Monday, October 26, 2020

Vincent Price Returns as Dr. Phibes

Vincent Price as Dr. Phibes.
When we last saw Dr. Anton Phibes (Vincent Price), he was laying beside his dead wife in an hidden chamber, his blood being replaced with a mysterious fluid. Three years later, the blood-exchange process is reversed and Dr. Phibes--now revived--is rejoined by his faithful female assistant Vulnavia.

To their dismay, they discover their house has been demolished and a valuable papyrus has been stolen. Dr. Phibes immediately suspects Darrus Biederbeck (Robert Quarry), a scientist who knows the papyrus is part of a map that leads to the River of Life. Phibes and Vulnavia steal the ancient fragment and head to Egypt, where Phibes plans to revive his dead wife and secure eternal youth.

Valli Kemp as Vulnavia.
Bieberbeck, who has cheated death for centuries, pursues them in hope of also finding the magical river that will extend his life. Along the way, Phibes dispenses with Bieberbeck's henchmen using methods inspired by Egyptian mythology (e.g., one man is stung to death by scorpions).

If you've seen The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), then this 1972 sequel will hold no surprises. Both films derive their dark humor from Price's campy performance and the diabolical, often ingenious, ways that Phibes disposes of his nemeses. The 1920s setting, which added novelty to the first film, is less effective the second time around. That's largely because most of the plot takes place around an Egyptian temple (recreated cheaply on a soundstage).

Price's supporting cast is also far less impressive in the sequel. Peter Cushing and Terry-Thomas add a little spark, but their appearances amount to no more than cameos. Robert Quarry, who proved to be a menacing vampire in Count Yorga, lacks the hubris that made Joseph Cotten a worthy villain in the first Phibes picture.

American International Pictures (AIP) considered making a series of the Dr. Phibes films with colorful titles like Dr. Phibes Ressurectus, Dr. Phibes in the Holy Land, The Son of Dr. Phibes, and The Seven Fates of Dr. Phibes. One sequel would have replaced Vincent Price with David Carradine in the title role! Fortunately, none of those films were made, for although Vincent Price is a delight as the revenge-minded protagonist, two Phibes flicks are more than enough.

Robert Quarry as the villain.
Robert Quarry has said in interviews that AIP signed him to a contract to eventually become Price's successor as the studio's top horror star. Allegedly, a reporter mentioned that to Price on the set of Dr. Phibes Rises Again, thereby creating a small rift between the actors. Still, they both went on to appear in Madhouse (1974), though it was also a boxoffice disappointment.

However, in between the Phibes films and Madhouse, Vincent Price starred in one of his most entertaining movies: Theatre of Blood (1973). He portrayed a Shakespearean actor--presumed dead--who seeks revenge on the critics that vilified him.


  1. This plays better when not seen in close proximity to the original. Tho the new Vulnavia seems to have wandered in from one of AIP's Beach Party movies....And it does close The Phibes' arc on a high note.AND allows VP to go full Judy Garland in the credits.

  2. It must have been fun to sit around coming up with those titles, but some movies should be left as their lone perfect selves, no sequels required.

  3. I need to mention two actors who appear in both Phibes movies, representing (sort of) the Forces of Good.
    I'll have to look at the films again to get the characters's names (darndarndarndarndarn), but the actors are Peter Jeffrey (the plodding detective who does most of the work) and John Cater (his superior, who is an idiot).
    Cater figures more in the sequel, where he puts himself in charge of things; as you might expect, he screws everything up royally, and Jeffrey has to keep yanking him back on course.
    The Phibes sequel does contain one of my all-time favorite dialogue exchanges, which I'm frankly surprised hasn't been used frequently over the years:

    (Heated exchange over a theory of Cater's):
    Cater:"I don't think - I KNOW!"
    Jeffrey: "I don't think you know either, sir ..."

    Hey, I liked it ...

    1. That dialogue was older than Phibes' papyrus. Better was
      "What kind of fiend are you ?

      "The kind that wins..."

      There's am Avengers ep called Games which is practically a Phibes blueprint. With Jeffries as the mastermind. Directed by Fuest.