The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) Poster

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Tongue-in-cheek horror and lots of Art Deco...
Charles-3131 August 1999
This film would have probably been horrible had they taken themselves seriously. Fortunately, they didn't and, consequently, created a fascinating and entertaining festival of murder, revenge, and Art Deco set design. Vincent Price is Phibes, a brilliant organist and acoustic expert who's wife dies during an operation. He seeks to avenge her death by killing all 9 members of the operating team in creative and extravagant ways. You know the murders will take place, but you're fascinated at how they are done. It's like watching a master at work and all of the murders are works of art. By the end of the movie you'll find yourself rooting for Phibes.

Price is at his best at Phibes. Phibes requires a machine to speak, so Price is effectively miming to the dialog, but he does it so well. The performance of Virginia North as the silent, yet deadly, Vulnavia is particularly interesting. She plays the murderer's sidekick and is always beautiful and mysterious.

One of the most wonderful elements of this film is the Art Deco set and costume design. Every scene just oozes with elegance.

This is one of my favorite movies of all time. No, it's not Gone With the Wind, but it's fun and fascinating just the same, sort of a candy movie. I highly recommend it.
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A masterpiece
naltimari10 January 2005
Calling this 'Horror' does not make it justice. I wouldn't call it 'movie', either, but 'film'. It's pure art. The sets and art direction are incredible, the whole movie shows the 'aura' of 1920's Art Deco, giving it that 'classy' touch. The script is also very original, and there's even room in it for lots of laughs, without sacrificing style or rhythm. Vincent Price is PERFECT as Phibes, as the other reviewer just said. He IS Phibes, and succeeds where others would probably fail miserably, fitting in perfectly in the 'tone' of the movie. Great direction by Robert Fuest, also. He managed to mix the perfect amount of horror, drama, romance and comedy in a single movie.
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An Old-Fashioned Love Story
BaronBl00d22 July 2001
Vincent Price plays a "dead" man avenging the surgical team that lost his wife on the operating table. Nine doctors in all(one of them a nurse) are treated to nine of the most innovative, creative, outlandish deaths imaginable. The deaths loosely follow the Ten Plagues of the Old Testament, but each with a new twist. The film is an exercise in witty, stylish black comedy seldom seen today. Much of the credit MUST go to director Robert Fuest for his vision of something truly unique: a world in the 1920's with clockwork musicians, 20's music, and beautiful sets and costumes. Price gives one of his best performances in a role that barely utilizes his greatest attribute, his voice. Price relies heavily on movement and facial expressions, and does so wonderfully. The cast is superb with British stalwarts adorning the film all over. Terry-Thomas has a nice cameo as a Doctor Longstreet experiencing a blood donor's worst nightmare. Peter Jeffrey, a woefully under-appreciated actor, gives a fine comic performance as a policeman always on the spot a moment too late. Joseph Cotton does a credible job as the surgical leading physician. Aubrey Woods(wonderful..simply wonderful), Hugh Griffith, and John Cater also lend their talents to the supporting cast. Caroline Munro plays Price's dead wife as well. This film rejuvenated Price's career in the 70's. It is unique, poetic, haunting, and, for me the most important, very amusing. If you lack a sense of humour with regards to the world of the macabre, you might want to stay away from Phibes. It is a very dark, black comedy, yet one that is at its heart nothing more than a tragic love story of sorts.
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Dr. Phibes = horror like it should be
Coventry24 December 2003
There are several actors in cinema that give away terrific performances all the time...No matter what role their cast in, they're always believable and impressive. But then, even beyond that, there are some actors who're just BORN to play certain role!! And that's the theory could be stated by Vincent Price in the Abominable Dr. Phibes. It's impossible to imagine this mad murderer being played by anyone else. Price IS Dr. Phibes and he makes the most of his role here. A truly powerful and fascinating performance that yet has to find its equal. Even if you're not into horror, I would recommend The Abominable Dr. Phibes if it were only for really is an acting job every self-respected fan of cinema should acknowledge.

But The Abominable Dr. Phibes is much more than just a 'tour-de-force' by Price. It stands as one of the most entertaining and original horror movies ever made. It's an innovating movie in every way you look at it and - like none other - it passed the test of time. The film is over 30 years now and it still looks refreshing and extremely cool. To me personally, the single title also sums up several reasons to proof that horror is the most powerful genre in cinema. First and foremost, it brings together two types of cinema that are hard to amalgamate. Face it, the basic plot of Dr. Phibes is a love-story and a tale about how to deal with the loss of a loved one...Much more than a ravenous psychopath, Dr. Phibes is a hurt romanticist! Secondly - and most teachers will deny this - Dr. Phibes is an educational film!! I guess we've all learned about the Biblical Plagues that overcame the Pharaoh in school, but it'll be much more easy to number and memorize them after you've seen this film. You might even say The Abominable Dr. Phibes is a valuable history lesson. And finally, this movie really proofs to me that horror is the "underdog"-genre in cinema. Do you remember how the plot of Se7en impressed the whole world when it came out in 1995? Both critics and audiences called it innovating, dared and highly original...but were the true horror fans impressed as much? I don't think so because the basic principles the killer in Se7en uses are just a pale tribute to the methods Dr. Anton Phibes employed.

Anyway...I start to sound way too dedicated in my love towards the genre. Basically, what I mean is: The Abominable Dr. Phibes is a perfect horror film and perhaps even one of the most entertaining cinema experiences you'll ever have. Especially when it's your first viewing, Dr. Phibes will be a satisfying purchase. It's a refreshing horror film with adorable British humor and solid acting and directing. The whole thing is just a chain of brilliant sequences. Almost impossible to determinate a few highlights...the entire movie is one HUGE highlight!!
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Vincent Price was born to play this role! Camp, surreal, with lots of black humour, this is one of the most entertaining movies I've ever seen.
Infofreak10 November 2003
Vincent Price bashers accuse him of being a ham. Now Price was capable of restrained performances, just have a look at 'Witchfinder General', but sometimes his hilarious over the top style perfectly suited the material. This is definitely the case with 'The Abominable Dr. Phibes', which could well be his most entertaining movie. The film was directed by Robert Fuest, who had previously been a writer and art director for 'The Avengers', and it shares a similar camp sensibility, with lots of black humour and some deliciously surreal touches. Price was born to play this role! Later there was a sequel (good), and an attempt to recreate the approach with 'Theatre Of Blood' ( for me, a bit of a disappointment), but the original Phibes is easily the best. Price is supported by a strong cast, including Joesph Cotton (who made 'Baron Blood' with Mario Bava around this period), Terry-Thomas, and Peter Jeffrey ('If...'). Cult fans will also get a kick when they see who plays Phibes wife (uncredited): Caroline Munro ('Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter', 'Maniac', 'Faceless'). 'The Abominable Dr. Phibes' is one of the most entertaining movies I've ever seen. If you haven't seen it before then you are in for a real treat!
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One of the greatest of the Great
Gislef9 July 1999
This is one of Vincent Price's performance, and perhaps even his best (although Theatre of Blood is very close). Where to start...? The clever writing (which was lost in the sequel) revolving around Phibes' method of execution, based on the Biblical plagues of Moses. The grim-faced unstoppability of Phibes. Joseph Cotton in one of his best post-60's roles, here perfectly in character as a god-like doctor (particularly in the final operation sequence).

There's also the Art Deco set design which many have oohed and ahhed over in here and elsewhere.

The British cops are a bit too humorous, and there's not really a lot of background here. But the movie is a good example of the "Tales of the Crypt" macabre revenge line, with Phibes' scarred visage standing in for the Ghoul or the Crypt Keeper. Most of the doctors we see (particularly Terry-Thomas) are just the kind of elite arrogant snobs that so often got their one-uppance in such anthologies.

In any case, I would definitely recommend this movie. It's not really a "horror" movie, but more of a "grotesque serial killer" type flick in the lines of stuff like Se7ven.
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An ingenious horror classic
The_Void22 December 2004
The Abominable Dr Phibes has achieved quite a cult status among horror fans, and for good reason; as this is one of the finest pieces of camp horror ever produced. The villain at the centre of the film - Dr Phibes - is one of horror cinema's true villainous masterpieces. Unlike many of the not very well thought out villains that we see all too much of today, Dr Phibes is well-rounded concoction of evil. He has his reasons for killing - revenge, his killings certainly aren't boring by any stretch of the imagination and even the man himself IS horror, as he's a horrifically scarred madman that can only talk through use of a microphone connected to his throat. He surrounds himself with horrid looking camp items and has no care whatsoever for his fellow man. However, despite all these bad points that the man has - we are still able to care for his plight somewhat. Phibes isn't someone that just kills for the fun of it; he's distraught over the loss of his beloved, which puts the audience in a strange situation as we have decide whether or not there is a human being beyond this malicious facade. This madman is played by Vincent Price - who else? Price was born for this role and he makes it his own. Price embeds himself on your mind with this performance and it's impossible to imagine anyone else playing Dr Phibes; and that is a sign of a great actor. Price has played many roles in the style of this character, but this is his best and I'd even go as far as to say that this is the quintessential Price performance.

The plot of The Abominable Dr Phibes follows the man of the title as he gets revenge on the doctors that he believes killed his wife after she was fatally injured in a tragic car accident (the same accident that got Phibes his own injuries). However, Phibes doesn't want to get his revenge by any normal means. Guns, knives, axes etc are alien to this man, as he decides to take his revenge in the style of the ten deadly plagues of Egypt. The deaths scenes are ingenious to say the least, with the death in the style of the seventh plague being a particular highlight, which is sure to delight everyone that sees it. The film isn't entirely serious, and is keen to make fun of it's delicious plot. Peter Jeffrey, who plays the bumbling Inspector Trout who is assigned to the case is the source of most of the comedy and steals every scene he's in. The comedy in the film is hilarious and provides a nice breather from macabre horror.

The Abominable Dr Phibes is most notable for it's extreme camp style and has been touted as the campest film ever made by some critics. There is a very good reason for this assessment, as anyone that views it will be able to clearly see; but The Abominable Dr Phibes is more than just a camp horror film. Beyond it's horrors, it's a heart-warming tale of how a man deals with losing a loved one and is actually quite touching because of this. Well, maybe not touching; but the theme of loss is definitely there!
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One of the greatest horror movies ever
g-zimmerman114 April 2004
Sheer terror doesn't get much more frightening than this. Scare-master Vincent Price plays a doctor who loses his voice in a car accident, but can still speak by way of an electronic device. He vows revenge on the nine doctors that were responsible for an unsuccessful surgery attempt on his wife, Victoria. He, along with his fiendish but sexy assistant Vulnavia (Virginia North), murder them one by one in such grotesque ways as draining one guy of all his blood, attacking a nurse with a swarm of locusts, and giving an attendee of a costume party a frog mask that becomes so tight around his neck that it snaps his head off. The sheer audacity of these grisly murders, along with Price's meticulous and methodical planning, make for a one-of a-kind scary experience.
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Creepy, Classy, Stylish and Fun
swayland78 October 2004
Warning: Spoilers

While it may sound like just another revenge story, The Abominable Dr. Phibes is actually a beautifully well-made film that turns a well-trodden formula into a cinematic feast of style.

The film opens with Phibes (Vincent Price) at a pipe organ, rising from the floor. We see him, covered entirely in black, wind up his peculiar animatronic band, the Clockwork Wizards, and dance with a fashionable young woman named Vulnavia (Virginia North). There are no words spoken by Phibes until much later in the film, and the young woman, while always at his side, never utters a single word. This lack of dialogue sets the tone for the film, one that elevates its simple plot by setting it against an elegant backdrop of malevolent innovation and high '60s fashion.

There is a dark beauty in Phibes' murders, both in their conception and cinematic presentation. One man is exsanguinated alive by Phibes. Bottle after bottle of his blood is placed neatly in a line on the mantle over the fireplace. Another man is killed during a masquerade ball, after he puts on Phibes' ornate but lethal frog mask. As the mask tightens around his neck, the camera's point-of-view shot is bathed in red before he falls down the stairs. Murder is seldom so beautifully performed.

Vincent Price, in his 100th film performance, plays Phibes with just the right combination of remorse and determination. Price doesn't emphasize the eccentric nature of the character - his actions do well enough on their own.

It's a delicious role for Price, performed partially behind masks or makeup, and without ever opening his mouth. Virginia North, as the beautiful screen nymph Vulnavia, may have no dialogue, but still manages to convey a screen presence. There are moments in the film where we'd really like to know more about her. In one scene without Phibes, she sits listening to the Clockwork Wizards while smoking a cigarette. The scene doesn't move the plot forward, but does make us wonder what on earth she's thinking, and how she came to be involved with Phibes. Her affiliation and loyalty to the mad doctor are never explained.

Director Robert Fuest, a veteran of the long-running British TV series The Avengers, demonstrates a keen eye for exquisite composition and cinematic staging with The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Fuest's scenes often convey great depth of action, sometimes plot-driven, sometimes not. In one scene, two doctors are talking in an elevator, concerned that Phibes has infiltrated the hospital. As they leave, we see Vincent Price in the background. Other shots of multi-layered action are more aesthetically driven. When Price is at the masquerade ball watching the doctor in the frog mask, his close-up reaction contains a chandelier in the extreme foreground. And when Vulnavia stands in a field watching a plane crash, there are flowers in the extreme foreground. This is just one way Fuest brings elegance to the macabre subject matter. Another is in his use of clean, symmetrical compositions. Generally rare in film, symmetrical framing usually infers a psychological interpretation, here reflecting Phibes' neatness, order, and precision.

The soundtrack is another powerful element at play in the film. Basil Kirchin's original score stems organically from the Phibes character. Since Phibes was a concert organist before his untimely demise, an organ features prominently in the film. The Clockwork Wizards play an eclectic array of tunes, from moody blues to soaring romantic band music, but always with an otherworldly twist. Kirchin also uses electronic sounds, music boxes, and operatic vocals. The cumulative effect of this potpourri approach is a musical representation of Phibes himself - classically trained, passionate, and dangerous.

The film concludes by suggesting Phibes may strike again (as indeed he does in an inferior sequel). The film cuts to black, indicating that perhaps the audience is Dr. Phibes' final victim, put to rest by a Clockwork Wizards' rendition of "Over the Rainbow" that accompanies the closing credits.

Well, if we have to go, at least we go in style. - Scott Schirmer
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Vincent Price At His Best
rspress27 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
This Black comedy and it sequel "Dr. Phibes Strikes Again" show that campy horror films can be high art as well. Even more recent horror films like se7en owe a lot to this film.

Not only can this film be gruesome but campy and artsy at the same time. Prices over the top voice acting is made all the more eerie because of the fact he does not actually speak in the movie. He used his knowledge of acoustics to make devices to speak for him. To speak he plugs devices into his neck.....he also uses the same hole in his neck to drink. Price used this to good effect as during the speaking parts he moves his neck and throat muscles like he was actually speaking. Vulnavia played by Virginia North is equally weird as she does not speak as well and has many elaborate costume changes and "dance" numbers. Since these films were made in 1971 and the sequel in 1972 you do have to wonder if drugs had anything to do with the films....were they made for the drug taking public? In any case this is the pinnacle of the British horror film genre. So often the British did such bad things to the genre....they reclaim a lot of glory with these two films.

Most of the humor in the film come from inspector trout of Scotland Yard. Most of the other characters are basically fodder for Prices revenge, revenge for his late wife's operation that left her dead and Price disfigured.

No true horror film fan can truly be called that unless they see these two films. It should also be required viewing for directors and producers of todays horror films. If you have a chance catch both films if you can. If the local video store does not have them they are often shown on cable channels like Flix and AMC, netflix should have them as well. They are consider cult classic so chances are good that you will be able to find them somewhere.
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Campy cult classic with perfect performance...
dwpollar11 December 2004
1st watched 12/11/2004 - 7 out of 10(DIr-Robert Fuest): Campy cult classic with perfect performance and role by Vincent Price who does most of the job through his facial expressions and presence. The story revolves around a dead-like "Dr. Phibes" playing his organ, directing music, dancing and ceremoniously killing off the surgeons who failed to fix his wife after a car accident. He uses the Pharoah's curses as the basis for each killing and he inventively makes each one unique and grins and even applauds himself after one demise. Some subtle British humor is also thrown in for extra but all that's needed with this one is Price and this role to make it classic horror-camp.
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Vincent Price is top-notch as disfigured and demented revenger Doctor Phibes
ma-cortes8 October 2010
Horrifying and genuinely frightening movie that impacted really during the seventies with great main and supporting cast of Britain's best . Well made horror movie full of black humor and a bit of gore where numerous people meet horrible deaths by a despicable avenger named Doctor Phibes (exceptional Vincent Price), causing wreak havoc and bizarre murders wherever he goes . A series of grisly killings are happening and Police (Peter Jeffreys) is investigating the deeds , as several of the roles come to a sticky final . Dr Phibes goes on his quest to avenge his beloved wife (Caroline Munro in photograph ) . After being disfigured in a car crash , Phibes decides to seeks revenge against the members of a surgical team (whose chief is Joseph Cotten) and he seems to dispatch new weird death , committing inventive crimes and killing every few minutes of the movie with the assistance of his lovely companion ( a delectable Virginia North).

Camp terror movie with charismatic performance of excellent protagonists , Vincent Price and Joseph Cotten , and all around with special mention to Peter Jeffrey as intelligent Inspector . Vincent is excellent as master of menace , the picture is specifically devoted to the particular talents of Price. Vincent continued to play various films in similar style shot at England as ¨Theatre of blood¨ , ¨Madhouse¨ , and the following ¨Dr Phibes rises again¨ . Terry Thomas also have a splendid time in this vivid flick of a doctor's vendetta . The chief excitement lies in seeing what new and amazing victim can be dreamt by the campy effects, in fact, the murders parallel those in the Biblical plagues . The movie's intelligence , adequate Fx , rare score, luxurious photography all combined to make it a 70s horror classic and its influence cannot be overstated . Colorful cinematography by Norman Warwick and modernist production design in Art Nouveau or Decó style . This delightful motion picture is well produced by American International -James H Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff- and compellingly directed by Robert Fuest . This is a top-drawer black horror with a strong genre cast should the terror fans'attention . It's followed by a good sequel titled ¨Dr Phibes rises again¨ again by Robert Fuest and Vincent Price in which Phibes attempts to revive his beloved wife and going on vengeance on those he thinks responsible for her death .
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Why Dr Phibes is an important gothic fantasy in early 70s horror
na0719 May 2003
Warning: Spoilers

I like gothic horror movies. Whilst Hammer and Amicus fought off denizens from the beyond the grave, director Robert Fuest and Vincent Price made a truly remarkable double-bill of movies concerning the machinations of hideously disfigured musician/theologist, Anton Phibes, and his quest for revenge, re-vivification and immortality.

The plot of 'Abominable' is an ingenious reworking of Jacobean revenge tragedy played out within literally Biblical proportions, as Phibes merrily dispatches the surgeons who let his wife die on the operating table.

Of course, this being a Vincent Price movie, we know that just around the corner is hammy and camp humour. Yet, it is in the playing of this - along with it's absolutely sensational cast of eclectic British actors (yes, and Joseph Cotton, too!) - that lifts the movie from the mundanities of early 70s horror to the heights of delirious 'knowing' horror (which today would be insultingly called 'postmodern'). That the cast all enter into the ghoulish, gleeful playing of things allows the movie to enter into hitherto unexplored regions of horror. That is, the exploration of grisliness combined with a tongue in cheek playfulness that allows the narrative to be propelled by a series of outstanding and inventive deaths that, even today, remain as ingenious as ever.

The movie also benefits from the sensational production design. Brian Eatwell's marvelous art-deco sets look incredibly expensive (they weren't!) and the Roaring Twenties is perfectly captured by director, Fuest. His often striking use of camerawork sets the mise-en-scene to work in enveloping the viewer in a truly bizarre world. One only has to look at the framing of the giant Phibes set with the mad Doctor literally raising from the dead to wind up his clockwork band of puppets to see that this is no ordinary horror movie.

Whilst Hammer were content to recycle old themes (albeit very well), and Amicus explored anthology stories, AIP made the film. Yet, the film is quintessentially British in tone. It has a welcome dose of graveyard humour, the actors are typically 'stiff-upper lipped' and the story, although possibly inspired by EC Comics, has a typically 'British' feel to it.

I cannot praise this movie enough. It is superbly ghoulish fun and recommended for people who want more than modern horrors can ever hope to give an audience.
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If you like this, you will love RAIMI's DARKMAN
Gulag-212 December 2001
Phibes is a very cool character. He's not only a "mad doctor" at 100% but also one of the ultimate "bogey men". This guy is a genius, his mind is by far superior to everyone else's. At the same time, he's a psycho monster (disfigured and totally twisted) moved by "revenge". Phibes uses to hide himself into the darkness (he wears masks to reproduce his former human facade) and he's extremely...ehm... dangerous. There is a similar character. The unfogettable "DARKMAN", played by Liam Neeson and created by the evil mind of SAM RAIMI. Darkman is the definitive "bogey man", a disfigured psycho hero with unknown faculties, searching for revenge against his enemies who disfigured HIM. In the while, he can assume alternate identities with special syntethic skinned masks. In fact, he was a scientist, a genius. I advice YOU. Rent Phibes, then buy Darkman. You will be not disappointed by these two great heroes, surely the darkest movie characters in history. Both the movies are stunning Horror/action/adventure/drama/comedy mixs...please, don't miss them. Revenge is the medicine, of course.
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Wicked and ingenious
Maciste_Brother23 September 2003
I've recently "discovered" THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES, after avoiding it for so many years because of THEATRE OF BLOOD, which I absolutely hated and since the stories for both films resemble each other and that the star of both films is Vincent Price, I had no desire to see THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES. I finally bought a video of the film on eBay (for a buck) and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES is totally wicked and ingenious. It's the complete opposite of THEATRE OF BLOOD, which was nearly unwatchable. I love everything about DR PHIBES. There's almost nothing wrong with it. Everything is excellent: acting, script, set design, music, etc, are ALL top notch (for its low budget, of course). I can't tell you how much fun I had watching DR PHIBES go about killing his victims in morbid but ingenious ways, along with the help of his beautiful and funny assistant, Vulnavia, with everything culminating in a truly suspenseful climax and an ending that left me giggling and smiling. The whole concept is brilliant. If Stanley Kubrick had directed a horror/black comedy, this is probably how it would look like. The sardonic use of music (it's almost a musical). The wicked screenplay, aptly handled and which never crosses the line into all-out-comedy or all-out-horror. The memorable cast of characters (inspector Trout being my favorite). The timing and the tone of the film are near perfect. Only the occasional "mod" sensibilities seen here and there were incongruous with a story which set around the 1920s.

I've watched THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES four times since I received the video. The first viewing experience was, I admit, an experience filled with apprehension because as the film went along I thought it sorta looked too much like THEATRE OF BLOOD (but not as grubby, more colorful. I now realize TOB is a total rip-off) and it seemed slow and repetitive and wondered if it was going anywhere but slowly and surely, I gradually caught on with the film's wickedly fun atmosphere and by the time the film ended, I was totally knocked-out. PHIBES keeps getting better and better with each subsequent viewing.

This film has been riped off repeatedly these days with other horror films like SAW or even a non-horror films such as V FOR VENDETTA. It's truly mind-boggling how often other filmmakers have taken ideas from PHIBES. Also, I suspect Tim Burton was highly influenced by this flashy black comedy. It, at times, feels a lot like a Tim Burton film, but with an actual strong ending. All in all, I have to give THE ABOMINABLE DR PHIBES a 10.
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Somewhat Unfinished Warning: Spoilers
The Abominable Dr. Phibes shows signs of being rushed, or underdeveloped, its sequel even more so. The storyline shows such promise, and is certainly the ancestor of serial killer films such as Se7en and Saw. (The latter even employs the key imbedded in a living victim, originally imported from Phibes.) The decision in Se7en to utilize fewer murders (seven deadly sins vs ten plagues) is a wise one, since it leaves Se7en more time for character development, one of the weaknesses of Phibes.

A camp sensibility informs The Abominable Dr. Phibes, with the music, showtunes, Beardsley-esquire decor, costumes, and the presence of the voluptuous Vulnavia ( in whom Phibes has no interest whatsoever); his devotion to his wife Victoria notwithstanding, Phibes is one of the gayest characters Price ever played. Both Phibes films end with a rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," an unusual use of the tune that makes us feel further empathy for the tragic Dr. Phibes, monster though he seems to be.

The audience takes a fiendish delight in anticipating the fates of the victims, though it would have helped if we had been made to feel that they deserved it more. Terry-Thomas in particular takes delight in his role, tippling copiously and leering with relish at his Victorian equivalent of a porno film. Oddly, this makes us have more empathy with his character; one regrets his death more than that of the others, and for that, his exsanguination seems somewhat more compassionately and painlessly executed than the others. What Dr. Longstreet may have done to deserve this mercy, we are not informed.

The policemen investigating the murders develop into comic relief. It's possible the studio was modeling them on the success of another film series begun by A Shot in the Dark, whose investigator so completely took over the film series that in time, audiences forgot that the 'Pink Panther' was originally a coveted diamond in a suspense film originally intended to be about a celebrated thief (Arsene Lupin, anyone?) The police investigators in Phibes show evidence of possibly having been seasoned by producers in this way, hoping to add to the film's appeal with audiences.

The character of the one victim-to-be who is given a role in tracking down Dr. Phibes, Dr. Vesalius (Joseph Cotten) undergoes a transformation from an eccentric deeply absorbed in his model trains to the man possibly capable of stopping Phibes. The name his character is given, Vesalius, was probably intended to be based on Dr. Hesselius, a recurring character in J. Sheridan LeFanu's stories. Hesselius is employed as a sort of metaphysical expert in those stories, something of an antecedent to the Dr. Van Helsing of all the stories based on Stoker's Dracula. It's probable that Vesalius was intended to be an adversary of Phibes, more his equal than a hapless victim, but that this notion was never fully realized. It might explain Vesalius's easy recognition of Phibes's pattern, the G'tach (then again, he might just be Jewish). Having said what I've said about Vesalius, however, I'm rather glad that he was never developed into an arch adversary; it would have stood in the way of Phibes becoming an antihero of sorts in the second film. The second film completely refashions the character of Phibes from a madman bent solely on vengeance to a deeply maligned man with a definite positive goal, i.e. eternal life with his deceased wife Victoria in Elysia. We (the audience) are definitely meant to see Phibes as more deserving of attaining this goal than his adversary, the dislikeable Robert Quarry. Phibes's pronunciation of his assistant's name changes, from Vul-nah-via in the original, to Vul-nay-via in the sequel.

These sorts of inconsistencies in the storyline is likely a result of too many cooks spoiling the broth, together with a general rush to completion. One might wish to see Dr. Phibes redone, if only Vincent Price were still around to play him. He is irreplaceable.
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Moving, silent performance from Vincent Price in gorgeous black comedy.
the red duchess22 December 2000
This splendid black comedy has a virtually identical plot to a more celebrated Vincent Price classic of two years later, 'Theatre of Blood' - a cultivated and artistic madman, perceiving himself wronged (in this case, the failure of the medical profession to save his dying wife) sets out to systematically and elaborately revenge himself on those responsible - nine surgeons. As with the later film, the viewer is allowed the frisson of seeing all the revenges carried out until the last one, maximising pleasure and suspense.

In 'Blood', Price's revenges were inspired by Shakespearean plays performed by his actor-killer. Here, the pattern is more arcane, almost Borgesian - as he inflicts the ancient Biblical plagues on the Egyptians on his enemies - you know, locusts, hail, death of the first born, darkness and all that. There is rather less justification for this than in the later film - among his other intellectual achievements, Phibes has a PhD in theology, a somewhat less personal appropriation, especially as Phibes' quest is a potent mix of the Gothic and the Platonic, the desire for unity in death. Hence the patterns, the elaborate preparation, the painstaking execution, the ritual, the theatricality - as with 'Blood', these are all ways of trying deal with the most terrible and meaningless grief.

'Phibes' achieves a balance between the tragic and the comic that supposedly-more-serious films would envy. This is a very funny movie - the bulbous-nosed detective is called Trout, his head is a phlegmatic ass, his men meticulously inept; the revenges are delightful and inventive, my favourite being a Surreal masked ball, where a man is choked in a frog helmet, watched by bemused pigs, birds etc., although the locust one is pretty good.

The performances veer from the ripe to the comically earnest, while never slipping into sarcasm. There is an excellent cast of old favourites, including Joseph Cotten and Terry-Thomas, with Peter Jeffrey typically excellent as the harried Trout. The extraordinary set design, the futuristic apartments, the vast 'Phantom of the Opera'-like organ, playing not gloomy Romantic dirges but seaside cinema warm-ups, with accompanying plaster orchestra and solemn dancing rites; all co-existing with sharp early 70s realism to sometimes comic, sometimes unnerving effect.

But none of this distracts from Phibes' plight. Price's performance is one of his greatest, moving even when at his most ridiculous, a silent performance of great subtlety, matching the focus on action in the opening scenes. While all the other characters live vapid, self-obsessed, or quaintly lecherous lives, Phibes' great love, no matter how Poe-like and perverse, is magnificently ornate and not a little wicked.
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Maybe not the best movie of Price but still pretty good
Johan_Wondering_on_Waves17 October 2015
Warning: Spoilers
A movie that clearly is more about mystery and atmosphere than a character study. The story is pretty basic about a man calling himself Dr. Phibes (Vincent Price) who seeks revenge for the death of his wife and his own disfigurement. Though he cannot move his mouth he was clever enough to invent a machine that recreates his voice. Very nice setting where he lives with some great contrasts. He has his own private opera with organ and wax figures playing other instruments and a beautiful young lady (who I believe never says anything) occasionally playing violin or dancing. When one of the doctors who he holds responsible for his wife's death dies he symbolically burns the face of the wax image he created of them. Even though the killings are technically not by his hands he surely has a creative way of invoking them with 10 plagues from the Thora (Jewish) as his guide. Very creative indeed. Surely this has inspired later movies. With the operation scene in mind I had to think of the Saw movies. And the plagues might have been an inspiration for movies such as The Reaping while the killings also reminded me of the method that the killer in Seven was using. Very inspirational film indeed.
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a cult classic in every way.
ThrownMuse1 March 2007
Vincent Price plays Dr. Phibes, a man bent on seeking vengeance (of biblical proportions!) against each member of the surgical team that was operating on his wife when she died. I cannot express how much I adore this movie. It is an almost surreal, vicious (yet amusing) film with my favorite performance ever by Price. He plays Phibes as creepy and ruthless, but also sympathetic and poetic. That may translate as "hammy" to some, but I thought his performance was ace. The quirky set design, extravagant costumes, and Phibes' "band" and organ playing add to the playfully creepy tone. The murder sequences are surprisingly gruesome and wicked, making contemporary thrillers like "Seven" and "Saw" come across as not so original. And I cannot forget my favorite character, Phibes' lovely assistant, Vulnavia. She has to be one of the most eccentric characters I've seen: she doesn't speak, she wears elaborate dresses and headpieces, and she is often seen flitting across the dancefloor with Phibes or playing violin during the murder sequences. I'm not sure everyone would appreciate this movie, but it is definitely a favorite of mine.
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A must see for Vincent Price fans.
dwezel22 March 2001
Although categorized as a horror movie, it is, in reality, a dark comedy. The cast is outstanding, featuring Vincent Price as the title character, Terry-Thomas and Joseph Cotton as two doctors, and Virginia North as Phibes' mysterious silent assistant. The accent of the film is definitely on funny lines and expressions. Although not his best movie it's a must have for Vincent Price collectors.
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A truly unique artwork
mclaughlinconnor33814 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This Film was one of the most intriguing and interesting I have watched in years. I first encountered this movie one slow afternoon, with nothing else to watch. I was hooked about 1 minute into the film, It was that good, and whatever flaws it may have are vastly overshadowed by the positives.

I believe that the first thing worth noting is how the film looks, and it looks stunning in all of its eccentric marriage of 1920's Art-Deco and early 70's vibe. This might sound odd on this review, but trust me it looks beautiful (in an odd but compelling way) and only makes this film stand out from the pack of its contemporaries and even films today. Truly marvelous.

The story is sublime, and very original for its time. Of course, the idea of a man getting revenge on those who failed him may be a cliché today in many horror style movies (Err, the entire SAW series), but Phibes arguably was the birth of such an idea made over 30 years before the first SAW movie. Unlike in SAW, Phibes actually has clear motives from the get-go, and his reason for revenge is truly touching actually(His Wife died on the operating table and he blames it on the surgeons). I won't give the whole movie away, but I will mention that the methods of revenge are some of the best parts of the movie, using inspiration from the Old Testament to carry out some of the most creative kills ever.

The movie's ace card is undeniably the acting/dialogue. The role of Dr. Phibes is played by none other than the one and only Vincent Price, and his performance here (even though all of his dialogue was pre- recorded) proves just how irreplaceable the man truly was. Price went from campy, and actually rather humorous, to warm and sentimental, to ice-cold murderer sometimes in the same scene, handled with aplomb by the master. The facial expressions he pulls of sync perfectly with the solid dialogue pre-recorded (check out the scene where Phibes gives his first lamentation to his dead wife,- "Nine Eternities in Doom!" couldn't have been pulled off better by ANY other actor!. While Price is the greatest acting force here, Terry Thomas and Peter Jeffrey also have likable characters and do solid acting efforts as well. Even Joseph Cotten was not nearly as bad as everyone else says he was. Virginia North as Vulnavia may not have much to do and her character is unexplained, but she sure does look good, and same with Caroline Munro as Victoria Phibes who has even less to do (lie in a coffin), but is easily one of the most stunning actresses in the history of film.

The film is not without its flaws though,as sometimes the humor can get too silly for its own good, the pacing can occasionally slow, the sometimes shoddy SFX, and fact that some of the deaths are so OTT they are hard to believe.

None of this though affects Phibes' shining credentials. This film cannot really be pigeonholed. It is officially known as a horror film. It is not a horror, but it does contain some genuinely horrific scenes.

Sometiems it is called a comedy, though it is not really a comedy, though it does contain truly funny moments. It is even considered a romance movie by some, but i believe it is not a romance either, even though the pain that Phibes feels for his wife comes off as shockingly authentic, and translates well to the attentive viewer. The ending in particular is actually one of the most poignant and emotional in any film. The fact is, Phibes combines the best things about different types of genres, and largely it succeeds. I suggest to anyone sick of the mostly hackneyed garbage that is modern horror movies, to check out this little gem immediately. Better yet, anyone who loves film should see this at least once. You won't be disappointed.
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Murder With Style
stmichaeldet20 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
It's almost harder to review a personal favorite - where do you start? Phibes is a gorgeous visual feast (the director, Robert Fuest, was the man responsible for the look of TV's The Avengers), it features a commanding performance by Vincent Price as the title madman, the plot is over the top, yet never veers out of control, Peter Jeffrey (as Inspector Trout) provides wonderful comic relief, and Phibes racks up a body count that most Hollywood slashers would be envious of.

Price plays Dr. Phibes, a multidisciplinary genius (doctor, expert in acoustics, and clockwork-automaton maker, amongst other skills) who is horribly disfigured (or perhaps killed?) rushing back home to attend to his beloved wife during a dangerous operation. When she dies on the operating table, Phibes blames the surgical team, and begins picking them off one by one via complicated plots based around the biblical plagues of Egypt. Trout trips to the plan fairly early on, but is still unable to stop the killing, due to Phibes' diabolical intelligence and unstoppable will. It all comes together in Phibes' secret hideout where Phibes threatens the life of the chief surgeon's son with a fiendish puzzle.

Speaking of Phibe's secret hideout, I can say that it is the main visual joy of the film. Decorated in art-deco glory, filled with musical automatons, and graced with the presence of the ethereal, mute sidekick (robot?) Vulnavia (whose relationship to Phibes is never fully explained - he dances and dines with her as with a lover, but is devoted to his dead wife - but that inconsistency actually adds to the charm of the film instead of harming it).
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Vengeance Like the Wrath of God!
suspiria1026 April 2003
Vincent Price plays Dr. Phibes, a man hell-bent on getting revenge for the death of his beloved wife. Disfigured in a blazing car crash he seeks vengeance against the ten doctors than he holds responsible. A Price classic, he attacks the role with his usual grace and presence. This is a fun little revenge piece with a twist, he dispatches the doctors with the very plagues visited upon the pharaohs in the Old Testament. There is a lot of wit and banter on display with good direction and a clever script. Good fun. 7/10
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more often silly than sinister...
oneinfinity5 January 2003
more often silly than sinister, more of a curiosity than a classic. some very nice sets and moments where elements actually coalesce into something interesting, but i'd have to say this is not one of price's better films. made ten years after corman's poe adaptations, and even several years after rosemary's baby, this film lacks any real sophistication and intelligence. the plot often plods, and certain scenes just fail completely, yet the film has it's moments, just too few to make it really worth the investment of time to watch it. unless, of course, you are one of the many people that like their horror films to be a bit schlocky, in that case you might like it. not really my taste, hence 4 out of 10 stars.
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Not A Nice Man
AaronCapenBanner3 October 2013
Vincent Price is diabolically amusing as Dr. Anton Phibes, who is systematically murdering the nine doctors he blames for screwing up his wife's operation, resulting in her death. Phibes, a man of seemingly limitless resources, cunning, and patience, concocts a merciless scheme of using the ten biblical plagues to exact his vengeance, and though he is relentlessly pursued by the authorities, he always is one step ahead, leading to a self-created climax involving the playing of an organ and "Over The Rainbow"! Not to be taken seriously, film is a bit too grisly and violent to really work as a dark comedy, and too campy to work as straight horror, but nonetheless is a much remembered cult picture, and followed by a sequel.
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