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Edgar Allan Poe, Roger Corman, Vincent Price and Bono’s sunglasses – Tomb of Ligeia

October 22, 2012

When you combine Roger Corman with Vincent Price, you have the potential for some potently overcooked celluloid shenanigans. And a comic book based on them? Be still my heart!

Don’t get me wrong, Price is a screen legend, a man whose name remains synonymous with cinematic horror decades after his death. But he was a ham. Subtlety was never his forte, and every time you saw Price on screen, you were seeing more of Price up there than any character he might have been playing. Put it this way: shilling for dried apple heads was a lateral move. And Corman? The unquestioned master of the B-movie? The man who could churn out a movie in a week — not a good movie, mind you, but a movie nonetheless? The movie-maker under whose wing any number of directors and actors — from Scorsese to Nicholson to Cameron — got their start? The one who fed a steady diet of garbage to the Mystery Science Theater 3000 mockers? The one that produced the low-budget Fantastic Four movie that was never supposed to be released but that everyone has seen? Yeah, that Corman. Put them together and you’ve got, well, you’ve got something.

Theirs was actually a somewhat memorable collaboration, as they teamed to adapt a sizable chunk of Edgar Allan Poe’s gothic oeuvre for the silver screen. It was work that could easily be regarded as some of the best of their respective careers, due in large part to the Poe source material. There’s a reason that generation of generation of people latch onto Poe as the lord of things that go bump in the night — or thump under the floorboards, as it were. Corman and Price made seven Poe films together, most notably adaptations of classic works like The Raven and The Pit and the Pendulum. Some of the adaptations were of works less known to the average reader and/or moviegoer. Like this. Behold, Tomb of Ligeia.

The 1964 film cast Price as Verden Fell, a morose widower, one compelled by a sensitivity to light to wear Bono sunglasses (before Bono was wearing sunglasses) and dogged by memories of his dead wife Ligeia (a witchy sort of woman), who delved into the black arts by declaring her immortality and other ungodly things. Fell (improbably) marries a fetching young lass, but the two are tormented by the presence of the former missus, whether in dreams or actual haunted house bologna. Ligeia isn’t the worst movie in the world, and it’s not the best. It’s probably on the plus side of Corman’s ledger, though.

The film, naturally, took a number of liberties with Poe’s original story, putting it more in line with the tropes of mid-1960s cinematic horror, with all the thrills and chills that now seem so tame to our torture-porn sated eyes. And the comic book that’s the meat of this post is an adaptation of that adaptation, which means it, like a photocopy of a photocopy, is only a blurry reproduction of the original. It starts in a hole, and it never manages to dig itself out. It’s not good. It’s dull to read, which is a shame, because that wastes art from John Tartaglione (pencils) and Vince Colletta (inks) that’s actually quite decent judging by the standard of many other comics of this era. It’s smooth, flowing qualities only get to come to the fore when the script takes a break, like in this dream sequence (denoted by the frilly panel edges):

But there’s that pesky script. It’s excessively wordy, numbingly so, and it rarely shuts up. And then there’s the “exciting” conclusion, when the whole thing just spins wildly out of control and you need a flow chart to figure out just what the hell is going on. I reproduce two consecutive pages here in their entirety just to display the confusion — trust me, they don’t make any more sense if you’ve read the rest of the book:



Oh, and the babe, the one that was dead and then not dead and then dead? She’s not dead:

Nothing more, nevermore. Tomato, tomahto, end your Poe as you will.

Perhaps this just works better on the silver screen. Perhaps it doesn’t. All I deal with here is comics, and all I know is that Tomb of Ligeia isn’t good one. Justice or no, I BLAME CORMAN.

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