10/17/09

For The Love of Price: Dr. Phibes Double Feature

Some romances know not he bounds of time, space, distance, dimension, or the cinema screen. One such romance has occurred between The LBL’s Fran Goria and Vincent Price. Once in a while the pull is just too overwhelming, and Miss Goria must put pen to paper for the love of the man, for the love of his movies…..

The Abominable Dr. Phibes ( 1971) Director: Robert Fuest. Writers: James Whiton, and William Goldstein Starring: Vincent Price, Virginia North, Joseph Cotton, and Peter Jeffery.

Price plays Anton Phibes, doctor of theology and musicology. While rushing to the side of his critically ill wife, Phibes is horribly burned and disfigured in a car accident. He is presumed dead, and his wife is rushed to surgery. A team of nine top surgeons work on her, but she dies six minutes later. Over the next few years, Phibes puts his face back together, and creates an acoustic voice box that plugs in to his neck for speech. He hires a young, fashionable, mute girl named Vulnavia (North) to help him set his vengeance in motion. He then dispatches the surgeons using the biblical plagues of boils, bats, frogs, blood, rats, hail, the beast, locusts, death of the first born, and finally darkness.

I have seen both of the original film and its sequel before, but never as a double feature. I have to say that this definitely gives the films a slightly different impact than watching them separately. They are a nice compliment to each other, and really work together to tell the story of Anton Phibes. In the first, Phibes is a villain. He is a villain with determination and style, a villain out of love, but a villain none the less. In the second film, He is still a villain, but I find myself rooting for his victory. He may be the villain, but Biederbeck is a bit of an ass.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes is one of my favorite Vincent Price films. He is superb in this one. A lot has to be said for an actor who can carry a film with only his eye expressions. Price was not the only decent actor in the film, the best, but not the only. The Scotland Yard actors really worked well in scenes together. And, Virginia North did a fine job as the mute Vulnavia. Overall, the casting was great. The camera work was fantastic, and the musical score was perfect.

This movie is a love story that transcends death. Phibes will do anything to avenge his beloved wife. He came back from death itself to rebuild himself, create an elaborate crypt for the two of them to spend eternity together in, and plot, then carry out revenge of biblical proportions. That’s love. I liked how the plagues were carried out with a well thought out plan. The plague of frogs was a frog mask which tightened until the victim’s skull was smashed. The plague of the beast was carried out by a brass unicorn catapulted across a street to impale the victim. I thought the deaths were unique and fun.

Phibes was a master of acoustics. He used his knowledge to create his voice, to make an entire instrumental band, and to exact his revenge. His assistant, Vulnavia, stays loyally by his side through all the murders. I do wish that I knew more of her story, but it is not necessary for the film to be great. As I have said, this is one of my favorites. Price was spot on, the story was great, and the characters really grew on me. I have seen it many times, and I will see it many more.

Price Rating

Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972) Director: Robert Fuest Writers: Robert Bees and Robert Fuest. Starring: Vincent Price, Valli Kemp, Robert Quarry and Peter Jeffrey.

Dr. Phibes Rises Again, “Three years later, when the moon (in conjunction with the eternal planets) shone upon the golden moon of the crypt, pulsing with a fantastic light of its own. Life blood then flowed back into Phibes. Great wheels and motors sprung into motion. And, Dr. Phibes once more walked upon the Earth.” This time he travels to Egypt to resurrect his beloved wife and give them both Eternal Life. He once again employs Vulnavia (Kemp) to help get rid of his rival Biederbeck (Quarry), and any one else who stands in his way.

It was only a year later when Vincent Price reprised his role in Dr. Phibes Rises Again. Phibes’ crypt was set to open for a certain planetary alignment, and the time has come. He teams up with Vulnavia again, but this time, instead of hunting surgeons, they are seeking eternal life. Phibes and his rival, Biederbeck, are in a race to reach the river of life.




Robert Quarry does a great job opposite Price. They both command their respective scenes, and they work well together. Two of the Scotland Yard guys from the first film are back for this film also. Actress Valli Kemp replaces North in the role of Vulnavia. There is not much difference in the two women’s portrayals of the character. Vulnavia and Phibes do seem to have more of an affection for each other this film, but not so much that it becomes distracting to the story. Lastly, there is an appearance by Peter Cushing as this ship’s captain.

There are still plenty of unique deaths in this film. Okay not as many as in the first one, but not as many needed killin’. The look and feel is much the same. It was definitely a good move to keep the same director for the sequel. It really feels like a continuation of the first film. Two Phibes films, and I recommend them both. They were both just great.

Price Rating

Priceless Facts

- All of Vincent Price’s lines were prerecorded in a sound studio since Anton Phibes’ mouth does not move. Price purposely strained his voice and mispronounced words to help bring the effect to life.

- Price once named Robert Fuest as one of the best directors he had worked with.

-- Robert Quarry is best known for his role in Count Yorga.

- Actor Terry-Thomas played Dr. Longstreet, who was drained of blood, in The Abominable Dr. Phibes. He then returned to play shipping agent Lombardo in Dr. Phibes Rises Again.



4 comments:

  1. It has always been hard for me to admit that I have never been a fan of price, and I always thought he was too far over the top to be taken seriously. That was until I had seen him in the PHIBES films, where his eccentricism was finally used to perfectly compliment one of the campiest yet strangely alluring films of all time! I really enjoyed these two films, more than I ever expected to.

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  2. Carl, I'm glad to here that you like these films. I rarely get comments on my Love of Price. The Phibes films are some of the best, but keep checking back,in the future I will review some where he is not quite so over the top. He really does have a great range, unfortunately, he did become kind of type cast. Again, glad to read your comment.

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  3. Fran did a great job on these reviews, and it made me want to see Rises Again which I have somehow missed over the years.

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  4. hello Gloria, regards Valli Kemp re Vulnavia dr phibes rises again ,www.vallikempart.com

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