Director: Robert Fuest
Starring: Vincent Price, Robert Quarry, Valli Kemp, Peter Jeffries, Peter Cushing, Terry-Thomas, Beryl Reid, Hugh Griffith
Written by: Robert Fuest, Robert Blees (based on the characters created by) James Whiton and William Goldstein
Running Time: 89 mins
Original UK Cert: X
Original US Release: July 1972
After the success of The Abominable Dr Phibes a year earlier, it was enviable that a sequel was made. In fact this was supposed to be the second of a trilogy of films, although the third film was abandoned after contractual problems between star Vincent Price and film studio, American International Pictures. In fact, the behind-the-scenes bickering and problems are just as bonkers as the film itself, with Price hating co-star Robert Quarry, cuts being made where cuts didn’t need and budgetary difficulties that meant most of the imaginary deaths were removed.
Three years after Dr Phibes hid himself away with his dead bride, he is resurrected to find his home destroyed and a precious scroll stolen by adventurer, Darrus Biederbeck. After reclaiming what is his, Phibes takes his wife and servant, Vulnavia and heads to Egypt, where he sets up camp in a mountain above the River of Life. Biederbeck has set up a team to get what Phibes wants but the fiend is always one step ahead with another monstrous and torturous way to kill.
Like its predecessor, Dr Phibes Rises Again relishes in delivering ingenious ways of killing off the lesser members of the cast, from having a large needle shoot through the head from a telephone receiver, to being the message in a bottle, literally. Director Robert Fuest continues having fun with the various murders, although moving the whole thing from London, the setting of the first film, to Egypt doesn’t help with some of the deaths and it comes across as less inspiring and inventive (Pre-Sweeney John Thaw’s death is somewhat uninteresting compared to others).
What doesn’t help is after the Phibes series was put to bed, Price went on to make Theatre Of Blood, which is jam-packed with deliciously creative crimes, so here we aren’t given the creme de la creme that made both the original and the aforementioned such gems.
It also has the strangest piece of character creating. Darrus Biederbeck is an obnoxious, vile man and yet he is supposed to be Phibes adversary here. We, as audience members, cannot wait to see him get his comeuppance and find ourselves rooting for the hideous doctor. I am sure that wasn’t what was supposed to happen. The bitter rivalry between Phibes and Biederbeck carried on off-screen, as Price was annoyed that AIP wanted Robert Quarry, the actor who played Biederbeck, to continue the horror mantle. The uncomfortable relationship was more noticeable when Quarry, after singing opera, said “I’ll bet you didn’t know I could sing, did you?” and Price responded “well I knew you weren’t a f—ing actor!”
Price, once again with an alleged mask and only able to speak through a tube and speaker, has more line this time as scenes were cut and there needed to be some form of explanation. Quarry is fine as the arrogant Biederbeck but there something slightly wooden about his acting style. A few top-notch names (Peter Cushing, Terry-Thomas and Beryl Reid) make somewhat pointless cameos while everyone else do workmanlike jobs for this kind of movie.
Not a patch on the original, it does have its moments, the set designs and production values are sometimes more interesting than the film on a whole and when it is inventive, it works well but if you want the honest truth, Quarry is too annoying and Price needs to be on full, over-the-top, melodramatic fury than just a voice-over, which he is here.
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