Abominable Dr Phibes, The (Blu-ray) (1971)

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Released 30-Apr-2014

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Trailer-The Abominable Dr. Phibes (2:34).
Trailer-Dr. Phibes Rises Again! (2:08)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1971
Running Time 94:40
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Robert Fuest
Studio
Distributor

Shock Entertainment
Starring Vincent Price
Joseph Cotten
Virginia North
Terry-Thomas
Sean Bury
Susan Travers
David Hutcheson
Edward Burnham
Alex Scott
Peter Gilmore
Maurice Kaufmann
Peter Jeffrey
Derek Godfrey
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Basil Kirchin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Someone is killing surgeons in London in bizarre ways but the only link between the murders that the police led by Detective Inspector Trout (Peter Jeffery) can find is that all the doctors were part of the medical team headed by Dr. Vesalius (Joseph Cotton) that had operated upon, but failed to save the life of, a young married woman named Victoria Phibes. The likely prime suspect behind the murders would have been her husband, Dr. Phibes, but he had been burned to death in a car crash shortly after her death and been interned in a tomb beside his wife. However it seems that Dr. Phibes (Vincent Price), although disfigured, is very much alive; doctor, scientist, inventor and organ player, helped by his beautiful mute assistant Vulnavia (Virginia North) Phibes has set out to extract revenge upon the nine people he blames for the death of his wife taking as his inspiration the 10 Biblical plagues inflicted by God on the Egyptians. As the doctors continue to die can Trout and his team stop Phibes before he completes his self-appointed task?

     In the 1960s low budget filmmaker Roger Corman and star Vincent Price hit pay-dirt with their adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher. This film was so successful it made Price a horror icon and spawned a run of seven more official Corman-Poe pictures starring Price of which the last was The Tomb of Ligeia in 1965. Price continued to work in the horror genre for other directors, adding a special brand of camp humour into many of his films of which The Abominable Dr. Phibes, made by director Robert Fuest in 1971, is a prime example.

     When a film starts with a black cloaked and hooded figure sitting at an organ in front of a bright red background ostentatiously playing Mendelsohn’s War March of the Priests inside an art deco ballroom with a clockwork orchestra, you just know that this film is a Gothic horror film with a very camp and anarchic sense of humour. The Abominable Dr. Phibes is certainly great fun and it also looks gorgeous with its very dense set decoration and deep, luscious colours, especially in Phibes’ ballroom lair, while some of Virginia North’s costumes are also stunning. Vincent Price is also in good form, and although he does not speak for the first 32 minutes the close-ups of the expressions on his creased face, artfully half lit, are wonderful. The Abominable Dr. Phibes is also enjoyable where it adds well known English actors in bit parts, including Terry-Thomas, who is delightfully droll as one of Phibes’ victims, and Hugh Griffith as a Rabbi. And while Virginia North in her last screen role does not speak a word she is artfully shot and ravishingly beautiful. Veteran American actor Joseph Cotton looks less at home and it is perhaps no surprise that Peter Cushing was originally cast in the role of Dr. Vesalius but had to pull out due to his wife’s illness. Now that would have been an interesting pairing!

     The Abominable Dr. Phibes is a gloriously campy, beautifully looking Gothic horror that remains great fun more than 40 years after its release. The make-up effects are reasonably good although the film, unlike modern horror, is not gory or over the top meaning that it has an M rating. Plus, of course, horror icon Vincent Price is always worth watching.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The Abominable Dr. Phibes is presented in the original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     As noted in the review, the film looks spectacular. Colours, especially the reds and yellows, are beautifully deep and rich, while the fine detail is impressive allowing us to see all the creases on Price’s partly lit face. Blacks and shadow detail are wonderful; you can see all the crinkles and highlights on Phibes’ glossy black coat in the darkness, while the contrast with the red backgrounds is spectacular. Grain is not a problem, brightness and contrast consistent, skin tones natural.

     There are some small marks on the print but none are distracting. There is also some minor motion blur evident.

     There are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
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Audio

     The audio is an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono.

     Dialogue is always clear and easy to understand while effects such as footsteps, cars and the aircraft engine have some depth. The organ music does come over as quite strident and not always clean. The score by Basil Kirchin was effective but the film gains much of its mood from the versions of period songs including The Darktown Strutter’s Ball, Over the Rainbow and One for My Baby and One More for the Road which are scattered throughout the film.

     There is obviously no surround or subwoofer use.

     I did not notice any hiss or distortion.

     Lip synchronisation was fine.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Trailers

     Trailers for Dr. Phibes Rises Again! (2:08) and The Abominable Dr. Phibes (2:34).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     In the US the Region A Blu-ray of The Abominable Dr. Phibes seems to be available only as part of the multi-disc The Vincent Price Collection. Extras on that release are two audio commentaries, one with director Robert Fuest, the other with author Justin Humphreys, plus a featurette on Price and Gothic Horror (13:17). The UK Region B release also has the director’s commentary, plus one by writer William Goldstein and a range of other featurettes. This UK Blu-ray can either be bought as a stand alone or in a double bill with Dr. Phibes Rises Again!. Either region would be the preferred option, unless you just wanted the film itself.

Summary

     Vincent Price, a beautiful mute assistant, murder, revenge and the 10 plagues of Egypt all rolled up into one gloriously campy, beautifully looking Gothic horror. The Abominable Dr. Phibes remains a delightful film both for fans of Price and anyone interested in the genre or just some good, old fashioned fun.

     The film looks stupendous in HD, the audio is the original mono. Trailers are the only extras as, sadly, we miss out on all the extras available in other regions.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, January 06, 2016
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
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