Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Vincent Price, Joseph Cotten, Peter Jeffrey, Virginia North, Hugh Griffith, Terry-Thomas, Derek Godfrey, Norman Jones, John Cater, Aubrey Woods, John Laurie, Maurice Kaufmann, Sean Bury, Susan Travers, David Hutcheson, Edward Burnham, Alex Scott, Peter Gilmore, Caroline Munro
Written by: James Whiton, William Goldstein
Directed by: Robert Fuest
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some horror violence/gore
Running Time: 94
Date: 05/18/1971
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The Abominable Dr. Phibes (2022)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Plague Notion

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Elegant and lunatic, this comic horror movie seems as inspired by Mario Bava as it does House of Wax. Vincent Price as a pipe organist, striking away at the keys while a band of robots joins him, all in a room sprayed with bold, lava-lamp colors. Price's makeup is ghastly, a pasty, clay-like mass that covers up his damaged face. He can't speak, but he can deliver monologues by plugging a Victrola (!) into the back of his neck. His plan is to murder the nine surgeons who supposedly killed his wife (Caroline Munro). He even has a beautiful helper, Vulnavia (Virginia North), for some reason (although no one's complaining). Phibes uses Old Testament tactics such as bats, rats, and the draining of blood. One astonishing murder involves a huge frog mask that tightens around the neck of its wearer, strangling him. Peter Jeffrey plays the hapless inspector trying to solve the murders, and Joseph Cotten plays Dr. Vesalius, the ninth doctor, who pieces things together. Managing to keep a straight face throughout, The Abominable Dr. Phibes became a cult classic, leading to a not-very-good sequel, as well as later Price movies like Theater of Blood, a variation on the same plot.

Kino Lorber released both this and Dr. Phibes Rises Again on an excellent two-disc 2022 Blu-ray, really highlighting the popping colors. The original movie comes with a commentary track by none other than its director, Robert Fuest, as well as a second one by by Justin Humphreys, author of The Dr. Phibes Companion. The sequel has commentary tracks by Humphreys, and by historian Tim Lucas. Other extras include trailers, radio spots, and optional English subtitles.

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