“The Abominable Dr Phibes” and it’s sequel “Dr Phibes Rides
Again” are, quite probably, Vincent Price’s most outrageous films. And they’re
being released together on UK Blu-Ray for the first time by Arrow films this
month in their “Complete Dr Phibes” Blu-Ray box set.
"The Abominable Dr Phibes".
Set in the 1920s, the police are investigating a series of
murders, involving various medical staff, who have been killed in the most
bizarre of fashions. One doctor has been killed by vampire bats, another by a
swarm of killer bees, whilst another is found tied to a chair with his blood
The investigating officers, Inspector Trout (Peter Jeffrey –
“Countess Dracula”) and Sgt Schenley
(Norman Jones – “You Only Live Twice”)
(a couple of bungling cops who appear to have been included for comic relief),
discover that the manner of their deaths seem to be connected to the Ten
Plagues of Egypt mentioned in the bible (boils, frogs, bats etc).
They also discover that each one of these doctors had been
involved in trying to save a certain Victoria Phibes (played by future Bond
girl and Hammer starlet Caroline Munro in an uncredited role), who died whilst
in their care. Her Husband, Dr Anton Phibes (Vincent Price), was believed to
have died in a car crash on his way to visit her. But it seems all those
involved in trying to save her are now meeting a decidedly grisly fate.
The police suspect that Dr Phibes might not actually be dead
and is somehow behind these killings. But despite their best efforts, he seems
to be one step ahead of them at every turn, as the demented Doctor, who is
indeed alive and lives in a crypt beneath his old mansion with the preserved
body of his dead wife, continues to wreak his revenge on all those he holds
accountable for her death, with the help of his mute assistant Vulnavia
Noted American horror actor Joseph Cotton also stars,
playing Dr Vesalius and, in one of his few rare non-comedy roles, British actor
Terry Thomas also appears as a Brandy swilling surgeon with a penchant for vintage
“erotic” films, which provides the film
with one of its more amusing death scenes. Perhaps more of a black comedy than
a horror, in any case this is a definite must see for Vincent Price fans.
"Dr Phibes Rises Again".
The original Dr Phibes had been quite a success for its US
distributors, so a sequel was quick to follow. Set shortly after the events of
the first film, Phibes rises out of his tomb once more, only to find someone
has demolished his mansion and stolen some Egyptian scrolls he had, that show
the location of some mythical “River
Summoning his assistant Vulnavia (now played by Valli Kemp… Hey,
didn’t she die at the end of the last film?), they discover the scrolls were
stolen by some wealthy adventurer named Biederbeck (Robert Quarry – “Count Yorga”), who wants the secrets of
the River of Life
for his own nefarious ends.
And so Phibes and company head off to Egypt
in pursuit of Beiderbeck and proceed to bump off the people in his party in a suitably gory fashion as before (one chap being killed by Scorpions, another crushed in a sarcophagus and another, sand blasted to death etc) . One of the victims being none other than a young-ish John Thaw
of “The Sweeney” and “Inspector Morse” fame.
Inspector Trout (Peter Jeffries) returns, this time assisted
by his superior, Superintendent Waverly (John Cater of “Captain Kronos :
Vampire Hunter” fame, reprising his earlier role), who attempt to stop Dr
Phibes before he kills any more, but they fail to do much apart from provide more comic relief.
The film basically serves up more of the same as before,
which should please fans of the original. There’s also some interesting guest
roles in this, including Beryl Reid, Peter Cushing and Terry Thomas, who
sharper eyed viewers will note is one of several cast members from the original
film returning in a different roles.
Now, being an Arrow release, these discs come chocked full of extras.
On disc 1, accompanying “The Abominable Dr Phibes” you have
2x audio commentary tracks, the first with Director Robert
Feust, moderated by film journalist Marcus Hearn, in which they discuss the
making of the film. and the second with scriptwriter William Goldstein, which
is moderated by his son Damon J Goldstein, which is really more of a running
trivia track, as they discuss various anecdotes surrounding the production and
release of the film.
Next up is a “Dr Phibes and the Gentlemen” feature. Which is
a round table discussion with “League of Gentleman” stars Steve Pemberton,
Jeremy Dyson, Mark Gatiss and Reece Sheersmith, exchanging stories about their
love of the film
And lastly there's the original theatrical trailer.
On disc 2, accompanying “Dr Phibes Rises Again” you get
Audio commentary track with Tim Lucas, editor of Video
Watchdog magazine, who provides a running critique of the story, interspersed
with the odd amusing anecdote.
Then there’s a “Daughter of Phibes” feature, in which Vincent’s
Price’s daughter, Victoria shares
her memories about the time her father was on set and discusses some of his
“The Doctor will See You Now”, interview feature with cult
film historian David del Valle who shares some of the more amusing stories
about the making of the films.
And lastly, there’s the original theatrical trailer.
The case also comes packages with a 100 page collectors book
featuring linear notes on the film, illustrated with behind the scenes stills
and promotional artwork.
Definitely a must for Vincent Price fans, this box set is
strictly limited to 3000 copies and, at
present, is the only BD release of this anywhere in the world. So if you are
looking at adding these films to your collection, this release is an essential