The Tomb of Ligeia

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The Tomb of Ligeia
Tombofligeia.jpg
Directed by Roger Corman
Produced by Samuel Z. Arkoff
Pat Green
Written by Short story:
Edgar Allan Poe
Screenplay:
Robert Towne
Paul Mayersberg
Starring Vincent Price
Elizabeth Shepherd
John Westbrook
Music by Kenneth V. Jones
Cinematography Arthur Grant
Edited by Alfred Cox
Distributed by Anglo-Amalgamated Film Distributors (UK)
American International Pictures (USA)
Release date(s) 6 December 1964 (UK)
20 January 1965 (US)
Running time 81 min.
Country UK
US
Language English

The Tomb of Ligeia (1964) is an American International Pictures horror film, produced in the UK by Alta Vista Productions. Starring Vincent Price and Elizabeth Shepherd it tells of 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 film adaptations largely based on the works of Poe. Tomb of Ligeia was filmed at Castle Acre Priory and other locations with a mostly English cast, and is marked among the Corman-Poe cycle for its atypical outdoor scenes and opulent settings.

Plot[edit]

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 (she was an atheist). 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.

The climax of the film takes place when Verden has a showdown with Ligeia, now in the form of a cat. Verden is blinded by Ligeia, but gets the upper hand and strangles the cat, while the tomb around him burns down, due to an accident. Christopher and Rowena start a new life together, while Verden and his wife perish in the flames.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The film was a co production between AIP and UK's Anglo-Amalgamated.

Roger Corman was initially reluctant to use Vincent Price in the lead role, being worried he was too old for a character who was 25 to 30 years old; his preference was for Richard Chamberlain. However Price's casting was a condition of AIP investing in the film, and Corman relented. Robert Towne had specifically requested Price not be cast, and when Corman broke the news he told the screenwriter "Don’t worry, Bob, I’ve got Marlene Dietrich’s make-up man!”[1]

Corman ended up giving Price a wig and using more make up on him than usual to make him look younger but that Price's casting still "did change the orientation of the film quite a bit."[1]

Filming started at Shepperton Studios on 29 June 1964.

Reception[edit]

The film was released in the UK by Warner-Pathé on 6 December 1964, with Mario Bava's I tre volti della paura (in its Anglicised version as Black Sabbath) in support.[2] US release followed on 20 January the following year.

Critical[edit]

Howard Thompson in the New York Times of 6 May 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.[3]

Roger Corman later said he thought the film was "one of the best Poe pictures and Vincent’s performance in the film was very good. It was simply a matter of age."[1]

Box Office[edit]

Roger Corman later claimed that "all of the Poe films made money, but Tomb of Ligeia made the least amount. I think it was because the series was just running out of steam and also because it was overly complicated."[1]

The movie was the last in the Corman AIP Poe cycle until the success of The Witchfinder General encouraged AIP to embark on a fresh cycle of Poe pictures without Corman's involvement.

Cultural Impact[edit]

Roger Corman gave Martin Scorcese permission to use a clip from the film in Mean Streets.[1]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "Supernal Dreams: Joe Dante talks Poe with Roger Corman & Daniel Haller" By Lawrence French Cinemafantastique April 2, 2008 accessed 8 July 2014
  2. ^ Kinematograph Weekly vol 570 no 2980, 12 November 1964
  3. ^ New York Times Review. Retrieved 26 September 2008.

External links[edit]