Insomnia Movies: a Night with Dr Anton Phibes, part 2
For reasons beyond fathoming, Robert Fuest’s 1972 Dr Phibes Rises Again was distributed with the title of Frustration, thus severing any connection with the previous entry in this short-lived franchise. But it was not frustration that caused me to watch this movie right after the first one, but plain old insomnia.
What’s happening here…
Three years after he extracted his revenge on the people responsible for the death of his beloved wife Victoria, Dr Anton Phibes is back from the self-embalming death of the first movie. The plan: to use an old papyrus to find the Egyptian River of Life and, now that the stars are right, bring Victoria back to life and enjoy eternal life with her.
Not a bad plan: who would not like enjoying eternal life with Caroline Munro?
But Phibes’ house has been demolished, and the papyrus stolen. Which sends the good doctor on another murderous rampage, once again helped by the beautiful and silent Vulnavia, as he matches wits with the police, again represented by Inspector Trout, and with the mysterious Darius Biederbeck, who has his own motives to seek the ancient secrets of the pharaohs.
Many members of the cast and crew of the first film are along for the ride, but Dr Phibes’ second outing lacks the coherence and the drive of the first movie; on the other hand, this time around our hero could be over-reacting, but is all things considered in the right: he’s just trying to get his plan underway, and it’s the continuous interference of Biederbeck that gets the homicides rolling. Indeed, Biederbeck and his minions are a lot less sympathetic than Dr Phibes.
Dr. Phibes: I am protecting you, Victoria, from those who would discover us. I shall eliminate them all, one by one, my love. Yes, even Beiderbeck himself, if need be.
Just as in the previous film, we get the strange surreal mix of horror and comedy, and we are treated to a jazz-based soundtrack and beautiful art deco sets, in garish colors. Soon the action moves to Egypt, where Phibes has his very own secret base, and it’s beautiful
Dr Phibes Rises Again was supposed to be the second entry in a trilogy, to be followed by something along the lines of The Bride of Dr Phibes – but the production company decided to drop the property, just as they had decided to ditch Vincent Price. This is a pity, because it would have been interesting to see the Phibes mythology further expanded.
As things stand, Dr Phibes Rises Again is a nice, fun addition to the pulp madness of the first movie. Price is priceless as ever, Valli Kemp replaces the unavailable Virginia North as Vulnavia, and Peter Jeffrey is again along for the ride as Inspector Trout. We get short cameos by Peter Cushing and Terry-Thomas, and are reminded that Fiona Lewis was extremely hot in the ’70s.
The plot is pure weird menace fare, with gruesome killings, Egyptian lore and a final damsel in distress situation.
All things considered, quite fun, and it’s a pity Phibes did not continue his career as a self-righteous, sui generis avenger – we all know he’s always been the good guy.