This weekend we have our second horror outing, the final installment of Roger Corman’s classic series of (loose) adaptations of stories by Edgar Allen Poe – with the Tomb of Ligeia.
Cast & Crew
Director: Roger Corman
Writer: Robert Towne
Based on: “Ligeia” by Edgar Allan Poe
Vincent Price as Verden Fell
Elizabeth Shepherd as Rowena Trevanion/Ligeia
John Westbrook as Christopher Gough
Derek Francis as Lord Trevanion
Oliver Johnston as Kenrick
Richard Vernon as Dr. Vivian
Frank Thornton as Peperel the butler
Ronald Adam as Clergyman
Denis Gilmore as Livery Boy
Penelope Lee as Maid
Verden Fell is a widower whose wife, Ligeia, made statements about refusing to die before her final passing. He has since gone on living alone next to the ruins of a former abbey along with his butler – where he shuns the world (and lives in the converted catacombs under the abbey, as he has an eye condition that forces him to shun the sunlight. Several years later, when a foxhunt brings Fell’s old friend Christopher Gough and his fiancee Rowena to the abbey, Fell is struck by the similarities between Rowena and Ligeia and ends up wooing her. Meanwhile, a black cat inhabiting the abbey (which also lept onto Ligeia’s casket before her burial) resents Rowena and repeatedly attacks her.
The makeup and costume designers do a decent job of making Price look younger than he is. Also, Corman’s DP, Arthur Grant, is a veteran of numerous Hammer films, and he brings the right gothic horror aesthetics to the story, including some really good camera framing. Price & Shepard also have some really solid chemistry (though it’s hard not to have chemistry with Vincent Price).
While the makeup and costume design does make Price look younger, it still can’t make the Verden/Rowena relationship not look like a May-December romance or make Fell and Gough look like peers. There are also some set-design choices that are a little odd. In particular, I’m in Oregon – I know the battle against spider webs is a constant one, but it looks like Fell’s butler has more or less given up trying to clean even the cobwebs from the most highly trafficked portions of the home. Additionally, Shepard and Westbrook have relatively little chemistry – which on the one hand makes it convincing why Trevanion would break off the engagement and marry Fell.
Also, the attacks by the cat feel like they’re shoehorned into the story to slip a Black Cat reference in during the film’s climax. In all, it does feel like at this point the Corman-Poe cycle was running on fumes.
Originality: While this is an adaptation, it’s only a tenuous one – and it’s not adapting another story under the title of another author (like The Haunted Palace did adapting a Lovecraft story under a Poe title). 3/6
Effects: There aren’t many, but generally what we get work well enough. 4/6
Acting: Vincent Price’s performance, as with many of the other films in the Corman-Poe cycle, is the reason to watch this movie. It’s not Price’s best performance in the cycle (either The Haunted Palace or The Raven would hit that one), but it’s up there. 5/6
Story: The story takes its time finding its footing, but it does eventually get there. That said, the journey and the destination are a little rough, and does end up falling back on several reused concepts from earlier Poe film climaxes (house burns down at the end of the movie. Lost love who was dead is seemingly not dead, etc.) 4/6
Emotional Reponse: 3/6
Overall: This is a bit of a down note for the Poe-Corman cycle to go out on, which is actually kind of a bummer because there are a few Poe stories that hadn’t been adapted that would have been a decent fit (e.g. The Gold Bug, William Wilson). 3/6
In Total, Tomb of Ligeia gets 26/42
Weekend of Oct. 7/8: Tomb of Ligeia (1964)
Weekend of Oct. 14/15: Hell Baby (2013)
Satan Wants You (2023)
Weekend of Oct. 21/22: Last Night in Soho (2021)
Weekend of Oct. 28/29: Anime Explorations: Vampire Hunter D (1985)
October 31: Renfield (2023)
Haunted House (2023)