The Abominable Dr. Phibes Cover Do you know what boils, bats, frogs, rats, hail-stones, beasts, locusts, death, darkness, and blood, all have in common? No. It isn't a strange recipe for the next new reality based television programme. Instead, they're all associated with this film Directed by: Robert Fuest; and Starring: Vincent Price, Peter Jeffrey, and Terry-Thomas. It was made in 1971, and lasted for a whole 94-minutes'.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes

Please come in, Detective Inspector Harry Trout (Peter Jeffrey), as I have been expecting your arrival for quite some time now.

Well, as you know, over a period of days, there have been a number of mysterious deaths amongst my people in the medical community. One doctor was stung to smithereens by a hoard of evil looking bees. Another was ravaged by a pack of flying bats at the dead of night. A third doctor had his head flattened by a mechanized frog-mask, clamped to his face. And now, following these events, a forth Doctor, named Longstreet (Terry-Thomas), has had all the blood sucked out of him by a mysterious pale-faced gentleman plus his buxom accomplice.

Now I know what you're thinking, Inspector Trout. That I had something to do with these deaths. After all, I am also a doctor, Doctor Vesalius (Joseph Cotten), and I have worked with these men in the past. 

But let me tell you this, good sir, I bare no grudge against any of these men. Although I do know someone who might.

You see, many-many years ago, a team of eight Doctors, including myself, failed to save the life of a very ill woman on the operating table. So far, four out of this nine are already dead -- ARGHHHH! -- make that five. And I'm fairly confident that the husband of this dead woman, Doctor Anton Phibes (Vincent Price), is himself directly responsible for this series of grizzly murders.

Granted, I know that Anton supposedly died in a mysterious car crash not so long after his wife passed-away. But where is his body now, Inspector? Plus where is his wife's dead body? And why has Anton been spotted since his alleged death by a local man nearby?

Good questions! And most probably one of the main reasons why what next transpires all comes into play when rat's suddenly fall out of the sky. As more Doctors die - a fishy Inspector does sigh - Vesalius has a quick cry - and at the end of the day, where oh where is that pale-faced bad guy?

Honest to God. Whilst watching 'The Abominable Dr. Philbes', in my mind I couldn't help but compare it to a live-action version of a Saturday morning cartoon show, as if it were made by a drug-addled bohemian with an itch to scratch. Well, if you look at it on face-value, the set-designs are very blaze and pronounced in that very overt manner -- with the deep plush purples and the bright bold reds, all on display like a sixties inspired Turkish harem. And in addition to this, you have the bumbling inspector, the straight forward murder mystery, as well as the silent yet surrealist segways added for good measure.

Vincent Price and Terry Thomas in The Abominable Dr. Phibes
Just try to think of this flick as the 'Inspector Clouseau' cartoon from back in the day: just replace the Pink Panther with a piano playing Hannibal Lecter, before replacing the animators with someone like Tim Burton.

Please note: This isn't a bad thing, folks. In my opinion this is a very-very watch-able movie. And I did like it's 'how does the bad guy kill his next victim' vibe running through-out it. Moreover, it was a blast to see how the overall narrative enveloped a scene at a time, without making the obvious plot-line seem too obvious by default.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes Movie PosterHere, before I get too carried away with myself, let's have some related filmic facts, shall we? (1) If you live in America: 'American International Pictures' released this film. Yet if you live in England: 'Anglo-EMI Film Distributors Limited' released this film. Both on the same day though. The 18th of May, 1971 (2) The famed stalwart of 'Hammer House', Peter Cushing, turned down the role of Vesalius in this movie, because his wife, Violet Helen Beck, was very seriously ill at the time. On a side note: Violet died whilst this film was being made. (3) 'The Writers Guild' confirmed that William Goldstein and James Whiton wrote the original screenplay for this project, although it has been alleged that the director of this piece, Robert Fuest, did most of the leg-work himself. (4) In the original script, Phibes was shown to be very cruel to Vulnavia; resulting in him stabbing her to death before escaping from a burning building. However, just to make Phibes appear more sympathetic as a character, this sequence was eventually removed from the final product, plus the notion that Vulunvia himself was another 'clockwork device'. (5) Did you know that the name 'Vesalius' derives from the founder of modern-day anatomy, Doctor Andreas Vesalius? (6) This horror classic spawned a sequel a year after it was made: 'Dr. Phibes Rises Again', in 1972. Furthermore, more movies were planned after that, such as: 'Dr. Phibes in the Holy Land', 'The Brides of Phibes', 'Phibes Resurrectus' and 'The Seven Fates of Dr. Phibes'. But for some unknown reason none of them were ever cast onto celluloid. (7) Not only was this film advertised as the 100th film starring Vincent Price, but his make-up artists had to reapply his time-consuming make-up again and again and again, because Vincent kept on laughing at himself whilst looking at his face in the mirror. (8) For no apparent reason what so ever, the horror starlet, Caroline Munro -- who plays the glamorous wife of Doctor Phibes in this film -- wasn't given a screen credit.

Vincent Price in The Abominable Dr. Phibes
Alight. So where was I? Oh, yes. 'The Abominable Dr. Philbes'. What a great film, huh? Granted, I don't think that it would be everybody's cup of tea. The humor is rather dark in places. Plus some of the operatic interludes are of the acquired taste also. Yet, in the same breath, the overall tone of this story is rather refreshing compared to your more modern day slice of cinema. Plus it is well acted, well staged, and well constructed for an adventure of this era.

As I said previously, try to think of this movie as a live action cartoon, and you pretty much know what to expect from it. Also, for you British nostalgia buffs out there, there are many-many-many old-school greats in this film for you to spot. All of them strutting their stuff, and keeping their memory alive, in a very timely manner.

Vincent Price Plays A Tune in The Abominable Dr. Phibes

Nuff said.  


THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES Reviewed by David Andrews on April 16, 2013 Rating: 5
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