Friday, November 21, 2014

DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN (1972) Blu-ray review

Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972) d. Robert Fuest (USA)

After the surprise hit of the original Phibes, Fuest and Price returned for another go-round of mirthful murderous mayhem, this time with the mad doctor hoping to revive his lost love via a sacred papyrus scroll and the mythical “River of Life” in Egypt. Robert Quarry co-stars as a millionaire equally consumed with the river’s life-restoring properties, one not at all amused by Price’s propensity for knocking off his expedition members through varied outlandish means.

As before, myriad elaborate murder scenes are the highlights, with victims stung by scorpions, blasted by sand, and jugged in giant gin bottles, though expectant viewers may express some chagrin at the lack of a pervasive theme – it’s simply “kill ‘em all and make it extravagant.”

On the other hand, the black comedy in Fuest and Robert Blees’ script is much better incorporated, with everyone seemingly in on the joke this time around. Price, allowed to smirk and waggle eyebrows as he enjoys fine champagne through his neck-port, is clearly having more fun, and the always game Quarry makes for a formidable foe.

Phibes’ assistant Vulnavia (now pronounced “Vul-nay-via”, rather than “Vul-nah-via”) is played by Australian beauty Valli Kemp, while Peter Cushing and Terry-Thomas make brief appearances (with Caroline Munro again unbilled as Phibes’ beloved, despite numerous close-ups. Strange, what?) In the end, the sequel actually surpasses its predecessor for sheer entertainment, while never quite matching its intellect. (The following year’s Theatre of Blood manages to combine all of the above, and remains my personal favorite of the three.)

Dr. Phibes Rises Again is available now on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory as part of their excellent The Vincent Price Collection II, though it must be noted that it receives the least in the way of supplementals - only a theatrical trailer and still gallery to sate fans' appetites. Granted, it was likewise neglected in its MGM DVD incarnation, but since the first Phibes boasted not one, but two audio commentaries on S!F's Vincent Price Collection last year, my hopes were definitely raised. Ah, well.

--Aaron Christensen, HorrorHound Magazine

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