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Amidst the ruins of an old abbey, lady Rowenna (Elizabeht Shepherd)
& her boyfriend Christopher (John Westbrook) find lord Verden Fell
(Vincent Price), the owner of the place, & a curious man indeed: His
whole life seems to be centered around his dead wife Ligeia (also
Elizabeth Shepherd), & he huns the light of day, refusing to go out
without dark glasses ... a curious enough gentleman for Rowenna to become
more & more interested, & so she decides to pay him some visits,
soon on a regular basis.
Soon, too, Verden opens up to her, only his cat, Ligeia's cat, actually, behaves hostile
towards her ... that doesn't prevent Verden &
Rowenna from marrying eventually though.
At their honeymoon, Verden seems to be achanged man, charming,
eloquent, good-natured, without dark glasses, & to shake his past, he
decides to sell the abbey ...
But once back in the abbey, everything changes, Verden is his old,
grieving self again, wears his dark glasses, disappears for hours on end,
treats his wife with neglect ... & above all else, he can't sell the
abbey, since it legally belongs to Ligeia, who was never legally declared
dead, a mere formality back then that comes back to haunt everyone now.
In her despair, Rowenna turns to Christopher for help, who figures the
only way to get to the bottom of it all is to unearth Ligeia ... whose
corpse in the grave he eventually finds to be made of wax.
Meanwhile Rowenna is terrorized some more by Ligeia's black cat, but
running away from the cat, she discovers a secret passageway to one of the
abbey's towers, & up there a secret but lavish room tht turns out to
be lady Ligeia's last resting place ... whichis where Verden comes every
night, presumably to make (necrophilic) love to her (she even rests in a
luxurious double bed).
When Christopher arrives too, with Verden's butler Kenrick (Oliver
Johnston), & tries to confront Verden, Verden falls into a state of
catatonia ... & now Kenrick explains that Verden was hypnotized by
Ligeia on her death bed to never leave her ... which is pretty much what
he is doing now.
Somehow Rowenna manages to break the hypnotic spell though & makes
Verden burn Ligeia's corpse in one of these big open fires you always have
in the secret tower rooms of old abbeys (?), but then Verden goes pretty
mad & tries to strangle Rowenna, thinking her to be Ligeia.
Christopher can (just) save Rowenna, but Verden has somehow Verden has
set fire to his tower (& the whole abbey, as a consequence), &
dies in the flames, reunited with his wife Ligeia.
Roger Corman's last Edgar Allan Poe adaptation is perhaps also his
silliest ... that's not to say that Poe's short story itself, little more
than the fascinating description of a dream of an opium clouded mind, was
silly though, it's more that Robert Towne knows remarkably little to do
with it, but throws out all references to opium, instead fills up the
story with a mix of hypnotism, vengeful spirits & a possessed cat ...
which to no great surprise doesn't really work.
The film's not all bad though, it's beautifully filmed in lush primary
colours, using the English outdoor sets to greatest advantage, &
several scenes show a real feeling of menace & horror. Plus the
central performances by Vincent Price (naturally) & Elizabeth Shepherd
are quite strong.