The Abominable Dr. Phibes
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|The Abominable Dr. Phibes|
|Directed by||Robert Fuest|
|Produced by||Executive Producer:
Samuel Z. Arkoff
James H. Nicholson
Ronald S. Dunas
Louis M. Heyward
|Written by||James Whiton
|Music by||Basil Kirchin|
|Editing by||Tristam Cones|
|Distributed by||Anglo-EMI Film Distributors Ltd./MGM-EMI/American International England (UK)|
|Release date(s)||April 1971|
|Running time||94 minutes|
The Abominable Dr. Phibes is a 1971 horror film starring Vincent Price and Joseph Cotten. Its art deco sets, dark humour and performance by Price have made the film and its sequel Dr. Phibes Rises Again cult classics. Dr. Phibes is inspired for his murderous spree by the Ten plagues of Egypt from the Old Testament.
In 1925 Anton Phibes, a horribly disfigured genius supposedly killed in a car crash, is convinced that his beloved wife died a victim of incompetent doctors, and begins elaborate plans to kill them. Inspector Trout suspects Phibes, but finds little support from Scotland Yard. Eventually Dr. Vesalius, head of the team of doctors that operated on Phibes's wife, begins to believe Trout and aids him in the hunt for Phibes.
Using various highly imaginative methods based on the Ten Plagues that befell Egypt in the Old Testament, and wearing a different amulet from a set of ten Hebrew letters that relate to the Ten Plagues, Phibes kills seven doctors and a nurse with the help of his beautiful and silent female assistant Vulnavia (played by actress Virginia North). He has reserved the final punishment for Dr. Vesalius. He kidnaps the doctor's son and places him on a table on which a container full of acid is waiting to destroy the boy's face. A small key implanted near the boy's heart will free him, but Vesalius must perform the surgery within six minutes to get the key before the acid falls. Vesalius succeeds and instead Vulnavia is sprayed with the acid as the police arrive.
Convinced he has accomplished his vendetta, Phibes retreats to a stone sarcophagus beside the embalmed body of his wife. He drains out his own blood and replaces it with embalming fluid as the coffin's inlaid stone lid slides into place, concealing them both in darkness. Trout and the police arrive and discover that Phibes has mysteriously disappeared. Trout and Vesalius recall that the "final curse" was darkness and they speculate that they will encounter Phibes again.
The Ten Plagues of Egypt 
- Boils: Prof. Thornton is stung to death by bees (not shown, only referred to during the film)
- Bats: Dr. Dunwoody is mauled to death by bats
- Frogs: Dr. Hargreaves (who is not a surgeon but a psychiatrist) has his head crushed by a mechanical mask of a frog
- Blood: Dr. Longstreet has all the blood drained out of his body
- Hail: Dr. Hedgepath is frozen to death by a machine spewing ice
- Rats: Dr. Kitaj crashes his plane when attacked by rats
- Beasts: Dr. Whitcombe is impaled by a brass unicorn head
- Locusts: Nurse Allen is eaten by locusts
- Death of the first born: Phibes kidnaps and attempts to kill Dr. Vesalius's son Lem
- Darkness: At the ambiguous ending of the film, Phibes drains the blood from his own body while injecting embalming fluid, apparently joining his wife in death.
Production notes 
William Goldstein and James Whiton wrote the original screenplay. In a letter dated 16 February 1971, the Writers Guild Credit Arbitration Committee confirmed their 'Written By' credits. Peter Cushing was the first choice for the role of Vesalius, but he turned down the role because of the serious illness of his wife. The name "Vesalius" is a reference to Andreas Vesalius, a Flemish physician and founder of modern anatomy.
In order for Joseph Cotten to know his cues, Phibes' dialogue was read aloud by a crew-member. Cotten would grumble that he had to remember and deliver lines, while Vincent Price's were all to be post-dubbed. Price responded, "Yes, but I still know them, Joe." (In fact, Price was well known in Hollywood for his ability to memorize all of the characters' lines in a given production). Price commented that Cotten was uncomfortable doing these scenes, so he intentionally made faces to make him laugh. Price went through hours of make up, which often had to be reapplied as he kept laughing. Dr. Phibes' wife, played by 1970s model, Caroline Munro (who later appeared in such Hammer Horror fare as Dracula A.D. 1972 and Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter), was excluded from the film's credits.
The movie was filmed at the "thirties era" sets at Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire. The cemetery scenes were shot in Highgate Cemetery, London. The exterior of Dr. Phibes' mansion was Immanuel College on Elstree Road. The film was followed by a sequel, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, in 1972. Several other possible sequels were planned, including Dr. Phibes in the Holy Land, The Brides of Phibes, Phibes Resurrectus and The Seven Fates of Dr. Phibes, but none were made. .
- Vincent Price as Dr. Anton Phibes
- Joseph Cotten as Dr. Vesalius
- Peter Jeffrey as Inspector Harry Trout
- Virginia North as Vulnavia
- Terry-Thomas as Dr. Longstreet
- Aubrey Woods as Goldsmith
- Sean Bury as Lem Vesalius
- Susan Travers as Nurse Allen
- David Hutcheson as Dr. Hedgepath
- Edward Burnham as Dr. Dunwoody
- Alex Scott as Dr. Hargreaves
- Peter Gilmore as Dr. Kitaj
- Maurice Kaufmann as Dr. Whitcombe
- Derek Godfrey as Crow
- Norman Jones as Sgt. Tom Schenley
- John Cater as Waverley
- Hugh Griffith as Rabbi
- Caroline Munro as Phibe's wife, Victoria Regina Phibes (uncredited)
Critical reception 
Critic Christopher Null wrote of the film, "One of the '70s juiciest entries into the horror genre, The Abominable Dr. Phibes is Vincent Price at his campy best, a former doctor and concert organist (go figure that one out yourself) who is exacting revenge on the nine doctors he blames for botching his wife's surgery, which ended with her death. Through a series of tortuous means that would make a Bond villain green with envy, the hideous Phibes is matched by Joseph Cotten as the doc at the end of the road. A crazy script and an awesome score make this a true classic."
|This section is empty. You can help by adding to it. (February 2013)|
- Gerosa, Mario (2010). Robert Fuest e l'abominevole Dottor Phibes. Alessandria,: Edizioni Falsopiano. ISBN 978-88-89782-13-2.
- The Abominable Dr. Phibes at the Internet Movie Database
- The Abominable Dr. Phibes at AllRovi
- The Abominable Dr. Phibes at Hollywood Gothique.