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The Abominable Dr. Phibes
Die Schreckenskammer des Dr. Phibes

UK/USA 1971
produced by
Louis M. Heyward, Ronald S. Dunas for AIP
directed by Robert Fuest
starring Vincent Price, Joseph Cotten, Peter Jeffrey, Norman Jones, John Cater, Terry-Thomas, Hugh Griffith, Virginia North, Susan Travers, Alex Scott, Edward Burnham, Peter Gilmore, Maurice Kaufman, Derek Godfrey, Sean Bury, Walter Horsbrugh, Barbara Keogh, Audrey Woods, Ian Marter, John Laurie, Charles Farrell, Caroline Munro
written by William Goldstein, James Whiton, music by Basil Kirchin, Jack Nathan

Dr. Phibes

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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In 1920's Great Britain, the medic profession seems to be dieing out: One doctor is killed by bees in his own library (this murder is never shown, though), another (Edward Burnham) by vampire bats deliberately placed in his bedroom. At a masque, a doctor (Alex Scott) is strangled by a weird, mechanic frogmask, while yet another doctor (Terry-Thomas) is sucked dry of all his blood while watching some dirty movies.

The police, led by inspector Trout (Peter Jeffrey), soon find first clues, that lead them to doctor Vesalius (Joseph Cotten), whom all the deceased doctors worked with one time or another, & to a pattern, that of the biblical 10 curses of the pharaos.

After some time, even some motive is found, as all the dead dotors helped doctor Vesaius in a surgery on a certain Victoria Phibes (Caroline Munro), who died though. So the prime suspect would be her husband, Dr. Phibes (Vincent Price), but he is thought dead, too - the audience of course knows by now he is still alive, the police, wisth the help of Vesalius takes a little longer to establish that fact, which of course involves the ever popular opening of graves.

Meanwhile the killings of doctors involved in the operation of Phibes' wife goes on, as one (Peter Gilmore) is attacked by rats in his own aeroplane (while flying), while another (Maurice Kaufman) speared by a statue of an unicorn catapulted from across the street, yet another frozen to death in his own car (David Hutcheson).

It now boils down to the last 2 participants in the operation, the nurse (Susan Travers) & Vesalius himself, both of whom the police seal up inside a hospital for protection ... but not knowing Phibes is already in the hospital, the nurse is soon killed by a locust attack inside the room that was supposed to be her safe haven.

For doctor Vesalius, Phibes has reserved the most evil & elaborate scheme though - the death of the first born ... He forces Vesalius to perform the same operation on his own son he did on his wife - as he has placed a key inside the boy's body that alone will open his chains & save him from the approaching acid ... (Vesalius succeeds though).

The last curse, the curse of darkness, Phibes has reserved for himself, as he places himself in a coffin besides his wife & has himself automatically embalmed, thus escaping the clutches of the approaching police ...

 

As many other American companies in the 60's/early 70's, AIP moved part of their productions to Great Britain to profit from the tax leviations that were in effect back then for British produced films, & some of their films (Especially this one) would profit greatly from this move, as Great Britain did offer some beatuiful outdoor settings almost cut out for horror movies, a great array of actors that seemed to be virtually at home in macabre comedies (a breed very rare in the United States) & directors who were not yet spoiled by routine production schedules but (like Robert Fuest) trained in quirky TV-series like The Avengers. This all, a darkly funny script with very creative murder-scenes (echoed in big budget Hollywood movies as late as 1995's Seven) & some beautiful art-deco sets make this probably the best AIP-effort of its time, and one of the quintessential horror-comedies.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
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Tales to Chill
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the new anthology by
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Out now from
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On the same day
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WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
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directed by
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written by
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