Friday, October 9, 2009

Vincent At His Best

The Abominable Doctor Phibes 1971
Director: Robert Fuest
Writers: James Whiton and William Goldstein
Starring Vincent Price, Joseph Cotten, Virginia North, Terry-Thomas, Sean Bury, Susan Travers, David Hutcheson and Caroline Munro

Vincent Price, this is one of the names that comes to mind when one thinks of master actors of the horror genre. The Abominable Doctor Phibes is one of his finest films, only overshadowed by the incomparable Theater of Blood. This is a great example of grand guignol horror, with a great flourish of E.C. comic's style to it. The film has a very neo gothic feel to all the proceedings and that really works in the films benefit. It is a old school style horror film with some modern sensibilities. Price gives one of his best performances and has a great foil in the persona of Cotten. The deaths are both grim and amusing and this is a film I marvel at every time I revisit it.
The plot basics are this, Doctor around London are being picked off in bizarre ways that mirror the nine plagues God used against the Egyptians in the Bible. It seems that these murders are being committed by Anton Phibes (Price) a celebrated doctor and extraordinary organ player, but this seems to be impossible as he died in a car crash a while back. It seems all the doctors collaborated with a Doctor Vesalius (Cotten) on the surgery of Phibe's wife, Victoria (Munro). Which was botched and caused her to die. It seems that Phibes somehow survived the car crash and his now orchestrating his own bloody revenge with the assistance of his mute nurse (North). It all leads to his final attack on Dr Vesalius, and will Phibes be victorious or finally be thwarted in the end, only time will tell.
This is a excellent film. Fuest's direction is great, has a very gothic feel to it with some nice E.C. comic's twists to all the proceedings. The script is very funny in a very blackly comic way and Phibes is a great character. It is easy to see why he is one of the most well remembered of all of Price's roles. The cast here is great too, Price steals the show anytime he is on screen. I also enjoyed Cotton as the protagonist, who had his own faults, a very god like complex when he was operating. Terry-Thomas as one of the bumbling Scotland Yard Inspectors was a hoot to watch as well. The SFX in the film were excellent, I have always liked the prosthetic work on Price's visage in this film, definitely one of my faves. The music by Basil Kirchin is the final touch this film really delivers on, the somber and operatic tone of the music really amps up the tragic feel that Phibes personifies throughout the entire film. If you are a Price fan or just a fan of pulpy and gothic horror film, definitely seek this one out.
This one gets 5 out of 5 plagues

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