The last of Corman’s Poe cycle of movies, THE TOMB OF LIGEIA adopts a far more chilly and straight-faced approach to its material than had become usual with the couple of comedic entries before it. As such it almost succeeds in being the best of them — not that there’s anything wrong with comedy but one can watch Peter Lorre fall over only so many times.
Corman originally wanted Richard Chamberlain for the leading role of Verden Fell (who sounds like a tourist attraction in the Lake District) a young, tortured soul, made older by the loss of his wife. Instead he got Vincent Price of course, as he always did, clean-shaven, hair-dyed and looming through the ruins of Castle Acre Priory like a morose tour guide. Price — who I can always forgive, even if sometimes his performances must have been visible from space — is actually on fine, reserved form. A hollow, haunted Rochester to Elisabeth Shepherd’s chilly, strong-willed Jane Eyre. While this reserved core is welcome on one hand it also exposes the movie’s weakness as it can feel somewhat leaden as it plods through its middle-section in search of the contractual fiery climax.
Naturally, a black cat also clutters up the place because: POE.
Still, the movie is charming and Corman was always able to shoot Gothic beauty as consummately as he was giant crabs or Dick Miller and, while the formula may feel a bit tired by this, the eighth in the cycle, it still offers enough haunted pleasures to keep us charmed.
The film looks and sounds as gorgeous as it really needs to (considering the aesthetic is so much of these pictures’ power) and comes with a reasonable smattering of special features. Corman offers a commentary, as does Elisabeth Shepherd and there are all-new interviews with a wide selection of the production crew.