Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Phull Price

Carrying on in the Vincent Price vein, The Abominable Dr. Phibes/Dr. Phibes Rises Again! (1971/1972).

Vincent Price is Dr. Phibes, a talented musician whose face was ruined in an accident, the same accident that killed his wife (Caroline Munro). He is hiding out in his London mansion with his wife's corpse (well-preserved of course), while plotting to kill the doctors that failed to save her life. He spends his time with his animatronic ragtime band, with the Dr. himself on theater organ. There he sits, cloaked in a dark cape, gesturing majestically while playing roller-rink music. Everybody skate!

He is assisted in his crimes by the lovely and silent Vulnavia (Virginia North). I'm not sure, but I think she is a robot like his band. Anyway, she loves to do a slow go-go dance before or after a gruesome murder.

And what murders! There were nine doctors and a nurse operating on Ms. Phibes, so the Dr. will kill each based on the ten biblical plagues of Egypt. Very loosely based, unless one of the plagues involves having a spike come out of the telephone, into your ear and out the other one.

There are some great character actors among the victims, including Terry-Thomas and Van Johnson. Phibes is tracked by police detective Trout (Peter Jeffrey). The production is gloriously silly and campy, with great rolling monologues from Price - delivered through a gramophone gadget plugged into his neck because he can't open his mouth. He is backed up by the swirling Vulnavia. The sets are Art Deco by way of Op Art. It is glorious.

Dr. Phibes Rises Again! is more of the same. This time, the Dr. and his good wife/corpse travel to Egypt to find the river of life buried beneath an ancient tomb, that Phibes has decorated like a Deco theater lobby, and installed his organ. His nemesis is Robert Quarry, an unscrupulous scholar who stole Phibes' map. Phibes has to kill Quarry's whole team, this time with an Egyptian mythology theme, hawks, scorpions, cobras, etc. Everything is just a cuckoo, or maybe more so.

In some ways, Phibes seems to have inherited some characteristics of his role in House of Wax: The burns, the immobile face, the waxworks figures and clockwork orchestra. In some ways, he is just that mad Vincent Price, having a ball. This isn't really scary, although some of it is pretty gruesome, but it's a lot of fun.

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