Film Review: The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

Also known as: Dr. Phibes (promotional title), The Curse of Dr. Phibes (Yugoslavia)
Release Date: May 18th, 1971
Directed by: Robert Fuest
Written by: William Goldstein, James Whiton, Robert Fuest
Music by: Basil Kirchin
Cast: Vincent Price, Joseph Cotton, Peter Jeffrey, Virginia North, Hugh Griffith, Caroline Munro

American International Pictures, 94 Minutes

Review:

“A brass unicorn has been catapulted across a London street and impaled an eminent surgeon. Words fail me, gentlemen.” – Waverley

Being that I haven’t seen either Dr. Phibes movie in at least a dozen years, I forgot how funny this film is. It’s not overly comedic, “ha ha” funny, it’s just very cheeky and dry in a uniquely British way.

The film stars the legendary Vincent Price but instead of having him star alongside another horror legend or B-movie leading man, he actually stars alongside the great Joseph Cotton, who is a legend in his own way, especially due to his stupendous work with one of the greatest cinematic visionaries that ever lived, Orson Welles.

The film is also filled with some recognizable British character actors of the time but it is also worth mentioning that the mesmerizing and perfect Caroline Munro is in this. However, she plays Phibes’ deceased wife and is only really seen in photographs and as a corpse.

Phibes also has a female assistant, played by Virginia North, and she is pretty damn good in this up to her terrible, painful end.

The plot is about a madman who has been disfigured by acid. Beyond that, he wants revenge against the nine men he deems responsible for his wife’s death on the operating table. In order to exact revenge, Phibes murders the men in very elaborate ways that are inspired by The Ten Plagues of Egypt. Watching each of these play out is really cool.

The film itself is also visually stunning, as it employs an art deco style with vibrant colors that almost resemble an Italian giallo film. It’s an opulent and vivid looking picture and mixing that with the elaborate murders makes these come across as more high brow and artistic that Price’s typical movies made by American International.

On top of that, Price is superb in this film and it is one of his best and most iconic performances.

Ultimately, this is a damn fine horror picture for its day. It’s creative, alluring and strangely enchanting in spite of its dark subject matter.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: its sequel, as well as other ’60s and ’70s Vincent Price movies.

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