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22 October 2011

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) [HorrorMarathon] 18#

Directed by: Robert Fuest
Genre: Horror, Comedy, Art House
Runtime: 94 Minutes

What makes the film so wonderfully enjoyable is despite how horrifically gruesome its plot is and how it still has the ability to give you a few laughs. Even horror veteran Vincent Price is having fun in this role as the Phantom of the Opera-inspired Phibes. “The Abominable Dr Phibes” has a campy kind of presence to it and has dark humour as well as being a horrific tale of an ‘abominable’ doctor. As a non-serious comedy horror, you will not be disappointed with this one.
Dr. Anton Phibes (Vincent Price) still lives, surrounded by art-deco bric-a-brac and attended by mute beauty Vulnavia (Virginia North). Outwardly normal in appearance, Phibes actually wears a rubber mask, covering his hideously deformed countenance; giving away the artifice is the fact that, when he dines, he takes his food through his neck rather than his mouth. Able to speak only when plugging a wire into his damaged vocal chords, Phibes elucidates his plan to murder the medical team whom he holds responsible for the death of his wife. Each killing takes the patterns of the deadly plagues, in a series of horrific murders. 

Obviously, a great deal of inspiration from “The Phantom of the Opera”. First, we have Phibes secret of having a damaged face that has left merely a skull, and second, we have the organ, which he plays often. The third is of Phibes as a character. Similar to the phantom, he has become a bit of a monster that wallows in self-pity. As similar as it is to that film it still has unique charm to it. 


The concept of the 10 deadly plagues was an excellent idea for a horror film and it was pulled off with graceful ability. The film proves that the glummest concepts can be blessed with comedy to make things a little brighter. The comedy was golden in this. It was somewhat macabre, and certainly dark. One scene we have a man pierces by a brass unicorn ornament, which has impaled and pinned him against a wall. We see a view from behind the wall and can see the unicorn’s horn turn as we see legs rising from the side. It is a hard to explain piece of comedy, but what a comedic scene it was.

Next to being comedic, this film is horrific and creative. Although not full-blown horror-thriller, death by locusts and bats is no laughing matter. 

Vincent Price as Phibes was excellent. Although his character does not speak often (due to an accident) everything around the speech such as expression and movement was well executed. Next to Price was Joseph Cotton as Doctor Versailles who was naturally brilliant. To sum the film up it can be enjoyed if you are up for a classic horror film that also has a few laughs.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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