version also exists featuring narration by Vincent Price.