Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

The Price is right -- Dr. Phibes isn't so abominable

Cleveland Press June 18, 1971

Somebody finally did it -- made a funny, campy horror picture that works. "The Abominable Dr. Phibes" has no lack of a abominable acts -- a man chewed to death by bats, another victim left a skeleton after being picked clean by locusts, still another drained of his blood.

But the sheer extravagance of these grotesqueries is matched by a tongue-in-cheek attitude that has you laughing almost before you are finished recoiling.

One victim is played by comic Terry-Thomas in a brief bit. There he is, tied to a chair, his eyes as wide as the gap in his front teeth. His murderer is taking a total donation of blood from him, filling up bottle after bottle.

PRETTY HORRID except that while this is going on the murderer's beautiful assistant, Vulnavia (Virginia North) stands outside beside their Rolls Royce, violin tucked under her chin, playing "Close Your Eyes."

The foul deeds are perpetrated by one Dr. Phibes (rhymes with vibes) played by that specialist in abominable people, Vincent Price.

By now Price can play these parts with his eyes closed. This one he does with his mouth closed.

Dr. Phibes is supposedly dead, but this super genius has emerged from the accident that supposedly killed him.

HE HAS reconstructed a face over his skull and though his voice is destroyed he talks by plugging himself into a phonograph machine; the old fashioned, big-horn acoustical type.

His act of vengeance is being carried on against all the members of a surgical team which he blames for the death of his wife. The murders follow a pattern -- the 10 curses that afflicted Pharaoh in the Bible -- the curses of boils, bats, blood and locusts among them.

The conclusion of Phibes is more ludicrous than anything that has gone before -- Art Deco coffins for two with do-it-yourself embalming.

But don't you believe it. The producers already are planning "The Return of Dr. Phibes," which can't possibly come up to this.