Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972)

Vincent Price returns for this rather less impressive sequel from AIP. MGM/Fox R1 DVD

The Film

Three years have passed since the series of brutal murders carried out in revenge by Dr. Phibes (Vincent Price) and he has now awakened himself from his state of near-death and is aiming to travel to Egypt to take advantage of an event that only takes place once every 2000 years. However he discovers that the parchment telling him how to get there has been stolen. He tracks it to the house of Darius Biederbeck (Robert Quarry) and promptly steals it back, heading on to Egypt with Biederbeck getting passage on the same boat. Meanwhile the British police discover the murder of one of Biederbeck's servants and the murder of a man on board the ship and suspect Phibes is back at work, so they travel to Egypt to try and stop him...

A two minute introduction brings life back to the character, twisting various elements of the original film to fit the new storyline and from this point on the sequel fails to live up to the originality of the first film. While The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) asked for quite a bit of 'suspension of disbelief' to accept the wonderfully over-the-top murders, this sequel goes rather too far and the logical holes are obvious to even the most casual viewer - this becomes notable even in the first few minutes with the fact that Phibes seemed to have expected his house to remain untouched for 3 years after his 'death'. The elaborate murders themselves, certainly the highlight of the first film, are retained here in all their eccentricity but they lack the connection that made the 'Ten Plagues' killings so enjoyable and it is rather hard to believe that Phibes could have set-up all of these elaborate killings in the brief time he has available or even why he goes to the trouble.

When you can suspend the disbelief as much as is necessary, the film still does not gel. The Biederbeck character is never particularly likable - it is clear that the writers had intended to make him seem driven to get to the site at any costs, but instead he just comes across as unpleasant and forceful in his attitudes. Egyptian mythology has been extensively covered in fiction - Hammer had just completed their fourth Mummy film in 1971 - in contrast, the mythology here seems to have been made up on the spot and never seems authentic. Finally, even the police proceedurals that enlivened the original film seem tepid here - the detective characters seem to have been randomly included to simply pad out the storyline and have become mere buffoons this time around.

Robert Fuest returns to the directors chair for this effort but despite his good work and some impressive set designs, due to the far more elaborate script, he cannot disguise the film's low budget in many sequences and the film frequently over stretches itself. The editing is rather poor (the death of Ambrose in particular) and aside from the impressive opening score, even the music is a little generic (did the Egyptians often go in for Gregorian chants?).

Vincent Price returns to the lead role and delivers the part with his usual relish looking very good in the make-up, particularly when in full Egyptian attire. He goes up against up against his intended sucessor Robert Quarry - the star of AIP's Count Yorga, Vampire (1970) and its sequel - the rather wooden Quarry never really convinces in the role although he is not helped by the inflexible script. British comedian Terry-Thomas who gave a brief but memorable performance in the first film is wasted in a bit part while horror legend Peter Cushing gets an even shorter throw away role. Future British television star John Thaw (best known as Inspector Morse) in a rare film role gets a brief appearances as a doomed archeologist.

After the highly enjoyable Abominable Dr. Phibes, this sequel seems to have been a rushed job with a script that tries to shoehorn the Dr. Phibes character into an Egyptian adventure film (and not a particularly good one either) and a production budget that was certainly not up to fulfilling the script's ambitious settings. The fact that horror icon Peter Cushing and comic legend Terry-Thomas are utterly wasted in tiny and throw-away cameos does nothing to help. With very few merits, this film is not recommended and even fans of Vincent Price can find a lot more interesting films to see first.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Vincent Price - a horror icon who really made his name in the AIP horrors starting with House of Usher (1960)
Peter Cushing - one of the great horror stars best known for his Hammer films including The Mummy (1959)
Terry-Thomas - British comedian who appeared in a number of cult films including Mario Bava's Diabolik (1968)
Directed by anyone interesting? Robert Fuest - a lesser known British director who also directed the original Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) and the Timothy Dalton starring Wuthering Heights (1970).
Any gore or violence ? Some quite bloody shots although brief.
Any sex or nudity? None.
Is it scary? No, it never tries to be.
Who is it for? Not recommended. For Vincent Price completists only.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
The print is generally good quality, with the only occasional hint of damage and generally quite mild grain. A couple of brief scenes are noticably lower quality - as if taken from a VHS source.
Audio English mono - sounds fine.
French and Spanish dub tracks.
Subtitles French and Spanish.
An English subtitle track is present that translates a single line of dialogue in Egyptian.
Extras The disc includes:
  • Original theatrical trailer.
Availability Available as a single disc, as a double-disc set with The Abominable Dr. Phibes and in the seven film Vincent Price Scream Legends Collection boxset.
Region Region 1 (USA, North America) - NTSC
Other regions? Also available in Europe with additional German and Italian audio tracks
Cuts? Fully uncut. English language print.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 30th March 2008.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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