THE TOMB OF LIGEIA
"Man need not kneel
before the angels,
When I was growing up, the Vincent Price/Edgar Allan Poe movies were continually being shown on broadcast television and I was glued to the set for every screening. Of course, I had my favorites, as well as those that I didnít like quite so much. Growing up, THE TOMB OF LIGEIA was actually my least favorite of the Poe movies, because as a kid, I found it to be a bit too mushy. However, as I matured, I found a new appreciation for THE TOMB OF LIGEIA, and over the years, the film has grown on me to the point where it has now become my favorite movie in Vincent Price/Edgar Allan Poe horror cycle.
Cinematically, THE TOMB OF LIGEIA plays like a gothic romance in the vein of Jane Eyre, although this film is indeed firmly rooted in the gothic horror genre. In THE TOMB OF LIGEIA, Vincent Price gives a brilliantly restrained performance, which works exceedingly well in transforming his established horror persona into that of the filmís romantic lead, and then ultimately, its biggest tragic figure. The plot of THE TOMB OF LIGEIA follows the widowed Verden Fell (Price), whose morbid obsession with his dead wife Ligeia, keeps him a virtual prisoner in a crumbling English Abbey. While at Ligeiaís grave, Verden meets The Lady Rowena Trevanion (Elizabeth Shepherd) and surprisingly a romance blossoms. Verden and Rowena soon marry, but their happiness is short lived. Once the honeymooners return to the Abbey, Verden again falls the morbid spell of the Lady Ligeia. The cast of THE TOMB OF LIGEIA also features John Westbrook and Oliver Johnston.
MGM Home Entertainment has made THE TOMB OF LIGEIA in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. THE TOMB OF LIGEIA is a very different looking movie from the rest of the Poe series because director Roger Corman produced the film in England and was able to shoot on actual outdoor locations, instead of the confined artifice of soundstages. This is a very beautiful looking transfer that produces a crisp and nicely defined image. Colors can be a little pale during a few of the outdoor scenes, although those sequences shot under better-controlled lighting display a more vibrant palette. Reds appear nicely reproduced, with the fox hunting costumes contrasting well against the occasionally subdued greens of the English countryside. Blacks appear inky, whites are clean and shadow detail is good for the mid sixties. Digital compression artifacts are well camouflaged. THE TOMB OF LIGEIA comes with a perfectly fine Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack that offers clean dialogue and no significant instances of background hiss or other audible anomalies. Fidelity has some limitations, but one will find a surprising amount of bass in the track. Subtitles are provided on the DVD in English, French and Spanish.
AN EVENING OF EDGAR ALLAN POE is a fifty-three minute long television production featuring Vincent Price doing the equivalent of a one-man stage show. There are four sequences in which Price performs the actual works of Edgar Allan Poe, instead of some other authorís interpretation of those works. Price was an exceedingly accomplished performer, as his performances of these Poe "monologues" would bear out. Price brings the required sense of suspense and dread to the works, as well as a morbid comic touch when appropriate. During the course of AN EVENING OF EDGAR ALLAN POE, Price performs The Tell-Tale Heart, Pit And The Pendulum, The Sphinx and A Cask Of Amontillado.
AN EVENING OF EDGAR ALLAN POE was originally produced on videotape in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio and then for some strange reason transferred to 16mm kinescopes. The DVD would seem to come from the kinescopes and not from the original videotape source, which renders it rather soft and grainy looking. In this form AN EVENING OF EDGAR ALLAN POE is perfectly watchable, but not particularly attractive. Colors tend to smear, as do other parts of the image on occasion. The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is respectable, allowing one to appreciate the qualities of Vincent Priceís distinct voice during his performance. Subtitles are included with the program in English, French and Spanish.
Each program is offered on a separate side of the DVD, with the basic interactive menus offering access to the standard set up and scene selection features, as well as some extras for THE TOMB OF LIGEIA. Director Roger Corman is on hand to provide a running audio commentary that I found to be rather enjoyable, in addition to being quite informative about the production and the personalities involved. Making its way from the previous Laserdisc release is an audio commentary with actress Elizabeth Shepherd, who shares her memories about the film with film historian David Del Valle. A theatrical trailer closes out the extras.
Thanks to a bit of maturity, every time I see THE TOMB OF LIGEIA, I grow to appreciate this wonderful gothic horror film and Vincent Priceís performance more and more. MGM has done a truly fine job with the presentation of THE TOMB OF LIGEIA, making the DVD something that every Price fan will want to own. As for AN EVENING OF EDGAR ALLAN POE, the presentation is rough, but Vincent Priceís performance more than compensates. Considering the bargain asking price of $14.95 and how good THE TOMB OF LIGEIA looks, I still find it easy to recommend this DVD to Vincent Price and vintage horror fans.
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