‘The Abominable Dr Phibes’ is a huge amount of fun – cool, camp, funny, inventive, brilliantly realised, great cast, nice music (by Basil Kirchin), lots of death.
It's 1925, and the reliably magnificent Vincent Price is Anton Phibes: doctor, world class organist, inventor, aesthete and, since the terrible car accident that the rest of the world believes killed him, a hideously disfigured psychotic criminal mastermind. Phibes accident was caused by his rushing to be at his seriously sick wife’s side – he never made it and, unfortunately, she died on the operating table. Crazed by grief, Phibes vows to take bloody revenge against the eight doctors and a nurse he holds responsible, even though there is no actual evidence that they were to blame.
Phibes is, of course, no common murderer, and he brings his peculiar genius to bear on the business of dispatching his enemies, getting Old Testament on their collective arses, re-interpreting the Ten Plagues of Egypt in a series of gruesome, clever killings that knock off the team one by one by one…
You’ll get a flavour from the screen shots below of the sort of ways Phibes gets even, with bees, bats, frogs and a unicorn making telling and deadly appearances.
‘The Abominable Dr Phibes’ was directed by Robert Fuest, an under-rated talent whose star burned brightly for a short time in the late sixties and early seventies. Fuest had honed his campy, poppy style on ‘The Avengers’ (he also directed ‘And Soon The Darkness’), and the two Phibes films (yes, there’s a sequel!), and his adaptation of Michael Moorcock’s first Jerry Cornelius book, ‘The Final Programme’, show his emerging genius for interesting, stylish and skewiff genre cinema.
Sadly, Fuest suffered a nervous breakdown during the tense production of ‘Dr Phibes Rises Again’ (the sequel! Coming soon!), and avoided major productions thereafter. It’s a real shame, as not only did his illness deprive us of a unique talent, but also several more planned Phibes sequels.