Abominable Dr. Phibes, The (1971): Starring Vincent Price and Joseph Cotten

A good cast, headed by Vincent Price, Joseph Cotten, and Hugh Griffith, and a healthy dosage of goofy humor, elevate “The Abominable Dr. Phibes” above the routine horror flick.

In fact, the picture was so successful that it resulted in a sequel the following year, “Dr. Phibes Rises Again.”

Set in London in 1929, the tale, scripted by James Whiton and William Goldstein, centers on Dr. Phibes (Price), a disfigured madman who seeks revenge on the doctors, who had failed to save the life of his wife.

Phibes reconstructs his face (his voice and face were destroyed in a car accident). For his vengeance strategies, he borrows plagues that had been brought down on Ramses in Egypt, including locusts, bats, and rats). Each of the killings is patterned after the ten deadly plagues, culminating in getting surgeon Dr. Vesalius (Joseph Cotton) in his lair and forcing him to save his son’s life in a suspenseful race against time.

Price could have played his part in his sleep: Looking “normal,” he actually wears a rubber mask. Some of the fun derives from the interaction between Phibes and the mute Vulnavia (Virginia North), and from the dinner scenes, in which he takes his food through his neck rather than mouth.

Meant as a tribute to the classic horror films of the genre golden era, in the 1930s, the movie is well directed by Robert Fuest (better known for “The Avengers”) and quite entertaining, so long as you do not take any of it seriously.


Running time: 93 Minutes.
Directed By: Robert Fuest
Written By: James Whiton, William Goldstein


Vincent Price as Dr. Anton Phibes
Joseph Cotten as Dr. Vesalius
Virginia North as Vulnavia
Terry-Thomas as Dr. Longstreet
Hugh Griffith as Rabbi
Peter Jeffrey as Inspector Trout