In comparison to the previous Image/Waterbearer release, HVE's new disc features a cleaner French track, with new (and more accurate) removable English subtitles, but Terence Stamp's soliloquy is still dubbed by another English voice, as present in the original French dub track.
(Jane Fonda, fluent in French, manages to retain her full performance by speaking her own dialogue, but Stamp's peformance is affected by the loss of his own unique voice. Before the release of the film on DVD and a prior PAL VHS edition, theatrical screenings of "Spirits" were generally very rare in North America - a problem perhaps attributed to some rights headache the English dub track.)
Taken from a print provided by Janus Films, the Main and End Credits, along with an introductory Poe quote and segment titles, are in English. The new anamorphic transfer also has a wee bit more headroom than the Image version, evidenced by a small hair-in-the-gate, visible in a few shots during an awards sequence in "Toby Dammit." Moreover, the film registration is more stable, fixing the wobble and speed imperfection that plagued the first release. Each segment, photographed (in order) by Claude Renoir, Tonino Delli Colli, and Giuseppe Rotunno, benefits from a sharper colour palette, with Roger Vadim and Louis Malle's location work, and Frederico Fellini's dynamic colour and fog effects, looking simply amazing.
Though not an Easter Egg, Nino Rota's brilliant music for "Toby Dammit" plays over the segment's menu (it's essentially a recapitulation of the End Credits), and brief snippets from the concluding music also play over the "Metzengerstein" and "William Wilson" menus.
Given the disc's Spartan contents, some production details would have been nice, including some archival reviews, brief directorial bios, and a coherent explanation of the film's unflattering release history to shed light on the difficulties in marketing a genre co-production during the waning days of drive-in fodder.
Nathan Rabin's booklet notes detail the film's doomed libertine philosophy, and summarize each segment (with spoilers, though), in case you happen to feel a little befuddled.
© 2001 Mark R. Hasan