Thursday, October 3, 2013

31 Days of Horror: The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

Vincent Price is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most iconic horror actors of all time. He starred in such classic films as The House on Haunted Hill, The Fly, and The Last Man on Earth. Price was well known for his distinctive voice and his ability to mix serious drama with comedy, making him well-suited for roles that were rather over-the-top. The Abominable Dr. Phibes is a perfect example Price at his best.

Set in 1925, The Abominable Dr. Phibes tells the tale of Anton Phibes, a horribly disfigured genius that was supposedly killed in a car crash. Convinced that his beloved wife died due to the incompetent of seven doctors and one nurse, Phibes seeks vengeance by killing each culprit through a series of tortuous methods based on the Ten Plagues of Egypt from the Old Testament.

Price, as usual, knows how capture that perfect mixture of drama and camp, making his performance as the vengeful doctor perfect. Watching him put together these elaborate and imaginative murders is incredibly, but you also feel pity for the character when you hear him talk about his dead wife and how losing her has affected him. Because of this, you want Phibes to succeed in his goals and see the people who caused the death of his beloved pay.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes' cinematography and set design is wonderful as well. Director Robert Fuest and the crew behind the film have created a rather stylized version of the early 20th century that fits rather nicely with Phibes' rather bizarre methods and the tone of the story over-all. Fuest also knows how to get the most out of his scenes, each getting their point across without over-staying their welcome and are shot rather nicely.

The film's only true weakness, in my opinion, are the secondary characters. While he has some good comedic moments and Peter Jeffrey gives a fine performance, Inspector Harry Trout is kind of boring as a character and Phibes' silent assistant Vulnavia isn't much better. Thankfully, the film doesn't linger on them too much.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes is a perfect example of campy 1970's horror at its best. Vincent Price gives an excellent performance and the film is entertaining as hell. If you like a little dash of dark humor with your horror and want to have a good time and a good laugh, The Abominable Dr. Phibes will satisfy your needs.

Verdict: See it if you like campy horror films with great acting, cinematography, and set design. Skip it if you prefer more serious horror films with more believable situations.

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