Written by: Michael Den Boer on June 29th, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: UK, 1971 (The Abominable Dr. Phibes), UK, 1972 (Dr. Phibes Rises Again)
Director: Robert Fuest (Both Films)
Writers: James Whiton, William Goldstein (The Abominable Dr. Phibes), Robert Fuest, Robert Blees (Dr. Phibes Rises Again)
Cast: Vincent Price, Joseph Cotten, Hugh Griffith, Terry-Thomas, Virginia North, Peter Jeffrey, Caroline Munro (The Abominable Dr. Phibes), Vincent Price, Robert Quarry, Valli Kemp, Peter Jeffrey, Fiona Lewis, Hugh Griffith, Peter Cushing, Beryl Reid, Terry-Thomas, Caroline Munro (Dr. Phibes Rises Again)
BluRay released: June 16th, 2014
Approximate running times: 94 minutes (The Abominable Dr. Phibes), 90 minutes (Dr. Phibes Rises Again)
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Both Films)
Rating: 15 (UK) (Both Films)
Sound: LPCM Mono English (Both Films)
Subtitles: English SDH (Both Films)
BluRay Release: Arrow Video
Region Coding: Region B
Retail Price: £24.99 (UK)
Nearing the end of his lengthy partnership with AIP (American International Pictures) Vincent Price would make a pair of pulp inspired Horror films, The Abominable Dr. Phibes and Dr. Phibes Rises Again. And though he was a staple of the Horror genre Price was not to fond of onscreen violence which by the early 1970’s had become increasingly more graphic. So not wanting to give up his leading man status just yet he would find a satisfying compromise violence wise in regard to the Phibes films. There will be lots of death depicted onscreen in these films, it is just done in a more tongue and cheek then grotesque way.
The Abominable Dr. Phibes: A disfigured Doctor takes revenge on the nine doctors responsible for his wife’s death.
Dr. Phibes Rises Again: After slumping for a few years Dr. Phibes awakens and resumes his quest to resurrect his deceased wife.
Where the first film revolves around Phibe’s getting his revenge. The sequel is more focused on him actually bringing his beloved wife back to life. Both films have an ample amount of dead bodies on display. Also all of the kill sequences are inventive and well executed. Also all of the deaths in The Abominable Dr. Phibes bear a strong resemblance to the ten plagues of Egypt.
Though these films are reportedly to have been set in the 1930’s, they have another world quality that sets them apart from anything you have seen before or are likely to see in a film ever again. The production value on these two films is first rate as both films are over flowing with a tremendous amount of Art Deco style. From a visual stand point these films are a virtual feats for the eyes that is reinforced by Robert Fuest’s rock solid direction and Vincent Price’s extraordinary performance which easily ranks amongst is best work as actor.
Besides dealing subject matter rooted in the macabre, these two films also have another strong them running throughout them and that is a love story. The heart and soul of these two films is its protagonists search for the thing that will bring his beloved wife back to life.
Though these films are anchored by Price’s aforementioned performance. One must not overlook the contributions of the rest of the cast. At the top of this list are the two actresses Virginia North and Valli Kemp, who portrayed Dr. Phibes assistant a beautiful mute named Vulnavia. A few other standout performances include Joseph Cotton in the role of one of the nine doctors responsible for Phibes wife’s death and Robert Quarry in the role of Darrus Biederbeck, a man looking for the same thing that Phibes seeks.
Out of these two films, of course The Abominable Dr. Phibes is the stronger of the two. And though Dr. Phibes Rises Again has the vibe of a sequel being rushed into production to soon. The end result is very entertaining film that makes an excellent companion piece.
Each film comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay and both films are presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. Both films look great as colors are nicely saturated and appropriately vivid, black and contrast levels look consistently strong throughout. Details look sharp, grain looks natural and there are no issues with DNR or compression.
Each film comes with one audio option, a LPCM Mono mix in English and removable English SDH subtitles have also been included with this release. Range wise there is only so much that can be achieved due to these film’s mono limitations. Dialog is clear enough to follow and everything sounds balanced. The soundtrack and more ambient sounds are well represented. And there no issues with background noise or distortion.
Extras for The Abominable Dr. Phibes include a trailer for the film (2 minutes 38 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen), a featurette titled ‘Dr. Phibes and the Gentlemen’ (13 minutes 14 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen) and two audio commentaries, the first one with screenwriter / director Robert Fuest and moderator Marcus Hearn and a second audio commentary with screenwriter William Goldstein and his son Damien.
Extras for Dr. Phibes Rises Again include a trailer for the film (2 minutes 19 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen), two interviews, the first one with Vincent Price biographer David Del Valle (8 minutes 36 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen) and the second one with Victoria Price (13 minutes 11 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen) and an audio commentary with film critic and author Tim Lucas.
For the extra ‘Dr. Phibes and the Gentlemen’ The League of Gentlemen discuss both Dr. Phibes films in depth. Topics discussed in the interview with David Del Valle include how the Phibes films were made at a transitional period of Price’s career, his thoughts on the Phibes films, Price’s feelings about the Horror film genre and his legacy as an actor. Topics discussed in the interview with Victoria Price include when Horror films became more violent and how it affected her father and his overall legacy especially in regards with Horror film fans. All three audio commentary tracks are filled with insight about these two films and those involved in making them. Where the audio commentaries with Robert Fuest and William Goldstein are more personal accounts of each participants involvement in these films. The audio commentary with Tim Lucas is a satisfying mix of critical perspective and facts about each production, most notably the changes that AIP made to both films.
Rounding out the extras is a 100-page collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the films by Julian Upton, Martin Jones, Justin Humphreys and Jonny Trunk, the on-set recollections of Caroline Munro, plus interviews with Tim Burton and AIP publicist Milton Moritz, all illustrated with rare and original archive stills. Overall the Dr. Phibes films get a definitive release from Arrow Video, highly recommended.