It must be impossible to be a Vincent Price fan and not completely adore this nutty little movie about a mad mask-wearing doctor who plots an elaborate series of revenge murders against the group of doctors who failed to save his wife after a tragic accident.
The Abominable Dr Phibes is super kitsch and pretty surreal making it feel more like some sort of macabre psychedelic painting than a straight-up horror film. There are a lot of ideas in there and really they shouldn't work together but somehow they do. On one side you've got Phibes, a completely gothic creation akin to the likes of The Phantom Of The Opera, on the other you've got English cops straight out of an Ealing comedy and in the middle a bunch of weird doctors, each of them looking like they belong to another type of film altogether. Like a Sherlock Holmes mystery or a Columbo episode. Hell, even Terry Thomas pops up out of the blue in an oddly seedy cameo!
Terry Thomas lol
Basically the joy of this movie is just seeing Dr Phibes kill each doctor in increasingly ridiculous but increasingly creative and entertaining ways. Whether it's by releasing (loltastically fake-looking) killer bats in a bedroom, draining someone's blood one bottle at a time, freezing a dude to death or putting bees inside a plane, there's no predicting what the hell Dr Phibes has planned next. And even though you know pretty early on that his theme is the seven plagues of Egypt, it's still a surprise when someone opens a door and gets impaled by a giant unicorn statue. My favourite, however, has to be when Dr Phibes makes some sort of poisonous glue concoction made out of brussel sprouts (which he sorts with the help of the least accurate machine ever) then goes to a hospital, drills a hole on the floorboards, installs some weird plastic sheet depicting a crudely drawn naked woman then pours the green stuff into the hole which leads straight to the sleeping victim's face (nope, it doesn't even wake her up) and finally, to top it all off, he releases locusts inside the room. The reveal is absurd but absolutely worth it.
Price is having a ball here as one of the weirdest characters he's ever played. And that's saying a lot! The guy speaks from his neck, drinks INTO his neck, has melodramatic monologues, has an entire room dedicated to a robot-puppet band playing random music non-stop, he plays the organ, has an assistant we're never quite sure who she is or why she's there... the guy doesn't add up. Larger-than-life, quirky and off-beat don't begin to describe him. He's like a demented cartoon character and that, coupled with Price's deadpan performance, makes Dr Phibes althemore iconic of a character. The plot kinda falls apart several times if you start actually thinking about it in detail as there's enough plot-holes and things that just don't make sense to make you question what you're actually watching. But The Abominable Dr Phibes is one of those trashy but cleverer than it looks and good-looking movies that's so unique it's in fact beyond nitpicking.
You'll either love it or hate it, basically.
I, for one, had tons of fun watching this bizarre creation and look forward to hunting down that silly-sounding sequel as soon as possible. Honourable mention to Joseph Cotten also for making it through such a screwy movie and leaving with his dignity still very much intact.
Terrifically madcap nonsense.