Toby Dammit Review

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Released in the USA in 1969 as one third of the anthology film Spirits of the Dead, “Toby Dammit” is a short film following the titular Toby as he arrives in Rome to act in a new project.

Washed up due to his alcoholism and plagued by supernatural visions, Toby only agrees to work on the film because the producers promise him a new Ferrari.

“Toby Dammit” is loosely based on “Never Bet the Devil Your Head,” a short story by Edgar Allen Poe. The film was directed by Federico Fellini and produced in Italy.

Fellini’s films are synonymous with Italian cinema itself, with Fellini being renowned for his rousing stories and images. However, filming a fashion model in a fountain (as Fellini famously did in “La Dolce Vita”) is not what makes him a great director.

What made Federico Fellini a particularly interesting filmmaker was his development from making realistic, socially conscious films to making surreal, dreamlike films with him being uniquely adept in both categories.

“Toby Dammit” lands squarely in the surreal category, with the film’s style reflecting the tortured, intoxicated mind of the main character.

The airport in the opening scene is overtly hellish with Fellini completely transforming the mundane location by merely using orange lighting and replacing the occasional extra with a mannequin.

Subsequent scenes are equally inventive in how they externalize Toby’s inner-turmoil with the highlight being a satirical television interview where Toby is assaulted from all sides with cameras and vapid questions.

I recommend this movie to anyone interested in seeing a highly competent yet lesser-known work by a great director. I cannot recommend this movie to anyone who wants to be scared.

Rated 8/10