Against his better judgement, he marries a headstrong young woman, Rowena (Elizabeth Shepherd), he meets by accident, who pursues him, even though she is apparently bethrothed to an old friend, Christopher Gough (John Westbrook). Ligeia's spirit seems to haunt their mansion, previously a medieval abbey, and nocturnal visions and the sinister presence of a cat (which may be inhabited by the spirit of Ligeia) distress Rowena. The cat, who first appears at Ligeia's burial, wounds and appears to attempt to kill Rowena several times and Fell unsuccessfully orders its destruction. Ultimately he must face the spirit of Ligeia and resist her or perish.
The climax of the film takes place when Fell has a showdown with Ligeia, now in the form of a cat. Fell is blinded by Ligeia, but gets the upper hand and strangles the cat, while the tomb around him burns down, due to an accident. Fell and Ligeia perish and Gough and Rowena start a new life together.
Roger Corman referred to this movie as the biggest and most exciting of his eight Edgar Allan Poe Adaptations.
Vincent Price is said to have thought that his film was the best Poe production he had ever done.