The Abomindable Dr. Phibes is one of those cult classics that seems to inspire a whole lot of passion from the not necessarily huge component of film lovers who have seen it.
I am now proud to be one of them.
Quick Plot: A Phantom-esque mystery man conducts his own personal house band made up of man-sized wind-up instrumentalists in kooky zip-up masks.
Within the opening two minutes, I have already dubbed this to be The Greatest Movie of All Time.
Some might say I like to leap to big sweeping superlatives when it comes to cinema, but ladies and gentlemen, some are often wrong.
Meet Dr. Anton Phibes, a concert organist/super genius doctor (of something or another) played with magnificence by a fully in-the-moment Vincent Price. Dr. Phibes, we learn, is working on an elaborate (and awesome) plan of vengeance using the fabled ten plagues of the Old Testament as inspiration to murder the team of surgeons and nurses responsible for the death of his beloved wife some years earlier.
Here's what this means for us:
-We watch a kickass masquerade where a dude dons a giant frog head mask and gets masked to death
-We witness an adorable horde of bats bat a man to death
-A man is stabbed, Cabin In the Woods style, by the unicorn horn of a brass statue catapulted into action
I haven't even mentioned the locust face-eating, outstandingly elaborate hat-wearing, or old timey snake porn-watching.
Directed by Robert Fuest (he of the wonderfully restrained And Soon the Darkness and amazingly awful The Devil's Rain), 1971's The Abominable Dr. Phibes is one of those fantastically 'alive' films that seems compelled to be something unlike anything you've ever quite seen. From the colorful visual style to the fact that Vincent Price is romantically speaking through a hole in his throat, this is a special movie.
We've got recurring word jokes, bumbling detectives...
creepy dolls that do nothing but appear creepy,
Vincent Price drinking champagne through a hole in the back of this throat, and a credit sequence set to Somewhere Over the Rainbow that lists its cast in terms of "The Protagonists" and so on. There's both absurdity and heart, and the combination makes for a truly unique cinematic experience.
Did I mention HATS?
NOTE THAT THERE ARE PLURAL HATS!
Did I mention DEATH BY CATAPULTED UNICORN HORN?
Did I mention that the band, Dr. Phibes' Clockwork Wizards, is the greatest assembly of musicians ever put on a bizarro art deco soundstage dream theater?
DID MENTION THIS MOVIE KICKS ASS?
Even when they're eating someone's face off, bats in closeup are pretty darn adorable
Never put down the brandy
No one holds a grude with quite the same dedication as a super genius concert pianist doctor
I was lucky enough to find a double disc of this and its sequel through the Midnight Movies release at the famed Kim's Video in downtown Manhattan. Now on Instant Watch, this is a truly wonderful watch, the kind of strange genre treat that somehow manages to be funny, scary, sweet, gorgeous, and ridiculous all at the same time. See it.