on 2 January 2016
THE TOMB OF LIGEIA [1965 / 2015] [Blu-ray] Listen for the SCREAM in the Night! CAT or WOMAN or A Thing Too Evil to Mention!
For the last of his cycle of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, Roger Corman asked screenwriter Robert Towne [‘Chinatown’] to turn Poe’s story ‘Ligeia’ into another vehicle for Vincent Price, who once again plays a man so haunted by his past that he is unable to function in the present.
In this case the past comes in the form of his now-deceased first wife Ligeia, who casts a long shadow over an ill-advised second marriage to a woman who resembles her [Elizabeth Shepherd], particularly when he becomes convinced that Ligeia’s spirit is returning to him in the form of a black cat. But is this actually a delusion on his part?
Although the doom-laden narrative and Vincent Price’s tormented performance had become well established ingredients in the Roger Corman Edgar Allan Poe cycle, the film looks strikingly different from the earlier films, with much of it taking place in broad daylight, and shot in actual English locations (notably Stonehenge and Norfolk’s Castle Acre Priory) instead of Hollywood sets.
FILM FACT: Roger Corman was initially reluctant to use Vincent Price in the lead role, being worried he was too old for a character that was 25 to 30 years old; his preference was for Richard Chamberlain. Roger Corman ended up giving Vincent Price a wig and using more make up on him than usual to make him look younger but that Price's casting still "did change the orientation of the film quite a bit.” Filming started at Shepperton Studios on 29 June 1964. Roger Corman gave Martin Scorsese permission to use a clip from the film in ‘Mean Streets.’
Cast: Vincent Price, Elizabeth Shepherd, John Westbrook, Derek Francis, Oliver Johnston, Richard Vernon, Frank Thornton, Ronald Adam, Denis Gilmore, Penelope Lee and Fred Wood (uncredited)
Director: Roger Corman
Producers: David Deutsch, James H. Nicholson, Pat Green, Roger Corman and Samuel Z. Arkoff
Screenplay: Paul Mayersberg, Robert Towne and Edgar Allan (short story)
Composer: Kenneth V. Jones
Cinematography: Arthur Grant
Video Resolution: 1080p [ColorScope]
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English: 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio, Music: 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio and English: 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo
Subtitles: English SDH
Running Time: 82 minutes
Region: Region B/2
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Anglo-Amalgamated Film Distributors / Arrow Video
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: ‘THE TOMB OF LIGEIA’  was the seventh and last film in the AIP "Poe cycle" of collaborations between low-budget producer/director Roger Corman and actor Vincent Price in creating loose adaptations of the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. While earlier entries in the series, which started with ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ , were marked by the creative use of sound stages and matte paintings to create an atmosphere of gloom, and by an equally creative license in expanding the source material to feature length, ‘The Tomb of Ligeia’ is notable for staying quite close to the Edgar Allan Poe's original story "Ligeia," and for shooting several of its major sequences outside in bright sunlight.
The plot sadly shuffles around the basic elements of the rest of the Roger Corman Edgar Allan Poe films, like a love from beyond the tomb, possession, the doom and gloom obsessed husband, the pretty innocent bride driven around the bend by such obsessions, the gloomy Gothic mansion, sinister black cats, a neurotic and cowering Vincent Price suffering from hyper-acuteness of the senses, and everything going up in flames at the end. However, the lack of much connecting logic makes it an uninspired rehash. But the the English location shooting makes some sort of welcome relief from the usual fog-laden sets of the earlier Roger Corman films, which I really miss from this particular film. But this film ‘THE TOMB OF LIGEIA’ definitely has the look and closer link to a Hammer Horror Film that inspired Roger Corman’s Poe series in the first place. However, Roger Corman and his cast hardly seem to be doing much more than playing a game of hide-and-seek with the Gothic ruins. Vincent Price’s usual clipped, overwrought enunciated delivery is just very stilted and just okay and not his usual panache style of acting we have come to expect from a Roger Corman film. Which is very present with the scene where Elizabeth Shepherd is hypnotized and possessed by Ligeia is given a good jolt of horror. Yet sadly, the film is only so good, as the dialogue is very flowery, the pace slow, nothing much ever happens and when it does it is never properly explained, but maybe Roger Corman was very restricted in having to make the film in England and not in his usual studio settings with his previous films.
The script for ‘THE TOMB OF LIGEIA’ and was by Robert Towne, who had earlier written the ultra-low-budget film ‘Last Woman on Earth’  for Roger Corman. The script for ‘The Tomb of Ligeia’ was subtle and cerebral compared to earlier examples in the series such as those by Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont. ‘The Tomb of Ligeia’ had a sense of realism finally intruded upon the Edgar Allan Poe series and not only because the tale was staged in natural surroundings, but because the script constantly questions the Gothic precepts which previous films had taken for granted. What Robert Towne attempted was a genuine ghost story...a real tale of the supernatural like in the 1940s."
‘THE TOMB OF LIGEIA’ was the 2nd film in the Edgar Allan Poe series to be filmed in England. The previous entry was ‘The Masque of the Red Death’  that had been shot with very inventive use of colour, by cinematographer Nicolas Roeg. Alas, the inventiveness and innovation of ‘THE TOMB OF LIGEIA’ runs out of steam before the final reel is finished, and Roger Corman again to save money falls back on his usual stock film ending, especially relying on the over the top fiery climax (which recycles footage from his previous Edgar Allan Poe films). Vincent Price later said, "I have been singed many times and while making ‘THE TOMB OF LIGEIA’ in which the whole set was sprayed with liquid rubber, someone lit a cigarette and the whole thing went up in flames.” But as with ‘The Haunted Palace’ film, Vincent was quoted as saying that Roger Corman is a fire fiend as well as a firebug."
As a post script on the history of this film, in the book by Vincent Price entitled “The Art of Fear Denis Meikle” Vincent Price is quoted and who also took some of the credit for the unusual look of the gothic horror picture ‘THE TOMB OF LIGEIA’ which was very vaguely based on an idea that Roger Corman and Vincent price had once. Vincent Price said, “I had always wanted to do a picture in a ruin, but actually using the ruin as an actual place, with real furniture in it and the ruin around it, which I thought would be very effective.” “This is sort of what happened when he adapted to ‘THE TOMB OF LIGEIA’ which I think was the best one we ever did." The actual shooting location was at the ruins of Swaffham Priory in the county of Norfolk in East Anglia. Sadly the film was panned by the critics, by saying, “More Poe, but no get up and go about sums up ‘THE TOMB OF LIGEIA’ is a tedious and talky addition to American International's series of Gothic Horror based tales by the 19th century US author.” Most fans of Roger Corman's Edgar Allan Poe franchise have tended to disagree with this assessment over the years, feeling that the macabre romance and implied perversities of ‘THE TOMB OF LIGEIA’ provide a fitting end to the capper of this Gothic Horror franchise series.
Blu-ray Video Quality – Once again Arrow Video brings us this Blu-ray release in the usual quality presentation of a 1080p encoded ColorScope image and also an equally impressive 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation. The high-definition transfer has been taken from a pre-existing master which is very much present in this Blu-ray release, as I feel it does not quite have the atmospheric light and shade of the previous Roger Corman gothic horror films, meaning the image is very bland and flat looking. Also there are the occasional traces of light fading and occasionally tiny specks and light scratches that are quite easy to spot. There are no traces of compromising grain or sharpening adjustments and overall the image stability was also good. To sum it all up, it is obvious that ‘The Tomb of Ligeia’ could of looked so much better, and I felt it was only a slightly pleasing presentation that I feel Arrow Video could of worked on the negative so much more to give it a much better presentation with a much more depth of colour like their previous Blu-ray release of ‘THE HAUNTED PALACE,’ as I felt it looked the colours were too pastel in appearance, but despite this slightly negative review, it was still an enjoyment watching this film. Please Note: Playback Region B/2: This will not play on most Blu-ray players sold in North America, Central America, South America, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Learn more about Blu-ray region specifications.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – Arrow Video again gives you a selection of audio presentation with the following selection of 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio, Music: 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio and 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo. Generally speaking, the audio presentation has a lot of depth and clarity and is very good. The dialogue is very stable and easy to listen to. There was occasionally some extremely mild background hiss that made its presence felt, but overall it does not affect clarity and sharpness when the actors speak or the very atmospheric music in the background. But overall there are no digital distortions to report with this Blu-ray audio review.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
High Definition Blu-ray [1080p] presentation of the feature, transferred from original film elements by M-G-M.
Original uncompressed 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio.
Optional uncompressed 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio isolated music and effects track.
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Audio Commentary: Commentary by Director and Producer Roger Corman: Here we get the dark silky voice of Roger Corman, who tells us this was his 2nd Poe Picture to be made in the United Kingdom and a total departure from all his previous Poe Pictures. Roger also talks about Edgar Allan Poe himself and how was like Freud and getting all psychological with his writings, and the unconscious mind, and that is why Poe film Roger wanted to go in a different direction, that is why he decided to do a lot of the shooting with outdoor location schedules and especially in Norfolk that Roger really liked. One interesting fact Roger tells us is that they used a lot of make-up on Vincent price, to make him look much younger for a more romantic role in the film, because when they made the film sometime in 1964, Vincent Price was really starting to look his age, and also added some diffusion on the lenses were used, like they normally use for female actresses in a film. Once again Vincent Price gets a lot of praise from Roger and feels that Vincent never got the praise he deserved throughout his acting career. Roger also praised the background artist drawings at the start of the film and also praises the actor Derek Francis, who he felt was totally ideal for the part of the local squire. Roger then turns his attention about the scenes where Vincent eyes are sensitive to light, which this affliction happens in several of the other Poe films, and Roger cannot explain how this situation came about. Roger then makes comments about the interior shots in the Shepperton Studios and really enjoyed working there, and he was in equal praise with all the English actors that he really enjoyed working with. Roger also makes a comment about Vincent Price had a lot of dignity and felt he would give him full carte blanch in exploiting his character in the film, to make the viewer feel Vincent has a lot of power, especially with shooting from the ground upwards. Roger also really praises the English crew most highly, compared to a Hollywood crew and feels the English crew was far more superior to the Hollywood crew and were technically excellent, and in some cases were much more better and more accommodating with a slower pace of filming, and Roger found having the tea breaks at 11:00am and 4:00pm and felt it was a very civilised attitude, but the downside is not a lot of work is done, compared the Hollywood work is done at a much faster pace. Roger also talks about the part in the film where Vincent and Elizabeth go on their Honeymoon and talks about Paul Mayersberg being like a Second Unit in wanting to insert extra footage that Roger wanted to be inserted in the film and to break up the film to give it more scope and also mentions that the two actors in those particular scenes are friends of Paul Mayersberg. When we get to the dream sequence in the film, Roger praises the English Editor Alfred Cox, who he felt that Roger and Alfred worked really well together. Roger informs us that the British Fire Department spoke to him and said that they understand that your work is having lots of fires in your films and they would not allow him to a have a really full scale fire, because of previously the burning of the ceilings in other previous Roger films and you see the flames only go so high in this film. And so ends another interesting audio commentary with Roger Corman, who is always a joy to listen to. But the last word goes to Edgar Allan Poe, where at the end of the film, the Poe words appear in saying, “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?” which sort of up sums up everything relating to this Edgar Allan Poe film.
Audio Commentary: Commentary by star Elizabeth Shepherd: As you know Elizabeth was the main character actress in the film ‘THE TOMB OF LIGEIA’ and here we get to hear Elizabeth talk about the first scene in the film where the casket is being laid in front of the headstone, and basically informs us where the location shots were filmed in Norfolk. But before I go any further I want to comment on this particular audio commentary and I am very annoyed as Elizabeth sounds like she was recorded in a bathroom, as it has very bad acoustics and the recording level is so low I had to crank up the volume really high and then it was still a problem and was a very unprofessional presentation, also you hear a male voice with Elizabeth who is a friend of Roger Corman, but you do not find out who he is. When you see Elizabeth as Ligeia in the coffin, it was the last day of shooting and it was very sunny and it hurt Elizabeth’s eyes, but managed to last long enough to finish the filming. Also Elizabeth talks about the black cat on the tomb stone, but when Vincent appears for the first time to Elizabeth, the black cat ran away and they could never find it and sadly the owner of the cat never found it. Elizabeth talks about the scene in the kitchen with Vincent and especially where the cat attacks her and scratches her face, well this was done by a false paw that had hollow claws, so that fake blood could end up on Elizabeth’s face. Anyway there is of course more audio commentary from Elizabeth, especially explaining different scenes in the film, but the sound was so difficult to listen to because of the really bad recording, to the point that sometimes you could not hear what was being said, that I finally gave up and it has been the most ghastly terrible audio commentary I have ever experienced and to my mind would have been best to never ever been included as an extra and should have been left on the cutting room floor, as it was a complete waste of time and I cannot understand why Arrow Video thought it should be included on this otherwise excellent Blu-ray release.
Special Feature: All-new interview with crew member/co-writer/production assistant Paul Maysberg  [1080p] [1.85:1] [24:25] Paul Maysberg was the future screenwriter for Nicolas Roeg and Nagisa Oshima and originally started out as Roger Corman’s assistant, and this meant doing a bit of everything, including uncredited script rewrites. The interview as recorded on the 30th September, 2014. Paul Maysberg starts by saying that Roger Corman is a better than average Director and is also a brilliant producer in making films, but then Paul contradicts himself by saying that Roger Corman is not really a producer, but more like an investor, mainly in the people involved with each film Roger shoots, especially anyone who has a spark of talent, as well as being a genius, but especially, Roger Corman is enthusiastic about people who loves the movies. Paul Maysberg also informs us that Roger Corman only likes to make any films he shoots as cheap as possible, and because when Roger Corman was in full flow in making his films in Hollywood, he found it was getting more expensive to shoot any films and decided to change direction and shoot some of his new films in England, and Roger Corman made a deal with Nat Cohen to make the film ‘The Masque of the Red Death’ and because it was a massive success decided to make the film ‘THE TOMB OF LIGEIA’ again in England. Paul Maysberg also informs us that he did a lot of behind-the-scenes work for Joseph Losey in promoting his films and also doing the screenwriting, and in the process and was asked to do an interview with Roger Corman, and because Paul Maysberg had seen most of Roger Corman films, which he informed Roger Corman, and was very surprised and impressed with this information, decided there and then to hire Paul Maysberg to get involved in the film ‘THE TOMB OF LIGEIA’ and asked Paul to look at the script to see if there were any improvements that Roger Corman, especially as the film was being shot in England and wanted to give to give the film an English slant, especially with all the English spellings, but unfortunately because it was originally a Robert Towne script, he had quite a dominance over Roger Corman and because Paul felt he could not make any drastic changes in how he felt it could be improved 100%, and that is why sadly ‘THE TOMB OF LIGEIA’ was not a great success, and unfortunately Roger Corman could not see the “wood for the trees” so to speak, especially with the anomalies with the script, pertaining into making it more like a Gothic Horror film like the previous Roger Corman films, but at least it did have the burning of the building at the end of the film. As always Roger Corman hated spending excess money and was reluctant to employ a Casting Director, so he asked Paul Maysberg if he knew any English actors that could appear in the film and that are how you have all the English actors appearing in the film. With the part in the film where Vincent Price gest married to the leading actress, Roger Corman wanted some extra footage shot relating to the honeymoon, and as Roger Corman had to go to America Roger gave Paul a free hand to go out and do some extra filming, so with a camera, two extra Panavision lenses and two enthusiastic film friends to help him, they first made a trip to Stonehenge and then onto Cornwall and we find out that the two people who were the honeymoon couple being filmed, were friends of Paul and when Roger Corman finally saw the results of the filming he was totally ecstatic with the results. Paul Maysberg moves on and talks about the business of using the black cat in the film and he knew of this lady who lived in a nearby village who had a black cat, but when they tried to film it, it kept running away because it was really scared, so they hired a cat wrangler who could try and train this particular cat, but the cat was having none of it, so they gave up on that cat, so all in all they just had to use some of the shots they did have of the cat, especially where sometimes it did not run away. By the way, near the end of the film where Vincent Price is strangling the cat, they were actually Roger Corman’s hands, but on the first take Roger had his modern watch on, so the final shoot is the one they used in the film. Near the end of Paul Maysberg’s interview he commented on the film, saying he felt it was a very strange film, especially the outside shoot with the manicured lawns and the Ligeia headstone, so making the film have some strange anomalies, especially the storyline, and also tended to look like a modern film, mixed in with other periods, especially the interior studio shots. Paul also again talks about Roger Corman and his rule on making a film and a book he uses as his Bible so to speak, and is by Joseph Campbell and is entitled “The Hero With A Thousand Faces.” When the film ‘THE TOMB OF LIGEIA’ was finally finished, Roger was keen to make another Poe film that was based on the poem “Annabel Lee” and asked Paul to draft out a screenplay, but for some unknown reason Roger Corman decided to stop making anymore Poe films, as he felt they were going out of fashion, but despite this let down, Paul still stayed a good long term friend to Roger Corman. And at that point we come to the end of this delightful and very informative and insightful interview with Paul Maysberg is well worth a view.
Special Feature: All-new interview with first assistant director David Tringham  [1080p] [1.85:1] [8:12] The first assistant director talks about the culture shock of working with a fast-moving American director and fast moving cats, and his concern about the studio catching fire. The interview as recorded on the 26th September, 2014. David Tringham had never heard anything about the film ‘THE TOMB OF LIGEIA,’ but suddenly out of the blue David got this particular phone call to come and work on the film, as usually people are asked to come in for an interview first to see if they are suitable. With this particular shoot it was only a 10 days schedule at the most, as Roger Corman is renowned for working very fast and he literally runs from one set to another and David had a right job keeping up with him, which David really liked this set up, as previous Directors he has worked for were too methodical and very restrictive. David also really enjoyed working on this film, and especially working the fantastic and professional Vincent Price, because David found him very funny and you could talk to him about anything, whereas David said Roger Corman was very remote person and tended to keep his distance. David also talks about the business of filming, especially with the erratic black cat and again even with the cat wrangler trying to train the cat, but again it was a hopeless situation and again they were only able to get certain shots of the black cat they could use in the film. David also goes into great deal about the film set, especially when Roger wanted to set it ablaze and trying to set up the use of a crane and how difficult it was to again get it all set up, especially with Roger Corman asking very erratically to have the camera in different positions, but because of difficult logistics, Roger Corman scrapped the idea in the end. Despite this being a very short interview, it was still really fascinating to hear David’s anecdotes on working on the Roger Corman film and well worth a view.
Special Feature: All-new interview with clapper loader Bob Jordan  [1080p] [1.85:1] [7:38] Bob Jordan the clapper loader talks about the camera crew, shooting in widescreen on a low budget, working with Vincent price and revisiting the main location a few years later. The interview as recorded on the 7th October, 2014. Bob Jordan starts off his interview by saying that at the start of his career he met Arthur Grant B.S.C. who was a British cinematographer who worked at the Bray Studios, that was located in Windsor, West Berkshire, which came about because Bob Jordan because he was working at the time at Danzeiger Studios, which was a former engine testing factory in Elstree, working on his first film and eventually became a very good friend to Arthur Grant that lasted 15 years, and Bob also became Arthur’s regular focus puller and that is how eventually he ended up working on the film ‘THE TOMB OF LIGEIA,’ which was also the first time he had worked with a Panavision lens, which also had another lens that went on top of that one to give you a squeezed image, that is of course un-squeezed when the film is projected., but you have to be very careful when framing the image, as otherwise you can get a lot of technical framing issues, because the camera was not a reflex camera, unlike the modern film cameras today. When Bob made the Roger Corman film he was 22 years of age and was enamoured by the star presence of all the actors, especially Vincent Price, because he said that Vincent Price was a very impressive and charming delightful person. Bob Jordan recalls a very funny situation where all the crew were made to go on a coach trip for a location shoot in Norfolk, because the production Company would not pay out for individual travelling expenses, but Bob felt this was going to be a big problem, as the place was very isolated to be able to ship back the days shooting to have the film processed, luckily Bob’s wife followed them with their car to the location shoot, so when the film had to be sent for processing, the wife was able to get to the Swaffham Railway Station and send the film back by Red Star service on the train to the film processing laboratory. When it came to the setting the film set ablaze, Bob said that when they used the Evo Stik solution on all the surfaces, the fire was very controllable, but you got very serious side effects with lots of toxic fumes and with the last shoot it got very dangerous and they all only got out in time, as the fire got out of control, and was a very scary situation. Bob recalls that three or four years later he made a return trip with his wife for a holiday to Norfolk and the location of the shoot and walked into the local pub that everyone on the film visited, and he overheard the locals talking about the Roger Corman film and was very impressed about their experiences on being involved with the film. Again this was a really fascinating, but sadly short interview, but despite this, it was a joy to hear Bob Jordan’s experiences, especially working on the Roger Corman film.
Special Feature: All-new interview with composer Kenneth V. Jones  [1080p] [1.85:1] [6:16] The composer of the music talks about the technical challenges, including writing a theme and variations for the cat, and scoring the fiery climax. The interview as recorded on the 11th March, 2014. Here once again is another fascinating interview by a very brilliant composer of the film ‘THE TOMB OF LIGEIA’ and Kenneth recounts with interest, that he was given full responsibility on composing the music score for the film and Kenneth was actually approved by Roger Corman, who also had great faith in Kenneth in producing a music score that went so well with the film, that Roger complimented on what a good job he did for enhancing the films performance. Kenneth tells us he wanted Roger Corman there in the editing suite to advise when the music should appear in the film, but instead he had help from the film editor, as Roger Corman had to go back to America, but even with the help of the film editor, it was a really difficult process. But Kenneth was really more interested when he should enhance the film and wanted to concentrate on the music score where there were scenes with the black cat, as he felt the black cat was a very important part of the film. When Roger Corman finally saw the finished film, he congratulated Kenneth on doing a grand job and really enhancing his film, especially Kenneth had to do five long gruelling recording sessions, but despite this, Roger Corman was more than pleased with the results, and of course Kenneth V. Jones felt very honoured to have worked on a Roger Corman film and especially the music score used for the final part of the film where the whole of the film set was set ablaze. Here again, this was a very short interview, but despite this, it was still a very interesting one.
Theatrical Trailer  [1080i] [2.35:1] [2:28] This is the Original Theatrical Trailer for the film of ‘THE TOMB OF LIGEIA’ and it is a superb presentation, with totally excellent dramatic audio presentation, so making you want to see the film even more. But sadly it is let down with a very poor image quality.
PLUS: Beautiful Printed Reversible Blu-ray Cover sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil [Created by Luke Insect and Paul].
BONUS: Beautiful Printed Collector’s 24 page booklet containing new writing by Julian Upton entitled “THE LAST OF THE CORMAN-POES: EXCAVATING THE TOMB OF LIGEIA.” Plus “CREW;” “CAST;” “ABOUT THE TRANSFER;” “PRODUCTION CREDITS” and SPECIAL THANKS.” You also get some brilliant illustrated artistic illustrations with original black-and-white rare production stills.
Finally, I am a massive fan of the Roger Corman films, but I felt ‘THE TOMB OF LIGEIA’ has been a slight let down, and I also felt Vincent Price was not as menacing enough as in the previous Roger Corman films and Roger Corman just didn’t give me that scary factor which I love about his previous Gothic Horror films. But still despite this, Roger Corman did his best and I am still glad I have added this Arrow Video Blu-ray to me ever increasing Vincent Price Film Collection.
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom