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The Abominable Dr. Phibes

This stylish 1971 Brit comedy-horror hybrid is one of the more entertaining horror films from the '70s and easily one of Vincent Price's finest outings. While artfully directing a series of ingeniously bizarre murders one by one, fiendish Dr. Phibes is clearly having a grand good time. Likewise, one of the things that distinguished Price was that he so often enjoyed what he was doing, and that certainly appears to be the case here in his 100th film. This witty piffle unfolds as an old-fashioned Scotland Yard police procedural dolled up in the tradition of the French Grand Guignol: a blend of horrific tale, sentimental tragedy, and farcical comedy. Price, of course, is Phibes — musician, genius inventor, wealthy sophisticate, and obsessively devoted husband who takes "till death do us part" rather seriously indeed. Seeking revenge against the hospital team he blames for his wife's death, Phibes sets out to murder each of them one by one. The modus operandi behind his vengeance? The Old Testament curses visited upon Pharaoh's Egypt. Virginia North plays Phibes' mute, mysterious, and murderous companion, Vulnavia. Peter Jeffrey hits the right notes as the hot-on-the-trail Inspector Trout. And that really is Joseph Cotten as chief surgeon Vesalius, the final intended victim. There's a comic-book cool and cheeky sense of humor that raise The Abominable Dr. Phibes above so many other "horror" films that play it straight.

MGM's DVD release offers an anamorphic widescreen transfer (1.85:1) that is a little spotty in a few places, but it's still a good clean print (desirable) with bright colors (essential) in widescreen. The Dolby Digital mono audio track restores the original organ music that had been replaced with inferior material for earlier versions. Theatrical trailer, keep-case.

—Mark Bourne

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