Today's Pick: The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)
Expect Vincent Price to make an appearance in this series at least once every year. I quoted Horror Movie A Day scribe Brian Collins once before and I'll quote him again: "If you go all October without watching a Vincent Price movie, you're doing something wrong." While I still think Theatre of Blood is Price's crowning achievement in the horror genre, The Abominable Dr. Phibes is a very close second, and even though the general setup of the two films are strikingly similar (Price is a character getting revenge on a group of people who wronged him), they each offer their own flourishes of creativity.
For example, instead of taking inspiration from the works of Shakespeare, the murders in this film are all based off of the ten plagues of Egypt. I love that both films take such literary influences and twist them into elaborate set pieces in order to stage grisly and inventive killings. The Abominable Dr. Phibes is even more outlandish, going so far as to have a frog mask that chokes someone to death. It's such a loose adaptation of the plague it's based on, but that kind of fun spirit instantly wins you over.
A film that often gets brought up when discussing The Abominable Dr. Phibes is Saw. That's a fair comparison to make, since both films have intricate death traps whose intended victims often seem like they probably deserve the punishment they are receiving. Both Jigsaw and Dr. Phibes are the real heroes of their stories, and when you have an expert thespian like Vincent Price in the role, it's impossible not to subscribe to his twisted philosophy. Considering that Price's performance is almost entirely vocal, it's doubly impressive.
Another enormous selling point for the film is its design. The story takes place in 1925, which means there's this gorgeous art deco style at play. This is a wonderful movie to take screenshots of, because every scene is exquisitely crafted to evoke a response of beauty and majesty, all in the midst of a tale that involves nothing but ghastly murder, played off with a cheeky sense of dark humor.
The Abominable Dr. Phibes is ridiculously fun to watch, never taking itself too seriously but never descending into parody. It's another inarguable classic in the Vincent Price library, and should be counted among some of his best work. Do yourself a favor and check it out.
Tomorrow's movie has got to be one of the weirdest ripoffs of all time. Hint: ghost lizards and a little person are involved. See you then!
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