mon 14/06/2021

DVD: The Abominable Dr Phibes and Dr Phibes Rises Again | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: The Abominable Dr Phibes and Dr Phibes Rises Again

DVD: The Abominable Dr Phibes and Dr Phibes Rises Again

Love really does mean never having to say you're ugly...

Dr Anton Phibes (Vincent Price) has been dead a while but that doesn't bother his assistant Vulnavia (Virginia North)

In 1921, Anton Phibes was killed in a fiery car crash. Horribly disfigured, he returns to avenge the death of his beautiful wife. So goes the set-up for The Abominable Dr Phibes, one of the UK’s finest cult horror films and very clearly a precursor to the Saw franchise, among others. Originally released in 1971, it has lost none of its camp splendour. This is a film like no other – except, of course, its sequel Dr Phibes Rises Again.

Vincent Price is the eccentric and cruel Phibes, Caroline Munro (uncredited) is his wife. Terry-Thomas and Joseph Cotton are among his victims.

Presented as the gems they are, Arrow Films has released both films (as The Complete Doctor Phibes) in brilliant Blu-Ray taken from MGM’s original film elements. They’ve put them out in a limited edition boxed-set of 3,000 copies featuring a 100-page collector’s booklet with new writing by Julian Upton, Martin Jones, Justin Humphreys and Jonny Trunk. Even for the non-fan or newcomer, the extras will really add to the enjoyment and understanding of the films and their time. Along with the expected trailers, there are good commentaries by director Robert Fuest. Fuest, who died in 2012, was a big name for The Avengers, and Price rightfully called him one of the finest young directors working in his time. More commentary is provided by the creator of Dr Phibes William Goldstein and by critic/author Tim Lucas as well as the League of Gentlemen.

It turns the stomach and puzzles the mind in a deliciously cinematic way

There are genuine rarities, however, with the recollections of Caroline Munro, interviews with Tim Burton and AIP publicist Milton Moritz. The archive stills presented here are things of beauty in themselves. For fans of Vincent Price, his daughter and his biographer make us instant insiders to the man and his works. For those who are concerned about fidelity, the audio is original uncompressed 1.0 Mono PCM with optional SDH subtitles for both films.

Although it would be easy to dismiss both works – the first is by far the better of the two – as trashy numbers of their time, The Abominable Dr Phibes turns the stomach and puzzles the mind in a deliciously cinematic way, even on the small screen. The second film is also a must-see, its story a fascinating take on what we think of as modern Hollywood: control wrested from the director, unfinished script, etc.

For those who may not wish to watch Phibes thinking it is old-fash or boring, please note: I watched this film when it first came out. It was creepy, hypnotic and not a little stomach-churning then. When Phibes pulls off his mask, it is really horrible. It remains, 43 years later, still really horrible. Poor old Terry-Thomas’ Dr Longstreet – a man who just wanted to watch a little porn in privacy – meets his fate in a terrible way that is even more poignant now. Yet, his is only one of a lot of inventive, gruesome deaths that happen to characters who seem real. Along with its art deco production design, amazing clockwork orchestra and other wonders, Dr Phibes will linger in your dreams – even if it is a nightmare of a story. See it and be amazed at this timeless wonder.

Overleaf: watch a trailer for The Abominable Dr Phibes

 

Poor old Terry-Thomas’ Dr Longstreet – a man who just wanted to watch a little porn in privacy - meets his fate in a terrible way

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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