14 June 2014

Blu-ray Review - The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972)


The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)
Genre:
Horror, Comedy, Cult
Distributor:
Arrow Video
Director:
Robert Fuest
Cast:
Vincent Price, Joseph Cotten, Hugh Griffith

Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972)
Genre:
Horror, Comedy, Cult
Rating: 15
Director:
Robert Fuest
Cast:
Vincent Price, Robert Quarry, Valli Kemp
The Complete Dr Phibes [Blu-ray]

Vincent Price stars as Dr. Anton Phibes in The Abominable Dr. Phibes and Dr. Phibes Rises Again! Both of which came out in the early 70s during Vincent Price’s time in the UK when he made many films including Witchfinder General and Theatre of Blood. They all came out after Price’s great work in the 60s with Roger Corman on the Edgar Allan Poe cycle of films among others.

Dr. Phibes is a genius and is perceived to be dead but he is planning his revenge on a number of doctors who he believes are responsible for the death of his beloved wife. Inspector Trout (Peter Jeffrey) suspects Phibes is behind the murder but finds little support from his fellow officials.However Dr. Vesalius (Joseph Cotton) starts to believe him and aids him in the search for Phibes. Dr. Phibes uses highly elaborate methods of murder based on the plagues of ancient Egypt, and he is helped by the silent but deadly Vulnavia (Virginia North).

The sequel is very much a rehash of the first but the twist is he needs to find the papyrus scrolls that have been stolen to resurrect his wife. Phibes and his assistant must travel to Egypt to find them but Trout follows him.

The films are interesting but unlike so many Vincent Price films of the 60s and 70s they just left me cold. This may be down to the simple fact Vincent Price’s lips never move which is extremely distracting throughout the film; instead Phibes has a speech box to make him speak. It makes Price’s performance lack a certain presence, which is abnormal considering the very distinct performances Price was known for. The first film co-stars the great Joseph Cotton who is utterly wasted in his role, The Third Man this is not.

The films pacing is similarly off, both are only around the 90-minute mark but the 2nd film drags a lot. The films’ lengths are very typical of any American International film, after all, they were made for the double bills and drive-ins of the 60s and 70s. The first film does, however, have a strange surreal charm, which is partly due to the art deco sets that are much celebrated. Vincent Price is also clearly having as much fun as he almost always did in any other film.

Arrow have made a nice double bill package with plenty of bonus features including interviews, commentaries etc. Fans of the Dr. Phibes films will be very happy with the release, it’s just a shame they weren’t as enjoyable as I anticipated them to be.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes
★★★☆☆
Dr. Phibes Rises Again
★★1/2☆☆

Ian Schultz

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