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It's Phibes alright.... and he always comes back.
on 3 May 2010
The inimitable Vincent Price plays the villainous Dr. Anton Phibes (a character obviously inspired by The Phantom of The Opera - he plays the organ, he's horribly disfigured underneath the mask he wears and he has a penchant for staging a series of gruesome murders) in this pair of beautifully-crafted horror films from the 1970s.
In "The Abominable Dr. Phibes", Dr. Phibes seeks revenge against a group of doctors who failed to save the life of his beloved wife, Victoria (Caroline Munro), following an horrific car crash. Phibes uses the ten Biblical plagues bestowed upon Egypt as his inspiration and this sets up some highly-inventive murder scenes. This is a wonderful and extremely entertaining film that combines horror and humour very effectively. The great cast also includes Joseph Cotten, Terry-Thomas, Hugh Griffith, Peter Jeffrey and John Cater.
In "Dr. Phibes Rises Again" it's very much a case of carry on again doctor as Phibes travels to Egypt in search of The River of Life, used by the Pharoahs, that will grant eternal life to he and his wife, Victoria. Also in search of this river, is someone called Biederbeck (Robert Quarry) who has his own personal reasons for wanting to find it. Once again we are treated to some inventive murders as Biederbeck's team are bumped off one by one by Phibes and his mysterious female assistant, Vulnavia. Comic relief is provided by Terry-Thomas (who plays a different character this time) and Peter Jeffrey and John Cater, who reprise their roles as two bumbling policemen trying to catch Phibes. The cast also includes Peter Cushing, Beryl Reid, John Thaw, Milton Reid and the gorgeous Fiona Lewis.
What is there not to like about these two marvellous films? They are brilliantly directed by Robert Fuest (who went on to direct the wonderfully-creepy "The Devil's Rain"), well-written, superbly-acted and feature amazing art deco sets, great music and artistic use of colour and lighting. John Carpenter must have liked these movies because there is a character called Dr. Phibes in his 1980 film "The Fog". These two films really are essential viewing for any Vincent Price fan and can be seen as a sort of precursor to another classic 1970s Vincent Price movie - the sublime "Theatre Of Blood".