Based on the popularity of the original film titled The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), American International had little choice but to churn out this sequel called Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972), which was quite a feat given how the first film ended, specifically with regards to the main character...co-written and directed by Robert Fuest (The Abominable Dr. Phibes, The Final Programme, The Devil's Rain), the film stars Vincent Price (The Haunted Palace, The Tomb of Ligeia) reprising his earlier role as the title character, and Robert Quarry, probably best known for his earlier features Count Yorga, Vampire (1970) and The Return of Count Yorga (1971), both of which are available on DVD. Also appearing is Peter Jeffrey (The Abominable Dr. Phibes, The Return of the Pink Panther), Fiona Lewis (Tintorera, Innerspace), John Cater (The Abominable Dr. Phibes), Hugh Griffith (The Final Programme), Valli Kemp (The Great Muppet Caper), Milton Reid (The Spy Who Loved Me), Terry-Thomas (The Vault of Horror), and Peter Cushing (The Revenge of Frankenstein, The Hound of the Baskervilles).
The film begins by relating some highlights from the first film (amazing how they can sum up a movie in the space of three minutes) to which we learn it's now three years later, and as the planets align themselves, Phibes (Price), who has since been in a state of suspended animation, rises like the phoenix from the ashes as he has a new quest, one that involves resurrecting his long dead wife Victoria along with ensuring eternal life for both him and his beloved...good luck with all that...also returning is Phibes faithful and fashionable mute assistant Vulnavia (Kemp), which is a pretty neat trick given that whole acid incident from the last film. Turns out Phibes has a line on an underground river in Egypt, one supposedly used by the pharaohs back in the day that has some kind of special spiritual properties, and has been making plans to one day take his deceased wife to a special underground mountain lair he's constructed so that he may achieve his ultimate goal of returning her to life, or something along those lines...only problem is there's another, named Darius Biederbeck (Quarry), who's interested in the restorative properties of the waters for himself and his girlfriend Diana (Lewis), and has since mounted an archeological expedition at the very mountain wherein Phibes has set up his elaborate operation. As Biederbeck and his crew crash the party, the flamboyant and theatrical Phibes sets out to eliminate all those he sees as a threat through a series of diabolical and highly lethal traps, each more insidious than the last...
Dr. Phibes Rises Again, in my opinion, does exactly what a sequel should do in remaining faithful to the original while upping the ante suitably. One of the aspects I really liked about the film was here Phibes didn't constrict himself in terms of the methods in which he brought about the deaths of those he saw interfering with his machinations. In the first film the means of death were tied to the ten curses wrought upon the pharaohs as spelled out in the Old Testament, which was fine for the first, but no sense in revisiting that which we've already seen...subsequently, the sky is the limit here (most do involve a desert theme, but that's not surprising given the locale in which they occur). I won't go into specific details about the methods Phibes employs, but I will say they're just as maniacal and convoluted as in the first. There's The Scorpion's Embrace, The Eagle's Caress, and my favorite The Sausage Machine, just to name a few. The actual body count may not be as high as in the first, but the methods utilized are just as imaginative and entertaining to watch if you're into that sort of thing. Price, looking a lot like pallid Pagliacci through much of the movie given his garish garb, really comes into his own here, presenting an even more flamboyant (if possible) character than before, taking it to the theatrical hilt. While this is Price's film, Robert Quarry gives a most excellent and entertaining turn as Biederbeck, Phibes' cold and calculating would be nemesis. The story does take an interesting turn from the first as in the original Phibes motives were strictly that of revenge, but here the character does not seek out to kill out of retribution, but more so only to do away with those who would interfere with his carefully laid plans (vengeance does come into play once his deceased wife is unwittingly stolen). It's sort of like two super villains battling each other, except here Biederbeck is way out of his league as Phibes will not be denied of his prize (Biederbeck does supply a healthy reservoir of potential victims). Peter Jeffrey and John Cater return from the first film as the hapless Scotland Yard detectives Trout and Waverly (Waverly is Trout's supervisor) on the trail of a fiend they thought long since gone, providing some comical moments, especially when coming across some of Phibes' handiwork. Seemed to me once they were in Egypt they were out of their jurisdiction, but given Phibes previous crimes they may have gotten some leeway given their past experience with the mastermind criminal. The oddest aspect to me as far as the casting was Peter Cushing in a bit part as a ship's captain, as he was only had a minute or two of screen time...strange seeing such a recognizable performer in such an inconsequential role, but, as they say, there are no small roles, only small actors. The story itself does possess some loose threads (the movie was rushed to capitalize on the popularity of the first), but you're better off going with the flow and enjoying the ride rather than getting hung up on some of these minor elements. I thought the production values were solid (something not always present in American International features), especially in regards to Phibes underground mountain dwelling. I was curious how Phibes kept his wife's corpse, played by Caroline Munro, so well preserved. Given how long she'd been deceased I would have thought some signs of rot would have settled in by now but I guess if she was kept in hermetically sealed containers, she could retain her appearance indefinitely. All in all if you enjoyed the first film, then you'll most likely dig on this gruesome follow up.
The picture quality, presented in widescreen (1.85:1), enhanced for 16 X 9 TVs, looks very clean and clear, and the Dolby Digital mono audio, available in English, Spanish, and French, comes through very well. The only extra included is an original theatrical trailer.
A note for those interesting in picking up this film up on DVD...both The Abominable Dr. Phibes and Dr. Phibes Rises Again were originally released onto DVD individually, but then later re-released paired together as a DVD double feature, so if you're interested in owning both, try to locate the dual release, as it might be a better value (depending on availability, or course).