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John Ary's Aint It Scary Reviews #12 Of 31!! DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN!

John Ary here with another installment of Ain’t It Scary Reviews.  Today we tag along with Vincent Price as he attempts to kill a group of archaeologists in the most complicated ways possible.

The Dr. Phibes films were to be the 1970’s equivalent of Saw.  Characters are killed with various far-fetched contraptions based on a central theme.  In Dr. Phibes Rises Again! Vincent Price makes his second appearance as the macabre music lover with a grotesque face and a undying love for his wife.  He wears a an elaborate mask, has to speak using a cord that plugs into his neck and eats through a mysterious hole at the base of his skull.  To put it simply, he is a very weird dude.

It’s been three years since Phibes went on a murder spree, killing the doctors who he believed messed up his wife’s surgery.  He awakens from a self-imposed coma, determined to take his wife’s body to Egypt, where she is to be reawakened in the fabled River of Life.  Along the way Phibes and his lovely assistant must murder a rival team of archeologists who are also in search of the mythological tomb of the pharohs.    

This sequel was part of a proposed series of Phibes movies from American International Pictures.  Based on the success of the first Phibes, AIP was anxious to rush this one into production and it shows.  This doesn’t feel as polished as the first film.  Phibes’ motivation to murder innocent people makes very little sense here.  In the first movie, he was out for revenge, so he chose a theme (the ten plagues from the bible) and killed the people who wronged him via bats, locusts, rats, etc.  This time, he chooses a loose egyptian theme for his kills featuring scorpions, sand, and... well the rest of the kills are kind of random really and don’t fit into the theme.  One guy gets a nail through the ear when he answers the phone.  Another is strangled, put into a giant empty gin bottle and thrown into the ocean.  There had to have been some better ways to kill these people.  How about mummification? Or scarabs?  Or Phibes could have used a victim’s blood to draw hieroglyphics?  I’m just spitballing here.  

Also, why kill all of these innocents?  It changes Phibes from a sympathetic madman into a cruel serial murderer.  Apparently the producers had a series of pictures planned where Phibes would kill people using different themes.  The Seven Fates of Phibes would feature kills based on Greek mythology.  The Son of Phibes had to do with environmental disasters and kills triggered by tidal waves and earthquakes.  Another film would involve Phibes taking on a think-tank of eccentric personalities and killing them via their greatest desires.  Unfortunately none of these films materialized.  Price was upset when he learned his co-star Robert Quarry was being groomed to take over his top spot at American International Pictures.  Quarry had already starred in a couple of Count Yorga vampire movies for the production company and it’s rumored that AIP wanted to pit Dr. Phibes against the b-level vampire in a future film.  That would have been fun to watch.  

To really enjoy Dr. Phibes Rises Again!, you have to have a healthy suspension of disbelief.  It would take weeks to setup some of these kills, yet Phibes and his assistant whip them up instantly.  Somehow in a matter of hours, they transform the chambers of an ancient Eqyptian tomb into their headquarters, complete with pipe organ and marble floors.  He has a robot band, spring loaded snakes, an attack bird that guards his lair and a mute beauty queen that does all of his dirty work.  I’m kind of jealous.

The main reason to see the film though is Price and his insane performance.  He’s a mentally deranged character performed by one horror’s maestro’s of the macabre.  While this is far from his greatest film, there are a few interesting kills and a bizarre factor that make it worth a watch on a lazy afternoon.

Dr. Phibes Rises Again! is currently streaming on Netflix.  It’s also available on DVD with The Abominable Dr. Phibes here.

Check back in tomorrow for another Ain’t It Scary Review as a Japanese widower gets more than he bargains for when he courts a mysterious young woman.


Here’s a look back at the Ain’t It Scary Review installments that you might have missed:

The Ground Rules to the Project
#1 Son of Frankenstein
#2 Scream, Blacula, Scream!
#3 Black Sabbath
#4 Maniac
#5 Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
#6 Invisible Invaders
#7 The Mummy’s Curse
#8 Lord of Illusions
#9 Night of the Demons
#10 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
#11 The House of the Devil


For more video news, reviews and interviews subscribe to the AICN Youtube channel and follow me on Twitter.

Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 12, 2012, 6:50 a.m. CST

    Both Phibes movies were great fun!

    by CaptainAction

    Price was at his best and Quary did a great job as well. Wish Peter Cushing had more than a cameo

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 6:51 a.m. CST

    First is easy! NBD!

    by CaptainAction

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 6:53 a.m. CST

    V Price singing, "Somewhere Over The Rainbow"

    by CaptainAction

    Was a genius ending

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 6:57 a.m. CST


    by KelseysNuts

    These freaked me out as a kid. The first is a great movie, with some good performances and a good story line. I agree the second one is not as good but still worth seeing Vincent Price in action. Oh, and John Ary, you failed to mention the dude who was killed as Phibes crushed him down to the size of a wafer thin mint -- in bed!!

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 7:10 a.m. CST

    Took a date to see both Phibes movies at the drive-in.

    by Smerdyakov

    Passed up sex to watch Price.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 7:13 a.m. CST

    Cool movie but when I see 70s Price all I can hear is...

    by tangcameo

    The castle lights are growing dim. There's no one left but me... and him. When next we meet in Frankenstone [huh?] don't come alone.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 7:15 a.m. CST


    by B Arnold Quizzling

    Is without a doubt my favorite actor. He was pure joy to watch even in the lowest budget trash. He never thought he was above a bad script and always made a film entertaining. The Phibes movies were such fun and much credit must also go to the director Robert Fuest (who sadly passed away a while back). Where are today's Prices and Fuests? Burton and Depp I guess?

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 7:23 a.m. CST


    by Terry Powell the name. i had all the Captain Action toys, the costumes, the sanctuary, the silver streak amphibian. While others had their GI Joes, I had Captain Action, who could be Superman, Spiderman(and that was a tough one to track down) The Phantom. And of course I had Dr Evil, the blue bad guy with his brain exposed. Ther was even a short lived comic book. Too cool. And yes, I loved both Phibes films. Too bad they didn't make more of them. Same with Count Yorga. Another sequel I'd have loved to have seen was to the House of Dark Shadows(on blu oct 30!). I've read where they wanted to do another one but Frid bowed out so they came up with the story for Night of Dark Shadows instead, which I have not been waiting to watch again.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 7:52 a.m. CST

    It's fun watching an actor have a good time....

    by Smerdyakov

    Unlike Harrison Ford, for example who always seems miserable and wishing he could get back to his furniture building.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 8:04 a.m. CST

    The first Phibes is a masterpiece. Superior to sequel.

    by Uncle Stan

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 8:11 a.m. CST

    The Bride of Dr. Phibes

    by Uncle Stan

    I met Caroline Munro in Philadelphia years ago and had to ask about her involvement in the Phibes films. She said there were plans for her to star in a film called The Bride of Dr. Phibes. Phibes wife was revived and turned out to be a more blood-thirsty killer than her husband. I did hear about another planned sequel which placed Phibes in old-time Hollywood. Also, George Romero was at one time considering a Phibes remake/reboot.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 9:03 a.m. CST

    Nice. I loves me some Phibes.

    by Buck_Futt

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 9:53 a.m. CST

    Anyone seen Fuest's Michael Moorcock adaptation?

    by Colin Dent

    'The Final Programme' (The Last Days of Man on Earth) was made in '71-'72, and stars Jon Finch as Jerry Cornelius. It's a bit of a curate's egg, but tons of fun regardless. It's got an amazing cast, featuring cameos from Sterling Hayden, George Coulouris, Ursa from 'Superman' and Kubrick stalwart Patrick Magee. The production design is very 'Clockwork Orange', though on a tinier budget, but getting small budgets to look huge was a Fuest speciality. Take a look at it and you'll see there's a lot for geeks to enjoy. I'm surprised Johnny Depp hasn't latched on to it as a vanity project for himself.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 10:24 a.m. CST

    Saw has shamelessly ripped off Phibes.

    by frank

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 10:38 a.m. CST

    Don't forget Theater of Blood

    by Eddie_Dane

    One of my favs along with both of the Phibes "Only Lionheart would have the temerity to rewrite Shakespeare!"

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 11 a.m. CST

    Seven always struck me as a Phibes ripoff

    by Cnemi

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 11:18 a.m. CST

    smerdyakov hit it on the head

    by B Arnold Quizzling

    Price is so enjoyable because he was having fun. Perhaps that is what's missing in today's films. With mega budgets and clueless suits demanding runaway profits for every film no one is having fun anymore. I think that's why people latched onto The Avengers so much. Certainly it's not a perfect or great film but Wheadon and cast (except for Renner) were actually having fun and it showed.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 12:04 p.m. CST

    One word: Vulnavia

    by The StarWolf

    She was one of the creepiest bits of the first film. Who was she? Where did Phibes turn her up? Why was she slavishly dedicated to this murdering lunatic? In one way it's frustrating not to know the answers, but you also get the feeling any answers they could come up with just would not be satisfying.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 12:24 p.m. CST

    Theatre of blood was where Price met his soul-mate Coral Browne

    by Smerdyakov

    when he murdered her with a hair dryer. What a pair they must have made.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 12:41 p.m. CST


    by Mike Soiseth

    These flicks are just far out great. Bizzare, strange, creepy and kitsch all wrapped up in one big WTF? Great stuff and classic as well.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 2:19 p.m. CST

    The telephone-spike murder...

    by Gislef_crow

    The golden spike from the telephone is an Egyptian asp. The only non-Egyptian themed murder is the man in the bottle. Which is the only improvised murder that Phibes performs.

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 3:19 p.m. CST

    by Eddievil

    You are so right Cnemi - I - sadly - remember the 2 Dr Phibes movies and Theatre Of Blood as being the "interesting kills " stuff of their day - following on from Agatha Christies 10 Little Indians... Interesting point that someone else makes in the talkback about the kills in "...Rises Again" being random as opposed to the Plagues of Egypt in the original... I remember an article in a British 70s horror mag saying that the Phibes was re-creating the "little known (fictional) plagues that Egypt visited in retaliation on Moses' people".

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 3:25 p.m. CST

    Johnny D. as Jerry C.

    by Eddievil

    I can see it now - channeling Mick Jagger as a 60s asassin

  • Oct. 12, 2012, 5:57 p.m. CST

    Phibes Novels

    by redfern

    William Goldstein's DR. PHIBES novels are now available on Amazon or on Kindle. All three for around $8. DR. PHIBES DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN! DR. PHIBES - IN THE BEGINNING

  • Oct. 13, 2012, 7:42 a.m. CST

    Harryreickle, Yeah, I only had the Batman Captain

    by CaptainAction

    Action as a kid and of course the regular Captain Action was pretty cool with the sword and pistol. Playing mantis did some affordable remakes of a lot of them which you can find on ebay. Remember the flicker rings which changed from C/A to one of the other characters? Pretty cool! Funny you mentioned Count Yorga. My dad took me and younger brother to see Yorga and it scared us so bad that my mom wouldnt let dad take us to see Abominable Dr. Phibes when it came out. Had to catch these later.

  • Oct. 13, 2012, 7:46 a.m. CST

    Yorga scared Little brother and me soo bad

    by CaptainAction

    That mom wouldnt let our dad take us to Abominable Dr. Phibes. Remember seeing the cool trailer and being so mad at myself for letting my mom see how freaked out I was from Yorga. I was 10 and couldn't believe I was seeing a vampire lady eating a cat! Had to catch Phibes as an "adult".