It’s without a doubt a desert island movie for me. I’ll leave the other two installments from the Euro horror anthology film Spirits of the Dead (1968), directed by Roger Vadim and Louis Malle respectively, at the pier… but Fellini’s is coming with me. Vadim’s and Malle’s episodes are perfectly fine from what I remember. It’s just that Fellini’s tour de force, Toby Dammit, is masterful–seeped in burned-out psychedelia, fueled by a terrific performance by Terence Stamp (was he ever better?), and is truly unsettling as we watch a seedy, boozed-soaked English actor played by Stamp journey to Rome to… well, you’ll have to find out what happens. Clocking in at around 45-minutes, the short is a nightmarish, blackly humorous downward spiral that delivers in legion what many a longer horror film is limp to accomplish in twice the length. It also contains one of the great, antithetical interpretations of the Devil ever… albeit one swiped with gratitude from Mario Bava’s equally masterful 1966 film Kill, Baby… Kill! which also featured a little girl in the role of the Great Deceiver.
This clip, showing Toby painfully having to make an appearance at an awards ceremony, is one of my favorite scenes. And it’s particularly gratifying to view it since it showcases the original soundtrack, letting us finally hear Stamp in his native English tongue. Currently, the only DVD that is available in the States is of the French soundtrack which is a dub when it comes to the Fellini episode (it should be in Italian, French, and English).