Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972, Robert Fuest)

Happy SHOCKtober!

In early September I assembled a list of SHOCKtober contenders. So many promising horror films! Since it looks like my Mets might be in the postseason threatening SHOCKtober screen time, and since I’m usually a month behind on the blog anyway, I went ahead and started watching them, beginning with this sorry sequel to one of my faves from last year.

Phibes with raptor:

Opens with a full recap of the first movie, in case you missed it. And even though Vincent Price is embalmed and buried at recap’s end, sure enough he’s waking up right afterwards. This one’s got an interesting concept at least, as Phibes has taken his revenge for the death of his wife, but she’s still dead, so now he’s going after a fabled fountain of life beneath some ancient Egyptian tomb. Better, Phibes has a rival – an archaeologist named Beiderbeck (Robert Quarry, star of Count Yorga, Vampire, with a silly voice but okay sideburns) who has survived for centuries with a small vial of eternal-life water and now seeks the source.

Phibes jacked-in:

That all sounds promising, and Phibes 1 was heaps of fun, but I wasn’t feeling it this time. Less well shot (DP Alex Thomson later worked with David Fincher and Nic Roeg), less well written (Fuest cowrote with Robert Blees: Frogs, High School Confidential), and less interestingly designed (lot of people talking in front of plain white walls). Slower-paced scenes and a vaguely shabby feeling. I do enjoy when Price “speaks” by plugging a guitar cable into the jack in his neck, but the characters who move their mouths might as well have done the same, with all the dialogue-editing blunders I caught. The hapless cops from the first movie are even more hapless here, Terry-Thomas reappears as a new character, and minor characters are dispatched regularly via scorpion, snake, raptor (unconvincingly), sandblasting, crushing, telephone, etc.

Mouseover to see how one gets killed by telephone:
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IMDB trivia reveals arguments, power struggles, rivalries, changes “for budget reasons” and a final script composed of two separate scripts “sort of stuck together”. So the movie’s disappointing but I guess it’s surprising it turned out as well as it did. Nice ending: Phibes floats away with his wife’s coffin on the enchanted river singing “Over the Rainbow” as time catches up with Beiderbecke outside, suddenly aging him to death faster than Bowie in The Hunger.

Phibes with Vulnavia with sousaphone:

There’s a new Vulnavia (Valli Kemp) since women are interchangeable. First dead archaeologist who attracts police attention is Hugh Griffith (Polanski’s What? and Fuest’s The Final Programme), dead guy’s cousin is Beryl Reid (The Killing of Sister George) and Beiderbeck’s woman is Fiona Lewis (Liszt’s neglected wife in Lisztomania).

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