Spirits of the Dead (Histoires Extraordinaires) by Tim Lucas
Hardcover – PS Publishing – Jul 2018 – 232 pages
Dismissed as a ‘gloomy and sentimental hack’ by American and British critics in his day, Edgar Allan Poe was nonetheless revered in France as a ‘poete maudit’ and ‘master of the short story’ by Charles Baudelaire, praised as a ‘sublime poet’ by Mallarme, celebrated as a ‘lucid theoretician of poet effects’ by Valery. The difference could not have been more stark.
And yet, when the filmic poets of European Cinema came together to adapt Poe’s stories for SPIRITS OF THE DEAD (Histoires Extraordinaires) they were largely derided, with only Fellini’s ‘Toby Dammit’ segment receiving unanimous praise, while the American adaptations of Poe’s stories, by Roger Corman and AIP, received both popular and critical acclaim.
Fitting then, that the wheel should come full circle, as US author and Critic Tim Lucas mounts this compelling re-examination of a film which he has long defended as a Classic of the genre, and which in his own words ‘changed his life’.
Embracing the poetic and the sublime, Lucas takes to task the common misconception that this is a film of parts, to look at it as a richly imagined, sensual, cohesive, and poetic whole. A film which aims for something ‘other’ than straight forward scares, that eschews the clinical Freudianism of the Corman movies, for something more deeply felt.
Poe himself claimed that “a poem deserves its title only inasmuch as it excites, by elevating the soul.” For Tim Lucas, SPIRITS OF THE DEAD does just that.