Friends, it was 50 years ago today that American International Pictures (AIP) released The Abominable Dr. Phibes to theaters, one of the absolute best Vincent Price films ever made. While that might be a personal opinion, I stand by it, knowing full well that Price appeared in such classic films as The Fly, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Last Man on Earth, and House of Wax to name just a few of his memorable roles. The Abominable Dr. Phibes is an extremely dark comedy with an embarrassment of riches in the solid cast of actors that included the likes of Joseph Cotten, Virginia North,Terry-Thomas, Peter Jeffrey, Hugh Griffith, Aubrey Woods, Norman Jones and many others. It is a rare film indeed where you will find yourself actively rooting for the villain, thanks of course in no small part to the abundance of charisma on display by Price throughout the picture.
If you’ve not had the pleasure of seeing The Abominable Dr. Phibes for yourself, it happens to concern Dr. Anton Phibes (Price), a brilliant inventor and former concert organist believed dead after a horrible car accident. The wreck that disfigured him and forced him to fake his own demise in Switzerland, was due to the news of the passing of his wife, Victoria (Caroline Munro). The medical staff that were in attendance, who truly attempted to save the poor woman are the targets of Phibe’s revenge – using his expertise in theology to bring upon the Ten Plagues of Egypt upon their heads.
Directed by Robert Fuest (The Avengers) and co-written by James Whiton (Murder by Phone) and William Goldstein (The Amazing Dobermans), The Abominable Dr. Phibes received generally favorable reviews when it was released 50 years ago. At the very least it proved successful enough that it warranted a sequel, with Dr. Phibes Rises Again being released in July of the following year. To say nothing of the fact that many attempts at sequels and reboots have been attempted since, including a television series pitch in ’72 entitled The Sinister Dr. Phibes – where it certainly sounds like Phibes would have used his genius and vast resources to exact punishment on various evil doers.
In closing out this article, here is to 50 amazing years of The Abominable Dr. Phibes, a film that gave us one of Price’s most memorable characters and performances. And if you happen to be a huge Dr. Phibes fan… or is that Phan… you might be interested to know that William Goldstein as well as his son have written a book series featuring the character and his origins.
You might also be interested to know that The Abominable Dr. Phibes was the subject of one of the early episodes of the Saturday Frights podcast.