Sunday, November 9, 2014

THE TOMB OF LIGEIA (1964) Blu-ray review

The Tomb of Ligeia (1964) d. Roger Corman (UK)

The last of Corman’s Poe adaptations is certainly one of the best-looking, due to terrific exteriors shot in the English countryside (the notoriously tight-fisted producer/director was looking to explore a different look from the previous studio-bound installments). Adapted from Poe’s slim story “Ligeia” by future Oscar-winning scribe Robert Towne, the film revels in its morbid gothic atmosphere and excellent performances. In the midst of a well-photographed foxhunt, the Lady Rowena (Elizabeth Shepherd) comes across grieving widower Verden Fell (Vincent Price) and his groovy period shades.

Immediately drawn to his mysterious nature, she insinuates herself into his life, and the two happily court and marry. Following their honeymoon, however, she observes the return of her husband’s dark mood, accompanied by increasingly strange behavior.

Under hypnosis, she reveals Price’s darkest fear: The spirit of his previous wife, the dark, exotic Ligeia (also played by Shepherd), is intermittently inhabiting the body of his new bride, fulfilling her dying curse that she “would be his only wife.”

If all this seems a little much, it is, with Corman and Towne blatantly borrowing elements from previous AIPoe outings (hallucinatory dream sequences, black cats, fiery climax). But the costumes and sets look great, and Price dives into the role of madman clinging to sanity with his usual aplomb, ably matched by Shepherd in her dual roles of tormentor and savior.

The Tomb of Ligeia is available now on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory as part of their excellent The Vincent Price Collection II, and is packed with supplemental goodies, including three, count 'em, three separate commentary tracks (1) Corman, (2) Shepherd, and (3) historian Constantine Nasr (who provides background history on pretty much everyone involved in the film, onscreen and off), as well as a still gallery, theatrical trailer, and a vintage intro / wrap-up from the star from when he hosted an Iowa public television showcase of his films. For all this, you can't beat the Price.

--Aaron Christensen, HorrorHound Magazine

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