I was pretty stoked when I realized that The Devil’s Rain director Robert Fuest also did the two Phibes films! Vincent Price is one of my all-time favorites, so I was very excited to get to him for It’s All Connected 2020. As it happens, I actually watched The Abominable Dr. Phibes for last year’s mostly unblogged about version of It’s All Connected. I had gotten a Blu-ray copy from Arrow that is fantastic and even watched it with the director’s commentary. Since that was still relatively fresh in my mind, I opted to watch Dr. Phibes Rises Again, the 1972 sequel also by Fuest. Also, as a fun bonus, actress Fiona Lewis was also in The Fury!
In the first Phibes flick, the esteemed doctor (played by Price) exacted revenge on a group of doctors who failed to save his wife Victoria’s life after an accident that left him looking like a toasted marshmallow that got way too close to the campfire, but he puts on a Vincent Price face. With some help from his assistant Vulnavia, he kills these guys in outrageous ways. When not murdering or planning murders, Phibes likes to play a giant organ in his underground lair with a clockwork band. Upon succeeding in this current mission, he hopped into a chamber with Victoria (played by Caroline Munro) to be awoken at a later date. That later date was just a year later in real time because that’s when we got the sequel!
This time around, Phibes wants to take the missus (still a silent Munro) to this life granting stream in Egypt to restore her. For that, he needs assistance and summons Vulnavia (now played by Valli Kemp). It’s unclear exactly what she is, but don’t worry about it. This dastardly duo quickly learn that the house above the hideout has been destroyed and the key to finding the stream has been pillaged and eventually wound up in the hands of Biederbeck (Count Yorga‘s Robert Quarry).
From there you get a race to find the stream, but don’t worry too much about Phibes because he somehow has a near-exact replica of his original underground hang pad inside an Egyptian ruin that comes complete with giant statue feet and enough electricity to run a ton of neon for him to play organ with the clockwork band under. Seeing Bierderbeck’s crew, Phibes and Vulnavia work up several inventive, intricate and insane ways to knock them off. Given the setting and the themes, it felt like a nice throwback to some of the Universal Monster movies, but with, you know, a guy getting pinned to a chair by fake scorpions, which held him in place so that real scorpions — that were hidden in a ceramic homage to the RCA dog for…reasons? — could kill him.
If that sounds crazy, good. It is and that’s exactly what this delightfully mad movie is. Sure, one guy gets initially tricked by a wind-up snake so that he won’t worry too much when the real deal bites him. BUT, that’s not what kills him. Also, that particular fellow happens to be one of the bad guys in The Spy Who Loved Me! Oh and Peter Cushing’s in the film for a bit! And Phibes puts his wife and the clockwork band in a kind of sideshow trailer to get them on the ocean liner! I’m also a big fan of the two police officers (played by Terry-Thomas and John Cater) who might be the funniest cops in all of horror, but in the best possible way (ie, not the dopes in Last House On The Left).
The Phibes films — which I first watched 10 years ago! — are probably not for everyone. If you don’t mind a wild ride that’s funny, but also has some fire behind the story as well as the kills, then give these a watch! Now that I’ve jumped into the Price pool, I’m going to have some fun with a new Blu-ray set I just got!