Abominable Dr. Phibes, The (1971)

“Nine killed her… Nine shall die… Nine eternities in doom!”

Abominable Dr Phibes Poster

Synopsis:
A disfigured concert organist (Vincent Price) seeks Biblical revenge on the nine surgeons who accidentally killed his wife years earlier.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that this “campy Vincent Price British horror film with a revenge motif” isn’t “as well made or as lively” as Theatre of Blood (1973) but remains “reasonably enjoyable”, thanks in large part to “stylish direction” by Robert Fuest and “a funny, tongue-in-cheek script by James Whiton and William Goldstein”. As gruesome as the murders are (Peary points out they’re “too grisly” for children — though would young kids really be watching this film?), there’s something undeniably fascinating about witnessing a series of calculated, predictable killings taking place. We quickly get caught up in serious count-down mode, with the poor detectives (Peter Jeffrey and Derek Godfrey) assigned to the case suffering repeated ridicule for the sake of heightened drama. As the “methodical, obsessed” Dr. Phibes, Vincent Price is “well-cast” and as effectively macabre as always; his performance here is reminiscent of his equally serious and violent role as Matthew Hopkins in Witchfinder General (1968).

Note: This would be interesting as a double feature with the more recent, infinitely “grislier” Se7en (1995) — also based on “Biblical” vengeance, but without any of …Dr. Phibes‘ black humor.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Outrageously over-the-top sets
    Abominable Dr Phibes Sets2
  • Highly “creative” murders (based upon the seven Biblical plagues against Egypt)
    Abominable Dr Phibes Still2
  • Vincent Price as Dr. Phibes
  • Creepy, effective make-up

Must See?
Yes; this enjoyable horror flick shouldn’t be missed.

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One Response to “Abominable Dr. Phibes, The (1971)”

  1. By all means, a must! A formulaic, Agatha Christie-like plot is here sublimated with panache and may be the most fully realized film by Fuest (who made a handful of films and mostly worked in tv). One thing that makes it unique is that it is a seamless fusion of legitimate thriller and conscious camp. It is grounded in seriousness by way of Price’s purposeful, maniacal mission (with relatively few lines until near the end, Price remains riveting) yet throughout there is a noticeable tongue-in-cheek thread. The latter serves to distance the audience from the unsavory goings-on (a few of the murders are icky and one, fittingly, is a genuine jolt). ‘TADP’ is great-looking, with fine use of an eclectic score. Joseph Cotten and Peter Jeffrey (offed so memorably in Lindsay Anderson’s ‘If…’) are particularly good in supporting roles. [TCM just showed ‘TADP’ on a ‘bill’ with one of Price’s best, ‘The Conqueror Worm’ (aka ‘Witchfinder General’). I say, good show!]

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