Fright Fest 2016 Review #4 – The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

Barely Alive in Concert

Subgenre:  Revenge / Slasher

Summary:  A mad scientist exacts revenge on the doctors who failed to save his wife.

Review:  There’s a madman on the loose in 1920s England, and he’s killing off a group of doctors in increasingly gruesome ways.  The killer is the titular Dr. Phibes, a once-respected theologian and musician who went insane after a car crash killed his wife and left him severely disfigured.  As the detectives on his trail soon discover, his murders are based on the ten biblical plagues.  From then on it’s up to Scotland Yard’s finest and the few remaining doctors to put a stop to Phibes before he completes his vendetta.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes is made with a classiness absent from most modern-day horror movies.  It’s beautifully shot, with rich colors and striking compositions, and aided by a haunting, gothic score.  Despite its old-school attention to detail, the movie has a charmingly campy streak as well, complete with an organ-playing villain, a garishly decorated evil lair, and some very British supporting characters.  At the same time, it never veers into full-on parody, settling on a tone that’s creepy and surreally comic at the same time.  Vincent Price gives an over-the-top but straight-faced performance in the title role, and the rest of the cast is solid as well.

The Verdict:  Delightfully strange and skillfully crafted, The Abominable Dr. Phibes is a silly, spooky treat.  I give it seven-and-a-half disfigured doctors out of ten.

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