Hot on the heels of his “31 Days of Hammer” in January, Jules is at it again in March, treating us to a chronological run through the classic era of British Horror, from the late ’50s to the end of the ’70s, with one review every day for the entire month.
You can check out the rest of our “31 Days of British Horror” by CLICKING HERE.
Starring: Vincent Price, Elisabeth Shepherd
Director: Roger Corman
For his final entry in his wonderful series of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, Roger Corman reunited once again with Vincent Price for what would prove to be yet another classic.
A steady-paced character study that is often more gothic romance than flat-out horror, The Tomb Of Ligea is a gripping tale of lost love and obsession, dripping with atmosphere and beautiful imagery, but shot through with a bleakness that suits its dark subject matter.
In the English countryside of 1821, the young widower Verden Fell (Vincent Price) buries his wife Ligeia (Elizabeth Shepherd) in the local churchyard despite her not being Christian, despite the protestations of the parson, just before a black cat screeches and Ligeia’s eyes pop open.
A few months later, the Lady Rowena Trevanion (Elizabeth Shepherd) is out on a foxhunt, but finds herself in that same graveyard, transfixed by the inscription on Ligeia’s headstone. That same black cat hisses, leading Rowena to be thrown from her horse, where she is rescued by Verden and taken to his huge gothic abbey home to recover.
The pair eventually fall in love and marry, but Fell soon becomes distant from his new wife and is often missing through the night, while she begins to suffer nightmares and visions involving Ligeia and the black cat.
Slowly, Rowena begins to lose her mind and seems to be at times possessed by the spirit of her predecessor, the one whose body is no longer in its grave…
There’s not really a huge amount going on in The Tomb Of Ligeia until the dramatic finale, but it’s no less enthralling for it.
Despite playing a man supposedly in his late 20s, Vincent Price more than convinces, tracking the guilt-ridden and tortured Verden Fell’s slow descent into madness with no little amount of pathos. As in pretty much every role he ever portrayed, the great man is a towering, charismatic presence and turns even the most innocuous of scenes into a tour de force of magnetic intensity, even when delivering marvellously lurid lines like “Not ten minutes ago I tried to kill a stray cat with a cabbage, and all but made love to the Lady Rowena. I succeeded in squashing the cabbage and badly frightening the lady. If only I could lay open my own brain as easily as I did that vegetable, what rot would be freed from its grey leaves?”
It’s all the more impressive that Elizabeth Shepherd then does so well sharing the heavy lifting with Price as she does. It’s a complicated role, with not only her own deteriorating psyche to convey, but also the spectre of Ligeia taking her over at times. That latter occurrence isn’t always too obvious when it occurs, even confusing Shepherd at times, but it’s never enough to cause any major problems in the narrative.
Unsurprisingly, it’s a gorgeous looking film too. In stark contrast to the previous Masque Of The Red Death, the colours are muted, reinforcing the sombre mood of the story. Unusually, Corman takes his camera outside too, but England’s green and pleasant land is a stark and cold place and offers no respite from the gloomy abbey, which is as gothic as they come, all cobwebbed corridors and flickering shadows.
The Tomb Of Ligeia Is a fitting grand finale to Corman’s Poe cycle, encapsulating all the elements that made the previous films so essential, perfectly balancing the horror with the humanity at its core. The perfect end to one of the great film series of the 20th century.
The Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy