Among the many weird and varied roles of Vincent Price, Dr. Anton Phibes may just hold the title of most interesting. A very tragic figure, Dr. Phibes has spent his life searching for a way to resurrect his beloved wife, Victoria. Poor guy doesn’t even have a face, but guess what, his mask looks just like… That’s right, Vincent Price, all powdered up and everything.
“Have you seen my lips?”
In this, the sequel to The Abominable Dr. Phibes, the good doctor has waited for the right planetary alignment and awakens from his slumber to take his wife to Egypt and the River of Life. Unfortunately, upon rising he discovers his house has been demolished and his papyrus map has been stolen. Woe to those who steal from the vengeful Dr. Phibes; he will find an elaborate method of killing you.
As it happens, the map now belongs to an archaeologist who is looking for the River of Life as well. They all set sail for Egypt, with Scotland Yard in tow. Phibes picks off just about every one in the cast, but more interesting deaths are hard to find.
Unlike most, this film takes an interesting path with the maniacal, blood-thirsty killer as the protagonist. And you know what? You end up rooting for him. And with more creative death scenes than any 80s slasher could hope for, there’s much to love. The addition of a cameo by the wonderful Peter Cushing was also a touch that I personally enjoyed.
After providing the viewer with a recap of the events of the first film, we dive into the story, with some glaring potholes. How Phibes manages to find out who has stolen his treasured papyrus is anyone’s guess, but it leads to a fantastic loop-around killing involving clockwork snakes. Yeah, you read that right. Phibes has a certain love of all things clockwork. He even has his own house band, the Clockwork Wizards.
Damn, I want a house band
We continue with the threadbare plot and rather disappointing story as it jumps all the way to Egypt. Honestly, it’s never explained how both Phibes and the archaeologist end up on the same ship, much less how his Phibes’ assistant, Vulvania, who never speaks, set up the trip in the first place. A little character development on the part of the archaeologist wouldn’t have hurt either, for all we see is that he’s an egomaniacal ass with the desire to live forever. As a matter of fact, development of any character would have been nice.
Winding our way through a few more elaborate death scenes, we make it to Egypt and the mountain containing the River of Life. And somehow, magically, Phibes has moved in to a palatial abode, with all the items from his destroyed home. Really? It’s supposed to be the inside of an unknown ancient tomb, but looks more like an art deco, 70’s penthouse. I want to know, who moved all his crap. I seriously doubt the feeble doctor or his buxom assistant can pick up an organ that probably weighs a thousand pounds. He continues his murderous rampage, but we are, apparently, supposed to believe that whenever he needs an enormous contraption to kill someone, it just appears. Did it come out of his ass or did he will it there? We never discussed his qualifications as a magician.
His pimping skills, however, are unquestionable
While the story culminates with the remaining characters all fighting toward the goal of eternal life, we are never given any real reason why. The archaeologist is pathetically explained away as having lived for over one hundred years, but we still have no idea who the hell this guy is supposed to be. I understand Phibes and his desire to save his wife, but everyone else just seems superfluously added so that he has someone to kill along the way. Throw in an overly ambiguous ending, and we can wrap this up without knowing what really happens… to anyone.
Canned set pieces and 70s cinematography are the order of the day, but they lend a sense of nostalgia to the overall cheesiness. With some groovy atmospherics and the comic relief of Scotland Yard’s finest, it’s a good choice for any fan of Vincent Price or pre-slasher horror.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for every overly-elaborate death
Take a Drink: for every use of the lovely assistant, Vulvania
Drink a Shot: when you see Peter Cushing