Saturday, July 21, 2012

Tomb of Ligeia (1964)

The Tomb of Ligeia (1964) is an American International Pictures horror film starring Vincent Price and Elizabeth Shepherd in a story about a man haunted by the spirit of his dead wife and her effect on his second marriage. The screenplay by Robert Towne was based upon the tale "Ligeia" by American author Edgar Allan Poe. The film was directed by Roger Corman, and was the last in his series of eight Poe film adaptations. (The Corman movie The Haunted Palace, ostensibly also based on Poe, is a ring-in, since it was actually based on H. P. Lovecraft's The Case of Charles Dexter Ward). Tomb of Ligeia was filmed in England (at Castle Acre Priory and other locations) with a mostly English cast, and is marked among the Corman/Poe canon for its atypical outdoor scenes and opulent settings.

Verden Fell (Vincent Price) is both mournful and threatened by his first wife's death. He senses her reluctance to die and her near-blasphemous statements about God. Alone and troubled by a vision problem that requires him to wear strange dark glasses, Fell shuns the world. Against his better judgement, he marries a headstrong young woman (Elizabeth Shepherd) he meets by accident and who is apparently bethrothed to an old friend Christopher Gough (John Westbrook). The spirit of Fell's first wife Ligeia seems to haunt the old mansion/abbey where they live and a series of nocturnal visions and the sinister presence of a cat (who may be inhabited by the spirit of Ligeia) cause him distress. Ultimately he must face the spirit of Ligeia and resist her or perish.

Howard Thompson in the New York Times of May 6, 1965 wrote, "Mr. Corman at least cares about putting Mr. Poe—or at least some of the master's original ideas—on the screen. If they are frankly made to be screamed at, they are not to be sneezed at. Mr. Price still hams it up, front and center, but these low-budget shockers generally evoke a compelling sense of heady atmosphere and coiled doom in their excellent Gothic settings, arresting color schemes and camera mobility... Mr. Corman has made stunning, ambient use of his authentic setting, an ancient abbey in Norfolk, England, and the lovely countryside. The picture is not nearly as finished as Masque of the Red Death...But the Corman climate of evil is as unhealthy and contagious as ever

81 MIN

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