Well, enough of 1960’s TV for now. Let’s visit the 1970’s and one of the most perfect black comedy films ever made – The Abominable Dr. Phibes – and its sequel Dr. Phibes Rises Again. It’s BOGO day on Neatorama!
I saw these films in college (in a drive-in theater too) and thought they were marvelous. Taking the first, we find in the IMDb:
Vincent Price plays a "dead" man avenging the surgical team that lost his wife on the operating table. Nine doctors in all (one of them a nurse) are treated to nine of the most innovative, creative, outlandish deaths imaginable. The deaths loosely follow the Ten Plagues of the Old Testament, but each with a new twist. The film is an exercise in witty, stylish black comedy seldom seen today. Price gives one of his best performances in a role that barely utilizes his greatest attribute, his voice. Price relies heavily on movement and facial expressions, and does so wonderfully. The cast is superb with British stalwarts adorning the film all over. This film rejuvenated Price’s career in the 70’s. It is unique, poetic, haunting, and, for me the most important, very amusing. If you lack a sense of humour with regards to the world of the macabre, you might want to stay away from Phibes. It is a very dark, black comedy, yet one that is at its heart nothing more than a tragic love story of sorts.
I have since seen this film on TV and several gruesome bits were edited out. Although Price became known for his horror films like this one, they were seldom if ever graphic. Here he steps out of character and not only portrays the ‘villain’ but one expert in gruesome deaths and poetic justice. Badmovies.org offers a review that is near perfect in itself. Even better, the entire film is available on YouTube and is embedded below. A word about the lobby card above; it is a parody of the 1970 film Love Story, with the tagline "Love means never having to say you’re sorry".
This film, which was never intended to have a sequel, did have a sequel since it was so successful. It’s a bit awkward since both Price and his assistant died in the first film, but, as the tagline says, "You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down". Badmovies.org offers up another great review although the film, embedded below, doesn’t quite rise to the heights of the first one. He does have an adversary in the sequel, also a criminal who will stop at nothing, but he simply isn’t a match for the ingenuity and ruthlessness of Phibes. The ending of this film is somewhat bizarre, and as they say, I never saw it coming.
It’s Phibes-a-Poppin’ on Neatorama this week, so have a look while you can. No telling when YouTube will decide to pull the plug.
The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)
Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972)