Supernal Dreams: Joe Dante talks Poe with Roger Corman & Daniel Haller

tombofligeia1.jpgThe new issue of Video Watchdog (#138) due out today features a long round table discussion between three top genre directors: Roger Corman, Daniel Haller and Joe Dante, with myself acting as moderator. The idea behind this get together was to talk in some detail about Corman’s work with Richard Matheson for Visions of Death, a book I edited that contains Matheson’s two screenplays for House of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum (now available from The Gauntlet Press).

You can see a preview at the Video Watchdog website here.

Joe Dante will also be hosting a screening of Roger Corman’s Tomb of Ligeia, along with The Secret Invasion on April 16 and 17 at the newly renovated NEW BEVERLY CINEMA in Hollywood. If his schedule permits, Roger Corman will also be on hand to talk about the making of Tomb of Ligeia.

In the meanwhile, here is a short excerpt of our discussion about Tomb of Ligeia:

JOE DANTE: Tomb of Ligeia is one of my favorite Poe films because it’s so darn arty.

LAWRENCE FRENCH: That’s why (AIP head) Sam Arkoff didn’t like it. He said it was too arty and not as scary as the earlier Poe films, but most importantly it didn’t make any money for AIP!

ROGER CORMAN: Actually, all of the Poe films made money, but Tomb of Ligeia made the least amount. I think it was because the series was just running out of steam and also because it was overly complicated.

DANIEL HALLER: Sam told me and I’m sure he told Roger this, when you drill a well and strike oil, you don’t stop drilling, you drill again and you keep drilling until the oil is no longer there.

JOE DANTE: Well, Sam kept drilling, because after Roger left he kept making Poe pictures and they had less and less to do with Poe and frankly, they’re kind of dull. But when you said you were going to make Tomb of Ligeia away from AIP, who was going to finance it, Anglo-Amalgamated?

ROGER CORMAN: Yes, probably, or myself, because by that time I had a certain amount of money and I could finance pictures on my own.

LAWRENCE FRENCH: Besides Joe, another director who obviously liked Tomb Of Ligeia was Martin Scorsese. After you produced Boxcar Bertha, Scorsese made Mean Streets where he used a clip from Tomb of Ligeia for a scene where Robert DeNiro and Harvey Keitel go to the movies.

ROGER CORMAN: Yes, that’s right. Marty called me to ask if he could use that clip, because of certain legal issues and I said, “sure, go ahead.” I thought that was fine.

LAWRENCE FRENCH: Wasn’t your original idea to use Richard Chamberlain as the lead?

ROGER CORMAN: Yes, because Vincent Price was really too old for the part, but when AIP came back into the deal, they insisted on using Vincent, even though he was really wrong for the role.

LAWRENCE FRENCH: So you almost didn’t use Vincent Price in what he felt was his best Poe film!

ROGER CORMAN: And as a matter of fact, I agreed with Vincent—Ligeia is one of the best Poe pictures and Vincent’s performance in the film was very good. It was simply a matter of age.

LAWRENCE FRENCH: I imagine you wanted the Vincent Price of Dragonwyck, made when he was closer to the age range you had in mind.

ROGER CORMAN: Yes, the character Vincent played in Dragonwyck was exactly what we were looking for in Ligeia, but as you know Dragonwyck was made twenty years earlier. It’s interesting that you mentioned that, because my wife has always liked Vincent’s role in Dragonwyck.

LAWRENCE FRENCH: Scriptwriter Robert Towne told me that after he specifically asked you not to cast Vincent Price in the film, you called him up and said you were going to use Price again, but added, “don’t worry, Bob, I’ve got Marlene Dietrich’s make-up man!”

ROGER CORMAN: (Laughing) Well, what we ended up doing was giving Vincent a wig and using a bit more make-up on him than was usual. We were trying to make him look younger, but originally, the way both Bob and I saw it, the lead should have been 25 to 30 years old—tops. So when we decided to use Vincent again that did change the orientation of the film quite a bit.

LAWRENCE FRENCH: Did Danny work on Tomb of Ligeia?

DANIEL HALLER: I just scouted locations for Tomb of Ligeia. After that I had another show to do, so I left. But on Masque of the Red Death I was there the whole time, although I worked with an English art director.

ROGER CORMAN: Yes, on Tomb of Ligeia Dan just set it up, drew some sketches and then told the art director what he wanted. Then the English art director took over.

About the Author

Lawrence French

LAWRENCE FRENCH celebrated his 20th anniversary as a contributor to Cinefantastique Magazine with his cover story on the making of THE RETURN OF THE KING. As Cinefantastique’s longtime San Francisco correspondent, he has written numerous stories about Pixar and Lucasfilm, and interviewed such genre stalwarts as Vincent Price, Tim Burton, Ray Harryhausen, John Lasseter, Phil Tippett and Ray Bradbury. He is also the editor of the highly regarded website on Orson Welles, Wellesnet.com. His book as editor of Richard Matheson’s Edgar Allan Poe scripts for THE HOUSE OF USHER and THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM was published by Gauntlet Press in 2007, with a second volume on TALES OF TERROR and THE RAVEN due out in the future. For Cinefantastique Online, he currently writes the regular column Supernal Dreams.

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