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The Abominable Dr Phibes

The Abominable Dr Phibes – 1971
Robert Fuest

James Whiton
William Goldstein

Vincent Price
Joseph Cotten
Hugh Griffith

Doctors are being murdered in a bizarre manner which represent the nine Biblical plagues. The crimes are orchestrated by a demented organ player with the help of his mute assistant. The detective is stumped until he finds that all of the doctors being killed assisted a Dr. Vesalius on an unsuccessful operation involving the wife of Dr. Phibes, but he couldn’t be the culprit, could he? He was killed in a car crash…

Review by Wayne Malin

Strange horror movie,

Doctors are being killed in various gruesome ways in 1925 London. They only have one thing in common–they all worked on an operation to save Victoria Phibes–but she died. Her husband Anton (Vincent Price) supposedly died in a car crash. It seems he survived, blames all the doctors for his wives death and sets out to kill them using the curses visited on the pharaohs before Exodus in the Bible! Phibes has a helper named Vulnevia (Virginia North) and, occasionally, dances with her in front of a robot band while old music plays.

As you can see this is one odd horror film. Still it’s ALMOST great. The deaths are imaginative, bloody and pretty funny (this wouldn’t get a PG rating today). The sets are beautiful–especially Phibes’ Art Deco place and the all green hospital. The film also has plenty of comedy which is (for once) actually funny. But the musical interludes don’t work for me. They stop the film dead and add nothing to the plot. It seems they were just added to pad out the running time. Still, we get to see beautiful Virginia North in some eye-popping costumes and hear some great old music–but that’s not what I look for in horror films.

The acting is good too–Price can’t move a muscle in his face but still manages to overact (amusingly) with his voice; Peter Jeffrey is LOTS of fun as Inspector Trout; Joseph Cotton gives a very good performance as one of the doctors and North doesn’t have a word of dialogue but looks stunning and plays her part completely straight-faced. Also Caroline Munro pops up (in pictures) as Victoria Phibes.

Some people have complained that this is a bit too gruesome for kids. Well…I saw it at a drive-in when I was 9 and it didn’t bother me! The only part that scared me was when Price took off his mask and revealed his face. I distinctly remember hiding behind the car seat when that came on!

I can only give this an 8 though because the movie, logically, doesn’t make a bit of sense! Most of the murders could never happen and I still can’t figure out how Phibes faked his death, got rescued, bought the house and make the (very) elaborate sets. And who the heck is Vulnavia? Still it is enjoyable and has a great ending which uses “Over the Rainbow” to great effect. Even some of my friends who hate horror films like this one!

Worth catching. Just ignore logic. And stay tuned after the closing credits for a neat little surprise!

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70s Films

A tour through the great and not so great films of the seventies The seventies saw a huge change in styles and genres from the advent of the slasher horror movies like Halloween and the blockbuster summers films started by Jaws. More...

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