Every day this October, I'll be adding a film to Psychobabble's 120 Essential Horror Movies to bring the list up to 150. Today’s addition is:
78. The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971- dir. Robert Fuest)
The Abominable Dr. Phibes is as visually outré as its plot, the mad doctor tinkling the giant psychedelic pipe organ in his garish art deco lair, dancing to his weird clockwork big band with Vulvania, who wears bizarre Busby-Berkley-esque gowns, or making calls on a rotary phone with a photo of his dead wife (sex symbol Caroline Munro, whom we only see as a photo, and briefly, a corpse) at the center of the dial. Even with all of his film’s silliness, Robert Fuest manages some disturbing images, as when he zooms in on a rat pulling apart red meat in the cockpit scene or when Phibes yanks off his Vincent Price mask to reveal a hideously scarred skull. The film also set off a new subgenre in which Price plays some sort of ham executing a series of gimmicky murders. The doctor would be back in Dr. Phibes Rises Again. In Theater of Blood, Price would play a lousy actor offing his critics with inspiration from Shakespeare. Though regarded as a genre great, the film suffers significantly from ugly cinematography. By far the best of Price’s new strain of camp horror was the first entry.
See this piece in context as part of Psychobabble’s Essential Horror Movies of the 1970s here.