DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

 
ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES, THE (director: Robert Fuest; screenwriters: James Whiton/William Goldstein; cinematographer: Norman Warwick; editor: Tristam V. Cones; music: Basil Kirchin/Jack Nathan; cast: Vincent Price (Dr. Anton Phibes), Peter Jeffrey (Inspector Trout), Joseph Cotten (Dr Versalius), Virginia North (Vulnavia), Norman Jones (Sergeant Tom Schencley), John Cater (Waverly), Terry-Thomas (Dr Longstreet), Susan Travers (Nurse Allan), Caroline Munro (Mrs. Victoria Phibes), Peter Gilmore (Dr. Kitaj), Hugh Griffith (Rabbi); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Ronald S. Dunas/Louis M. Heyward; MGM Home Entertainment; 1971-UK)

"The insane storyline is just what you would expect from a deliriously appealing Vincent Price horror flick."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Former art director Robert Fuest stylishly directs this cult, campy, tongue-in-cheek, graphic horror flick, for cheapie studio AIP, using Art Deco sets fashioned from the Roaring Twenties. It's a lot of fun, though at times just plain sickening. Vincent Price magnificently plays revenge minded Dr. Anton Phibes, a genius organist and biblical scholar who takes it so bad his gorgeous young wife died on the operating table that he unleashes the ten curses of Pharaoh on the medical staff he holds responsible. As explained by a rabbi, they were curses directed to the tyrant by the enslaved Hebrews before the Exodus. The curses include the following: an attack of bats, an attack of bees, hail used in a novel way, locusts set in a room of a sleeping nurse, a killer frog mask, the draining of blood (the doctor played by Terry-Thomas is the vic), rats, beasts that impale, the death of the first born and darkness. Within a period of 14 days seven of those involved in the death of the homicidal maniac's wife are found victimized in bizarre deaths according to the curse. Bumbling Scotland Yard Inspector Trout (Peter Jeffrey) discovers that Phibes perhaps didn't die in a traffic accident while returning from the Swiss Alps to attend his wife's funeral as assumed. Together with the chief surgeon of the operation, Dr Versalius (Joseph Cotten), they try to trap the seemingly invincible madman before he kills all ten. 

The outrageous set art design piece has Phibes adorned in a black plastic cowl as he's hunched over a Hammond organ he's furiously playing in his spacious London house. The disfigured Phibes, wearing a rubber mask, intently goes about committing these gruesome murders until at last foiled by Versalius. Phibes's a living corpse who ingenuously invents a way to talk through a tube inserted in his neck and conjures up his deceased wife (Caroline Munro) to aid him in his revenge. Price's makeup, created by Trevor Crole-Rees, is a piece of work. 

The film's main problem is the uninspired directing, which fails to utilize the novel theme in all its potential. But the superb acting by Price, Cotton, and the fine supporting cast make for a pleasurable watch. The insane storyline is just what you would expect from a deliriously appealing Vincent Price horror flick. 

REVIEWED ON 1/23/2006        GRADE: B+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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