Director: Robert Fuest
Writers: James Whiton, William Goldstein
Stars: Vincent Price, Joseph Cotten, Virginia North
RATING: 3.5 Stars
Doctors are being murdered in bizarre manners – bats, bees, a killer frog mask, etc. – which represent the nine Biblical plagues of Egypt. The crimes are orchestrated by an organ-playing, demented madman (from his home base, replete with a clockwork orchestra and help from a beautiful, mute assistant). Detectives are stumped until they find that all the slain doctors once assisted a Dr. Vesalius on an unsuccessful operation involving the wife of organist Dr. Phibes, killed in a car crash upon learning of his wife’s death. He couldn’t be the culprit, could he? – From IMDB
Many, many a horror movie have I watched, and not many have come up with such inventive and gruesome deaths as this. The rats and locusts in particular were incredibly unpleasant to witness. But gruesome deaths aside, for me the rest of this film was just kind of OK.
Vincent Price is of course incredible as the ghastly, disfigured Dr Phibes, you wouldn’t expect anything less. And while the rest of the cast is made up of some really well known and competent British actors from the seventies, no one else really rises to the same level as Price. He goes all out camp, pushing it as far as it can go before it becomes absurd, but I think everyone else takes it a little too seriously. They needed to be having equally a much fun as he was.
The film is chock full of dark British humour, which, worthy of a smile or two, never quite gets me to laugh out loud. We all know my feelings about comedy at this point. I don’t think I am it’s target audience, it never gets the reaction from me that is intended. A smile maybe, a chuckle on rare occasions, but so very very rarely an outright laugh. Horror comedies like this are more of the same. But my problem with this one wasn’t so much the comedy, but how it was used. It was kept almost uniquely to the scenes with the investigating policemen. Which made those scenes, and the march darker, scarier scenes with Phibes seem like two entirely different films.
This is easily the first of the Arrow Video Blu-Ray collection I have watched and been a little disappointed by. I think, probably through pure luck, I have watched a bunch I have really enjoyed, and so when this one didn’t hit right, it feels like a bit more of a let down. It’s not awful by any stretch of the imagination, and it will no doubt have it’s die hard fans, but sadly, I am not one of them.