Dr. Phibes Rises Again

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Dr. Phibes Rises Again!
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Robert Fuest
Produced by Louis M. Heyward
Samuel Z. Arkoff
James H Nicholson
Written by Robert Blees
Robert Fuest
Starring Vincent Price
Robert Quarry
Peter Jeffrey
Valli Kemp
Fiona Lewis
Music by John Gale
Cinematography Alex Thomson
Edited by Tristam V. Cones
Distributed by Anglo-EMI Film Distributors Ltd./MGM-EMI (UK)
Release dates
  • July 1972 (1972-07)
Running time
88 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Dr. Phibes Rises Again! is a 1972 British horror film. It is the sequel to The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), and stars Vincent Price as Dr. Anton Phibes.


The film begins by recapping the events of the previous film, following Dr. Anton Phibes' murderous quest for vengeance against the doctors he blamed for the death of his wife, Victoria. Phibes eluded capture by placing himself in suspended animation in a sarcophagus he shares with the body of his wife, where he would lay in darkness until the moon had entered into proper alignment with the planets, which had not occurred in over two thousand years. Three years later, the conjunction occurs, and Phibes rises from his sarcophagus. Summoning his silent assistant Vulnavia (Valli Kemp, replacing Virginia North), Phibes prepares to take Victoria to Egypt; there, in a hidden tomb, flows the River of Life, promising resurrection for Victoria and eternal life for the two of them. Rising from his basement, Phibes is shocked to discover that his house has been demolished, and a safe containing a papyrus scroll, showing the way to the River of Life, is now empty.

Phibes knows of only one person who could be seeking the same goal: Darius Biederbeck (Robert Quarry), a man who has lived for centuries through the use of a special elixir. After translating the papyrus, Biederbeck prepares to travel to Egypt to find the River of Life for himself and his lover Diana (Fiona Lewis). Phibes and Vulnavia enter Biederbeck's house, kill his manservant and reclaim the papyrus, then they leave for Southampton to sail to Egypt. Biederbeck travels with Diana and his assistant Ambrose (Hugh Griffith) on the same boat; Ambrose is killed by Phibes when he finds Victoria's body in the hold, and his body is stuffed in a giant bottle and thrown overboard. Inspector Trout (Peter Jeffrey) discovers Ambrose's body when the bottle washes ashore near Southampton. He and Superintendent Waverley (John Cater) question the shipping agent for the boat; upon hearing the descriptions of the tall woman (Vulnavia) and a clockwork band being brought aboard, they realize that Phibes has returned.

Trout and Waverley pursue him. They catch up to Biederbeck's archaeological party near the mountain location of the hidden temple. Phibes, having set up residence inside the temple, hides Victoria's body in the hidden compartment of an empty sarcophagus. He also finds the silver key that opens the gates to the river. Phibes kills each of Biederbeck's men using methods inspired by Egyptian mythology: one man is killed by a hawk, another is stung to death by live scorpions. Biederbeck's team eventually breaks into the temple and takes the sarcophagus, and Biederbeck discovers the key. Phibes uses a giant fan to simulate a wind storm, while Vulnavia enters the tent with the sarcophagus and crushes the man watching over it in a giant screw press. Though the sarcophagus is retaken and Victoria's body is safe, Phibes discovers the key is gone.

Biederbeck is unmoved by the murders of his men, and insists on finding the River of Life. He sends Diana with the last remaining team member, Hackett (Gerald Sim), back to England. Hackett leaves his truck to investigate a battalion of British troops, but finds they are really more of Phibes' clockwork men. When he returns to the truck, Diana is gone. As he restarts the engine, Hackett is sand-blasted to death and his truck crashes into Biederbeck's tent. Realizing Phibes must have taken Diana, Biederbeck confronts Phibes. Phibes demands the key in exchange for Diana's life. Unable to break Diana free of Phibes' trap, Biederbeck surrenders the key. Phibes spares Diana's life. He unlocks the gates to the river, takes Victoria's coffin through, and locks the gates behind him. Biederbeck begs Phibes to take him along as he begins to age rapidly. Phibes ignores his pleas and sings "Over the Rainbow" as he fades from sight.


Production and reception[edit]

The movie was filmed in London and on location in a desert in Spain in December 1971 through January 1972, and released in July 1972. The original Vulnavia, Virginia North, was pregnant and was replaced by model Valli Kemp, who had been Miss Australia of 1970.

The film was rushed into production after the success of the first. The Fuest-penned script suffered from budget restraints and studio meddling. Studio executives mandated that Vulnavia return instead of Phibes getting a new assistant, and caused many parts and plot points to be edited out, which resulted in viewer confusion. Phibes' over-the-top murders seem to be done as much for demented glee as for revenge, the original film's motive. Vincent Price and Robert Quarry did not get along well behind the scenes, as Quarry accused Price of overacting, and Price viewed his costar as an AIP-sanctioned Eve Harrington. Some actors from the original film, such as Terry-Thomas, appeared in different roles.

Due to copyright difficulties, the original VHS release substituted Price's rendition of "Over the Rainbow" with background music lifted from the end credits of The Abominable Dr. Phibes. The original ending remains intact in prints shown in theatres and on television, and is restored on the DVD edition. Phibes' performance of "Over the Rainbow" is an anachronism: the film is set in 1928, while the song was written in 1938.

Opinion on this film is divided,[who?] but it is generally considered[who?] as good as the first Phibes outing. It has developed a cult following over the years, as has the first film.

Unfilmed screenplays and proposed sequels[edit]

1971: The Bride of Dr. Phibes. Proposed to AIP by William Goldstein and James Whiton as a sequel to the first film. Set in the year 1934, it details a battle of wits between Phibes and a strange man named Emil Salveus, a member of a secret Satanic society called the Institute for Psychic Phenomena. We learn that Salveus is actually Lem Vesalius, the son of Joseph Cotten's The Abominable Dr. Phibes character, Henri Vesalius. Salveus steals Victoria's body, and Phibes kills the members of the IPP in a quest to recover her.

The group's leader, Colonel Trenchard, is encased in amber and shattered into a million pieces. This is carried out at the IPP offices, where Phibes gets the names and addresses of the other members. Charles Carruthers is sucked dry by leeches in his bathtub. Orchestra conductor Sir Mastin Mateland finds himself covered with melted butter and eaten by a lobster. Lady Peune has a helium balloon tied to her wheelchair and ascends to the heavens. Arch Vicar Wren has his organs sucked out by a vacuum device. Sir Judah Ido Adibo of the Abyssinian Embassy is left with a clutch of cobras in his bed. Salveus himself falls into an acid pit he'd previously prepared for Phibes.

Phibes recovers and revives Victoria in a scene recalling The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). As Scotland Yard invades Phibes' manor, the doctor and his bride enter a freezing chamber that will preserve them for a future date. A perplexed Inspector Trout remarks, "Commissioner, we could search hell and damnation, scour the very bowels of this earth....but he'll never be found. (pause) Perhaps he was never meant to exist".[1]

Producer Louis Heyward rejected The Bride of Dr. Phibes, and tapped longtime friend Robert Blees to script something entirely different. Blees' first idea, which never progressed beyond one-page conjecture, was tentatively titled Phibes II and would have pit Phibes against Robert Quarry's Count Yorga. Blees ousted this in favour of the Egyptian scenario that would become Dr. Phibes Rises Again after Fuest's re-write. The idea of casting Quarry remained, but as Phibes' counterpart Darius Biederbeck rather than Yorga.

197?: Dr. Phibes in the Holy Land. Mentioned by Vincent Price in a number of interviews. Copies of the screenplay remain elusive.[2]

197?: The Son of Dr. Phibes by Robert Fuest. Unknown how far along this got in scripting. Phibes and son (to have been played by a young Vincent Price look-alike) join to wage war on environmental polluters. The modus operandi would involve natural-geologic phenomenon such as tidal waves and earthquakes.[3]

1977: Phibes Resurrectus. This is The Bride of Dr. Phibes with minor alterations. Goldstein and Whiton sold it to Roger Corman's New World Pictures. Corman planned to cast Forrest J Ackerman, the self-described "poor man's Vincent Price", as a mechanical Phibes doppelganger that fools Inspector Trout during a sequence set in a soccer stadium.[4]

1981: Dr. Phibes. Exists in the form of a brief outline/sales pitch by Goldstein and Whiton, but it is unknown whether the idea progressed to scripting stages. Phibes is revived in 1981 and sets sail for New York aboard his 98-foot yacht. The city's diseased squalor is contrasted with Phibes' seafaring Art Deco idyll, replete with clockwork wizards, Vulnavia and the dearly departed Victoria.

Ensconced in a resplendent penthouse apartment, Phibes plans to resurrect his bride and build a new life in America. His activities rouse the interest of the Wormwood Institute, an elite "think tank of glorious eggheads" led by the 80-year-old Hector Seneca Cicero Wormwood. Each of the six Institute members, we learn, leads a "strange private life".

Astrophysicist Bulwark Stanton, the most devious of the group, is obsessed with little girls and keeps a mechanical effigy of one at home. Lester is threatening to disprove Einstein's theory of general relativity at the age of 12. He is champing at the bit to match wits with Phibes. The Smith Brothers, experts in economics and nuclear weaponry, are identical twin transvestites. Wormwood himself wet nurses directly from the tap, labouring under the illusion that such is the key to eternal life.

When the old man smashes Victoria's glass coffin, she dries out and decomposes. Phibes is enraged and vows revenge. He kills each of the Institute members according to their greatest love; for instance, the chocolate-loving germ warfare expert Mr. Nim is transformed into a chocolate statue. Phibes concurrently conducts an urgent search for the essential salts to restore Victoria's vitality.[5]

1984: Phibes Resurrectus, prepared by Goldstein and Whiton for Richard P. Rubinstein's and George A. Romero's Laurel Entertainment banner. It is The Bride of Dr. Phibes with a re-written first act, in which he first appears flying over the white cliffs of Dover, in a hot air balloon that bears the motto "NON OMNIS MORIAR" ("I shall not wholly die", Horace, Carmina 3.30). This he lands in a cemetery, and proceeds into Victoria's tomb.

It includes a list of proposed stars:

PHIBES – David Carradine

EMIL – Paul Williams

STEUBEN – Orson Welles

WREN – Roddy McDowall

LADY PEUNE – Coral Browne

WOMBER – Donald Pleasence

PROBY – John Carradine

ADIBO – Sam Jaffe[6]

198? The Seven Fates of Dr. Phibes. A treatment by Paul Clemens and Ron Magid. It was submitted to Vincent Price, who heartily approved and agreed to recreate his role one more time. It begins where Dr. Phibes Rises Again leaves off, with Phibes and a revived Victoria departing their Egyptian abode on a quest to recover seven ivory statues that depict figures out of Greek mythology. These statues will allow the pair to join with the gods in the heavens. Upon returning to London, Phibes discovers that his house has been demolished and the statues sold off to various individuals. Phibes murders each of them in a manner befitting the particular mythological character they possess.

Dekker has a statue of Cyclops; his eye is poked out. Thundershaft has a Cerberus; Phibes presents him with a large Cerberus figure, one head of which shoots string to tie him up, followed by the second head which spouts gasoline, and the third which issues fire. Azzared has an Arachne; her room is filled with spiders. Halifax has a Medusa; he is cased in cement, effectively turning him into stone. The murder spree continues, and Trout and Waverley of Scotland Yard again find themselves dogged at every turn by the deadly doctor.

The final statue, the Minotaur, is owned by Phibes' archenemy Prof. Norquist. He has found the River of Death, Styx, the waters from which have the capability to end Phibes' eternal life. Norquist is killed by Phibes and the statues are joined, opening the heavens to him.

Vulnavia's true identity is revealed to be the goddess Athena. She says, "Come children of Zeus", as Phibes and Victoria ascend to the heavens through an opening in the mountain top. Waverley, who with Trout has followed Phibes to his mountain hideaway in Crete, believes it all to be a trick and says, "Strike me dead if it's not a hoax"; he is promptly struck by a lightning bolt and turns into a puff of smoke. "Over the Rainbow" plays while the credits roll.[7]

Louis Heyward also tried to interest NBC in a "Phibes" television series, with a pilot written by Goldstein, that would have recast the doctor as a benevolent crimefighter who uses his makeup and technological wizardry to ensnare criminals.


The film score by John Gale was released on Perseverance Records 20 March 2003.

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Whiton, James and William Goldstein. The Bride of Dr. Phibes (1971) screenplay.
  2. ^ http://www.hollywoodgothique.com/drphibesrisesagain.html
  3. ^ Robert Fuest interview, Psychotronic # 41
  4. ^ Whiton, James and William Goldstein. Phibes Resurrectus screenplay (1977).
  5. ^ Whiton, James and William Goldstein. Dr. Phibes treatment (1981).
  6. ^ Whiton, James and William Goldstein. Phibes Resurrectus screenplay and attached cast list (1984).
  7. ^ Clemens, Paul and Ron Magid. The Seven Fates of Dr. Phibes treatment and attached letter from Vincent Price (undated).

External links[edit]