Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972)
Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972)

Genre: Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 29 min.

Release Date: June 1st, 1972 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Robert Fuest Actors: Vincent Price, Robert Quarry, Peter Cushing, Beryl Reid, Valli Kemp, Peter Jeffrey, Fiona Lewis, Hugh Griffith, Terry-Thomas, John Cater

 


 

A

s the narrator explains, the legends about the abominable Dr. Anton Phibes (Vincent Price) are all true. After having taken revenge against a group of surgeons (by murdering them in amazingly ghastly fashions), he enshrined himself in a crypt next to the perfectly preserved body of his deceased wife, Victoria Regina Phibes. Three years later, through some sort of black magic and ingenious machinery, Phibes rises again, unexplainably reversing the effects of his outrageous self-embalming.

Now in search of resurrection for his wife and eternal life for them both, Phibes summons a reincarnation of his assistant Vulnavia (Valli Kemp) to retrieve a papyrus map from his safe. But he’s shocked to find that his mansion has been reduced to rubble and the artifact removed, forcing him to seek out Darrus Biederbeck (Robert Quarry), a cold, cruel scholar who uses the representation himself to interpret the location of a pharaoh’s tomb – and the powerful River of Life secreted beneath. Fiancee Diana Trowbridge (Fiona Lewis) and associate Harry Ambrose (Hugh Griffith) are to accompany Darrus on his journey to Egypt, which is nearly ruined when Phibes steals back the map. Undeterred – and harboring a dark secret of his own – Biederbeck nevertheless charters a voyage to northeast Africa, coincidentally on the very same ship as Phibes.

In that familiar, wildly unusual blend of horror and comedy seen in “The Abominable Dr. Phibes,” characters are offed in orchestrations that are both gruesome and laughable. A manservant tackles a mass of snakes, only to be killed by a seemingly innocuous phone instead; a man washes up on shore in a seven-foot glass bottle; and an archaeologist is pecked to death by a vicious bird. Overtly more idiotic, the formula is still roughly the same, with innocent victims enduring elaborate demises at the hands of the ruthless doctor. But the repetition isn’t nearly as amusing and the change in scenery does little for his recurrent endeavors (save for a sequence with an army of scorpions that crawl across a pitiful soul’s torso and face, and the rapid aging of a visage – which would be done to a far more outstanding degree in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”). The further adventures of Dr. Phibes is, perhaps, a storyline that can’t be revisited so quickly and carelessly if it is to accomplish the same entertainment value as before.

“You cannot threaten the dead with death!” Made just a year after the original film, this immediate sequel is notably sillier, embracing the comedy components far more than the horror. It’s all unabashedly funnier, even when it comes to the violence and the rituals. The costumes and sets are still grand, however, while Phibes’ robotic stage band (the Clockwork Wizards and, separately, the Alexandrian Quartet) is somehow reconstructed and brought with him to a fresh yet recognizable lair – as if both his complex mechanical puppets and his headquarters could be easily disassembled and put back together again for convenient transportation.

“It’s Phibes all right, sir; and he always comes back.” Bumbling Inspector Trout (Peter Jeffrey) and his brusque superintendent (John Cater) also return (as well as Caroline Munro as the body of the dead wife), along with Terry-Thomas and Hugh Griffith in completely different roles. The whole project has become something of a parody of itself, refusing to take anything seriously and dispensing with the macabre severity from before. As a result, it’s slower, blander, less focused, less creative, and missing a great deal of the eerie charm of the previous picture.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10