Thursday, October 31, 2013


Robert Fuest, 1972
Starring: Vincent Price, Robert Quarry, Valli Kemp, Peter Jeffrey

It seems impossible to believe, but this sequel to The Abominable Dr. Phibes is almost as good as the original. Not quite, but still worth your time and certainly worthy as a double feature with the original.

Dr. Phibes awakens three years after the events of the original film, due to something or other happening with the moon. Though this was part of the plan, all is not right. His house has been destroyed and a set of precious Egyptian scrolls has been stolen. He needs these scrolls to track down the Pharaoh's Tomb in Egypt, which houses the River of Life. He needs access to these waters to re-awaken his precious wife. He packs up his assistant Vulnavia and sets sail for Egypt. He unfortunately crosses paths with Darrus Biederbeck, who is an archaeologist also in pursuit of the River of Life and willing to stop at nothing to get there first. Throwing more obstacles in his path, Inspectors Trout and Waverly have returned to pursue Phibes and finally bring him to justice.

The murders this time are all Egyptian themed, which is fitting, because of their location, but also sad because they don't have the eccentric, unified theme that the murders in the first film shared. And let's face it - Egypt is not all that original as a setting or theme, especially not after it was used repeatedly by Hammer in their Mummy series around the same time. That aside, there are a number of gaping plot holes and lapses in logic, which didn't really matter in the first film, but are a bit more glaring in this sequel. For instance, why the hell is Inspector Trout allowed to travel that far out of his jurisdiction? Ultimately it doesn’t matter, because the film wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable if he and Waverly were missing.

There are a number of small disappointments. This time around Vulnavia is played by the inferior Valli Kemp (Australian model and actress), because the lovely Virginia North was apparently too pregnant to pull it off. Though Robert Quarry (Count Yorga, Vampire) is entertaining as Biederbeck, his character is absolutely not likable. Quarry is at his best in Count Yorga, Vampire, its sequel, and Madhouse (also with Vincent Price) but simply cannot compete with Price in Dr. Phibes Rises Again. Despite his reputation as gracious and friendly with all his co-stars, Vincent Price allegedly did not get along with Quarry. There's a famous anecdote about the two of them on set together where Quarry was required to sing for some reason. He passed Price and said "I bet you didn't know I could also sing." Price replied, "I didn't know you could act."

On the bright side, there's a great cameo from Peter Cushing as the Captain of the cruise ship and I wish he had a bigger role. He and Price had great chemistry together. Dr. Phibes has the same lovely production values as the first film. Overall, it's entertaining and is particularly great if you like Price, Quarry, or Egyptian-themed horror films. It is certainly more absurd than the first film, partly because it has to go out on a limb to top the violence and comic excess of the original. It was made less than a year after the original film and feels a bit rushed. 

Many horror fans seem to dislike this film, so my enthusiasm might be a bit remiss, but I enjoy watching Price as Phibes so much that I don't really care. Definitely recommended. The film is available in a number of MGM DVDs: in a single disc by itself, a single disc with The Abominable Dr. Phibes, or in the MGM Vincent Price Scream Legends box set

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