Dreadful Things
The Abominable Dr Phibes


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1971 Dir: Robert Fuest. With: Vincent Price, Joseph Cotten, Hugh Griffith, Virginia North.
The Abominable Dr Phibes is full of grisly horror and black comedy, and stars that master of terror, Vincent Price as Phibes.

Phibes is a deformed organist who is out for revenge.  His wife (Caroline Munro who only appears in photographs) died during a routine operation, and he blames the medical team who failed to save her life. One by one, he conducts a series of elaborate and grisly deaths for them based upon the ten biblical plagues of ancient Egypt.

There are some brilliant deaths in this, one doctor is given a full head mask of a frog, by Price himself and the catch causes the mask to become tighter and tighter until it eventually crushes his skull.  A nurse has her face covered in liquefied Brussels sprouts, and then locusts are released into her room; next morning the detectives discover that her face has been eaten away by the insects.  A doctor is attacked by rats in his aeroplane and another is attacked by vampire bats.  Another is speared to a door by the brass horn of a unicorn that has been catapulted from across the street!

Another, Dr. Longstreet (Terry-Thomas), is interrupted while watching a naughty film featuring a belly dancer with a snake.  Phibes' assistant Vulnavia (Virginia North) enters and he allows her to bind him to his chair (probably thinking hes on for a bit of kinky sex!)  Then Phibes enters and proceeds to drain the unfortunate man of his blood.  His blood is collected in jars, which are left on the mantelpiece in jars.

Trying to solve these crimes is Scotland Yards Inspector Trout (Peter Jeffrey), who together with his assistant Crow (Derek Godfrey), set about trying to puzzle out the murders.  Slowly the pieces begin to fit together, they discover that al the victims served on a surgical team headed by Dr Vesalius (Joseph Cotton).

They begin to suspect that maybe Phibes survived the crash and is responsible for the murders.  Phibes is very much alive albeit disfigured, although he wears a mask for the most part, and has to speak through a cord fixed to his throat and has to eat through a tube.

Phibes finally exacts his revenge on Vesalius by kidnapping his son.  Then Phibes phones the doctor and tells hi that he has his son and that he must meet Phibes alone.

In the climax the doctor must operate on his son to remove a key lodged inside him that unlocks the trolley in order to move it from under the acid that is slowly travelling down a tube towards his sons face.  Phibes informs the doctor that if he does not succeed that his son will have a face like this, and hips off his mask to reveal to the doctor his disfigured face. 

The script by James Whiton and William Goldstein is brilliantly barmy, macabre and a truly original, bizarre concept.  The set where Phibes hides out is brilliant complete with a clockwork band that at one point plays Sinatra (which is odd because the film was supposedly set in 1929!)  A sequel, Dr. Phibes Rises Again was made the following year.