The Tomb of Ligeia (1964)

Drama, Horror, Thriller
Vincent Price, Elizabeth Shepherd, John Westbrook, Derek Francis
A man's obsession with his dead wife drives a wedge between him and his new bride.
  • American International Picture Company:
  • Unrated Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 20 Jan 1965 Released:
  • N/A DVD Release:
  • N/A Box office:
  • Edgar Allan Poe (short story), Robert Towne (scree Writer:
  • Roger Corman Director:
  • N/A Website:

All subtitles:



Trailer:

Corman finally brings a Poe film outdoors.8/10
Well, at least for a little while! His last of eight Poe films as director is (loosely) based on the Poe work of the same name and is a solid metaphorical ghost story. Lady Rowena (the wonderful Elizabeth Shepherd) falls in love with Verden Fell (Vincent Price) despite his strange behavior and questionable past. Soon after their marriage, he starts disappearing, she's menaced by that old Poe stand-by (the evil black cat) and plagued by horrific nightmares involving Verden's deceased former wife Ligeia (also played by Shepherd), whose ghost seems intent on ruining the union. Price, in top hat and strange sunglasses in many scenes (his vision being "dangerously acute"), seems a bit too old for the role, but still manages to come through with an effective performance. Corman has always been underrated for effectively capturing period detail on a limited budget and it's his keen eye for the crumbling ruins, lush green countrysides, oceanfronts and shadowy castle corridors that make much of this film work. Screenplay by future Oscar-winner Robert Towne (CHINATOWN). LIGEIA was Corman's last horror film as director until 1990's FRANKENSTEIN UNBOUND.
Stylish but ponderous6/10

"Ligeia" is one of my very favorite E.A. Poe stories, a masterpiece of suspense that doesn't reveal its secret until the very last word. Like a lot of Poe's stories, however, the transformation to the screen isn't always an easy one. A great deal of the action in the short story takes place in the narrator's head, and to make a feature length movie out of it there must be some added action and characters.

The screenwriter here, Robert Towne, would go on to bigger and better things and garner fame and awards while doing it. But this early script of his is a
rather modest one. The action drags more and more as the film goes on and the sense of horror and tension dissipates rather than builds as the film progresses. Plus there's that annoying black cat (left over from another Poe story, perhaps?)

What points this movie does get are for style. Roger Corman wasn't a schlock director by any means; he had a great eye and and gave his films a distinctive look and feel. The cast is a very good one as well. Vincent Price does the usual fine job we expect from him and I liked actress Elizabeth Shepard as the Lady Rowena, Price's wife who succeeds Ligeia. I wasn't familiar with her before seeing this movie and I found her very watchable. But 'The Tomb of Ligeia' is hardly classic Poe or a memorable horror film. But fans of Corman and the Hammer Films type of productions may want to see it.
Haunting Tale of Mystery7/10
"The Tomb of Ligeia" was one of a cycle of films made by Roger Corman in the sixties based on the works of Edgar Allen Poe. Verden Fell, an English country gentleman of the 1820s has become obsessed with his dead wife Ligeia. Indeed, although she has been buried in a tomb he built for her, he believes that she is not dead but has, as she promised she would, survived death in some form and will return to him. This obsession survives Fell's remarriage to Rowena, the daughter of a neighbouring landowner. Indeed, his obsession worsens, as he comes to believe that Rowena is possessed by Ligeia's spirit.

This is an unusual horror film in that much of it takes place not only outdoors but also in daylight. The sort of images of ruin and decay traditional in horror films- Fell lives in a gloomy, crumbling, cobwebbed manor house close to the ruins of a mediaeval abbey- are contrasted with sunlit scenes of the beautiful, verdant English countryside. The difference between life and death is the central idea of the film- which ends with a quote from Poe himself: "The boundaries which divide life from death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends and where the other begins"- so this contrast is possibly symbolic, with the outdoor scenes symbolising life and the indoor ones death. The two main female characters (both played by the same actress, Elizabeth Shepherd) are differentiated in a similar manner. Rowena is a healthy-looking, "English Rose" type blonde with a love of outdoor pursuits, especially hunting. Ligeia is dark haired and gaunt with an unhealthy pallor.

Like many films of this period, and unlike later films such as "The Exorcist", this is an example of an understated horror film, with the horror mostly being implied rather than shown directly. Ligeia makes an appearance in the film, but we are never sure whether this is really her ghost returning from the grave or a hallucination conjured up by Fell's distraught mind. Although it is understated, however, it is genuinely frightening, not because of Exorcist-style special effects, but because of the eerie mood that Corman is able to create. Apart from the atmospheric setting, various objects take on a sinister significance- a bunch of flowers, a dead fox and, most of all, a mysterious, malevolent black cat which may be the reincarnation of Ligeia's soul, or may be just a cat.

The acting is also very good, especially from Shepherd in the dual role of Rowena/Ligeia and from Vincent Price as Fell. In a way this is also a dual role, as there are two separate aspects to Fell's character. On the one hand he is sinister and frightening, the man who threatens Rowena's happiness, her sanity and even her life. (The adjective "fell" significantly means cruel or fierce). On the other hand he is a pitiable character, a victim of his own obsessions and (possibly) also of his late wife's ghost. This duality is very much in keeping with the mood of the film, which is one of ambiguity and doubt. As befits one based upon the work of Poe, it is a tale of mystery and imagination. 7/10
Very moody and stylish.5/10

I was asked recently if I could name any genuinely scary films made before The Exorcist in 1973. The only titles I could come up with were Rosemary's Baby and Night of the Living Dead from the late '60s. I could suggest many horror titles made before 1970, but none were genuinely flesh-crawling enough to make the list. At the time, I had not seen The Tomb of Ligeia. Now I have seen it and, wow! This is one seriously under-rated gem.

It is one of the many Roger Corman films from this era based on an Edgar Allan Poe story. Intelligently scripted by Robert Towne, and acted to perfection by Vincent Price and Elisabeth Shepherd, this film is a treat from start to finish. Shepherd plays a well-to-do lady in Victorian England who falls in love with a mysterious loner (Price) who resides in a crumbling abbey and seems haunted by memories of his previous (now-dead) wife Ligeia. She marries Price, but her chances of love are blighted by spooky happenings which may be the work of the ghost of his jealous ex-bride.

The dream sequence, featuring a dead fox hidden in a bouquet of flowers and a terrifying metamorphosis midway through a passionate kiss, is a marvellous and memorable scene. All scenes featuring the weird black cat are eerily effective. There's also a wonderfully creepy hypnotism episode. The photography is lovely, with colourful outdoor lensing of a real English abbey and superb blending of light and shadows during the ghostly indoor sequences.

So, if you're after a truly spine-tingling film from before 1970 - here you go!
The best of the Corman Poe's.5/10

There is an assumption among movie fans that the longer a movie series exists, the worse the later films will be. Although the films Roger Corman made of some of the stories of Edgar Allan Poe began well and continued with no obvious sense of decline, it is my opinion that the best was kept for last. The most overtly spectacular film in the series was 'The Masque of the Red Death' with its fine sense of colour and effective sense of homage to Ingmar Bergman's 'The Seventh Seal'. I have always enjoyed this film and in terms of a deliberate departure from the series norm, it is exceptional. However one enjoys any series for the familiar as well as the unusual, and in this respect 'The Tomb of Ligeia' is the most memorable for me in the way it builds upon and enhances what has gone on in previous films. The logical departure from the previous films which had been (very happily and effectively) studio-bound, was to move to location. Corman's choice of Castle Acre Priory in Norfolk, was an inspired one. An large amount of location filming was done there and this grounded the film in a realistic (yet unusual)setting. Gone were the fog machines and 'blasted heath' effects of 'House of Usher' and 'The Premature Burial'. Many critics have mentioned their disquiet at the absence of Barbara Steele, at that time undoubtedly the actress most associated with this type of picture. Wonderful though Miss Steele was in, say, the last thirty minutes of 'The Pit and the Pendulum', I feel that the presence of the English actress, Elizabeth Sheppard, adds to the sense of realisim, while taking little away from the shock effect of one actress playing both a good and an evil role. Roger Corman is on record as saying that he had to keep a written record as to when Rowena was herself and when she was Ligeia. All I can say that it is happily obvious on the screen when each side of the romantic coin is in evidence. I think that Elizabeth Sheppard's performance, grounded in reason, and when added to the inevitable polish that was being obtained by this stage in the series, showed a welcome extra sense of belief, to point out the advances and progression that had been made by this, the last film, in the series. Two scenes stand out : the entrapment of Rowena in the bell tower by the black cat (representing Ligeia.) I am also very impressed by Rowena's hynotism ; first to her own childhood and then to the persona of Ligeia. This film has not been available for viewing in the UK for many years. It is to be hoped that this situation will be reversed before long. I remember with affection the moment when great talents (from both sides of the 'pond') collaborated with great effcetiveness to come up with the ultimate 'Corman Classic'.