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NOVEMBER 24, 1997: 

The Tomb of Ligeia

D: Roger Corman (1965) with Vincent Price, Elizabeth Shepherd
Image Entertainment laserdisc


Vincent Price, the master of horror, stars in Roger Corman's Tomb of Ligeia.
Of all the Corman/Poe films, Tomb of Ligea has stood the test of time most successfully, although a case can also be made for Masque of the Red Death. The standard elements of the other films in the series, the malignant and presumably dead wife, the tormented widower overwrought with melancholy, and the threatened innocent, are certainly present, but Corman plays Tomb of Ligea straight. This is likely due to the script by Robert Towne, whose characters are believably complex and compelling. Price is remarkably restrained as a romantic lead, given his over-the-top portrayals in the other Poe films, and Elizabeth Shepherd manages to strike exactly the right note in her role as Lady Rowena.

Thankfully, the laserdisc is letterboxed, preserving the outstanding compositions of cinematographer Arthur Grant, whose choice of muted tones is far better suited to the material than the garish colors which exist in most of the other Poe films. Corman even rises to the occasion in his direction, which is effective and inspired at moments. Tomb of Ligea remains essentially true to the spirit of Poe's work, and its remarkable and unique union of disparate talents makes it worth tracking down on laserdisc. - Bud Simons


Heavenly Creatures

D: Peter Jackson(1994); with Melanie Lynskey, Kate Winslet

Fun

D: Rafal Zielinski (1994); with Renée Humphrey, Alicia Witt

At the time of Fun's (limited) theatrical release in 1994, I thought it bizarre that a film so similar to Heavenly Creatures would make it to the big screen. Even more bizarre is that both of the films are among the top 10 or so releases of 1994. Two years later, Fun is finally making its appearance on home video, and you'll probably have a hell of a time finding a store that stocks it. But trust me, an evening with either of these films is well worth the trouble, although a double feature may be too traumatic for the squeamish. Both movies tell horrific stories about a pair of young girls who hatch plots to murder an older woman. Creatures was fact, based on an early 1950s affair wherein tormented teens Pauline (Lynskey) and Juliet (Winslet) decided to kill Pauline's mother for threatening to separate them. Jackson's use of surrealistic imagery is brilliantly incorporated into the film, as the girls' daydreams and fantasies take on a tangibility that is often indistinguishable from the real thing. Fun takes the opposite tack , almost hyperrealistic in its use of black & white Super 16mm film intercut with color 35mm to give it a neo-documentary style. And while Creatures is based on truth, Fun is pure fiction, and thank God for that. Witt plays Bonnie, the hyperkinetic Bad Seed who figures it'd be a kick to off a random old lady, just for "fun," as she puts it. And so she does, enlisting Hillary (Humphrey) in the process. The film's somber conclusion shows that "fun" can be anything but, and haunts the viewer for days. In an age where the dearth of quality roles for women is being bemoaned at every Oscar ceremony, here are four juicy ones to feast upon, none of them played by actresses over 20 years old. Sure, they're all murderesses - but like they say, when they're bad, they're very good.

- Christopher Null


Der Lauf Der Dinge (The Way it Goes)

D: Peter Fischli and David Weiss, 1987

Falling water fills a bowl, causing a can to float, which tips a chair, spilling a pitcher of god-knows-what. A burning pyre boils water in a teakettle, and the steam blows a dart into a balloon full of ... full of... 409? Rube Goldberg come to life? He damn near does in the dank German physics-fest Der Lauf Der Dinge (The Way It Goes), a curious black & white documentary that threatens to out-contrap the master of contraptions himself. The Way It Goes is, quite simply, a real-time video showing a chain reaction of immense proportions, all powered by natural forces - steam, gravity, friction, sublimation, and plenty of fire. Along the way, all manner of inanimate objects get involved: candles, coke bottles, loafers, watering cans, pushbrooms, car tires, and a host of frothy chemicals straight from the nearest Superfund site. The entire event involves hundreds of intricate interactions and lasts a good thirty minutes - by far more ingenious than any paltry domino run, and precisely the kind of hijinks that you suspect go on in the basement of the Physics Building when the overworked graduate students have had a few too many Twinkies. There is no narration, no soundtrack, no living, breathing creature of any sort - just those damn household items spinning, spilling, and spewing all over the place. To be sure, it is as boring as it is fascinating: Your mind will wander, but you won't dare look away for a second, lest you miss an unparalleled act of leverage, propulsion, or combustion. All this and a German aesthetic to boot. It's the kind of film that probably deserves a cult following. Just don't try it at home. -- Jay Hardwig


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