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The Abominable Dr. Phibes/Dr. Phibes Rises Again

02/02/2008. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy The Abominable Dr. Phibes in the USA - or Buy The Abominable Dr. Phibes in the UK

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region 1 DVD: pub: MGM 1009636. double-sided DVD: 95mins/89mins. Price: under $ 8.00 (US) if you know where to look). The Abominable Dr. Phibes: cast: Vincent Price, Joseph Cotton and Virginia North. Dr. Phibes Rises Again: cast: Vincent Price, Robert Quarry and Valli Kemp.

check out website: www.mgm.com/dvd

Seeing this pair of films under one packet and at such a low price eventually become too much of a temptation to let pass.

Dr. Anton Phibes (actor Vincent Price) is a man with a mission. His wife, Victoria, dies in six minutes on an operating table and himself seriously disfigured in the accident seeks revenge. An automaton expert and musician are just some of the talents he brings to play, aided by his assistant, Vulnavia (actress Virginia North), as he uses a series of deaths based on those in the Bible's Exodus for his revenge against the surgeons who operated on his wife. Summing up the plot as simply as that doesn't really reveal what a classic horror black comedy film this is.



I saw 'The Abominable Dr. Phibes' back in the mid-70s and was glued to my seat throughout. It hasn't lost any of its power today. Not because of the murders but for its comedic undertones brought to the fore by a largely British cast. In many respects, you can't help feeling sorry for Phibes yet at the same time he has his own agenda which he does with intelligent planning. He isn't slash and dice but a meticulous murderer maybe executioner, staying one step ahead of everyone. Price doesn't play him for laughs but the humour comes out of the script. Considering that Phibes' injury means he can't speak but has to be plugged into a voice box also meant Price reacts to his voice-over and is for much of the time, speaking to himself as his assistant, Vulnavia, is dumb.

The sequel, 'Dr. Phibes Rises Again', has him return three years later to take his dead wife to Egypt on a pre-planned trip to resurrect her. With his house demolished and a scroll with the details of what he has to do missing, Phibes has to locate and then chase after Biederbeck (actor Robert Quarry) who has his own needs from the scroll. Phibes systematically kills off Biederbeck's men in unique ways and the British police aren't far behind, although too far to be ineffective, as he retrieves the scroll and key.

Considering that this film was studio set created, it still holds together remarkably well. Director Robert Fuest was in charge of both films thus maintaining the elements that kept it consistent than repeating itself with the sequel. The black humour was still maintained. One of the best elements of this is where Phibes is feeding Vulnavia (this time played by Valli Kemp) who is playing a violin with various fruit, stopping short when the pineapple is obviously too big. Probably the nearest to being camp but taken as part of the reality than stepping out of it.

Looking at the tiny amount of merchandise available for Phibes still shows he hasn't lost popularity and last year I reviewed a CD of its music. He's certainl iconic with his matinee organ and automaton band give a stylist approach to proceedings. Maybe also Phibes need for vengenance made him slightly too sympathetic to his cause. Incidentally, actress Caroline Munroe plays his wife and sleeps throughout both films. Whether a third film was ever considered or not leaves it up in the air as to what she would have thought of her husband's activities. Mind you, had Phibes succeeded in resurrecting her, his need for vengence would have gone as well.

If you like your vintage horror films, don't miss out on these pair on DVD.

GF Willmetts

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