It seems appropriate for my 300th review that I go back to where it all began. I kicked off this project with a Vincent Price film and now 299 days later I am still going. Price is my favorite horror actor of all time so my very last film for the project will also be one of his. It’s poetic and sh*t.
Dr. Phibes is one of the all-time best villains. Why? Well, for starters, he has a lot of time on his hands and likes to see how things play out. It’s his signature move. That and utterly ridiculous and wildly improbable killing methods. Where else can you find a killer who thinks through three, four or sometimes eight steps ahead of his victims? Case in point, the first kill in this film is certified Mensa.
Dr. Phibes releases a bunch of rattle snakes into a room that contains a butler/guard playing snooker. Easy, right? Death by snake! But this is Phibes and that would be way too easy, considered sloppy and lazy by his lofty standards. The snakes are actually robots (he is a master machinist afterall) which the butler finds rather amusing. Here’s where the master planner comes to play. Phibes knew the butler would relax around the snakes upon finding out they were nothing but machines. So, naturally, he sneaks in one real rattler, which promptly bites the man. Once again, death by snake, right? Dead wrong. That is still not creative enough for the master of death. The next bit seals Phibes’ fate as a badass. Knowing that the bitten man would attempt to place a phone call to the paramedics, Phibes already rigged the phone so that a sharp metal rod would pierce through the man’s head as soon as he pressed it to his ear. Bam! Butler is dead. The only thing left to say is, “Holy sh*t! That was awesome!” And you are right to do so. If this scene was a piece of art hanging in the Louvre, people would stare in awe for hours upon hours. It’s the work of true genius.
Phibes is back this time searching for The Scrolls of Life in an attempt to bring his beloved wife, Victoria, back from the dead. Phibes ends up in Egypt in a race for the scrolls against an explorer with similar intentions. The inept cops reprise their roles and also show up in Egypt to bumble around and make audiences laugh. And make no mistake; this is a black as night horror comedy. If you liked (or loved like me) the first film, you will undoubtedly enjoy this effort. It’s really too bad the planned third film was never made.
Once in Egypt, Phibes starts getting really creative. First, apparently he had the time to renovate an underground evil hideout in the exact temple where the action is going to happen. His fortress includes all the amenities of his prior home, including the robot band and surprising amount of secret doors and tunnels. How any of this got there should not be discussed. Doing so may cause your head to explode.
Phibes then goes on a killing streak, with the help of Vulnavia (his magical hottie helper). One the henchman working for the explorer is lured into tent by Vulnavia and then forced to sit in what looks like an Egyptian Scorpion Death Chair. First rule of sitting in chairs: Make sure they don’t look like they could kill you. The chair locks the poor bastard with some sort of spike trap that would require pulling off his arms to escape. Phibes comes in, shows the man the key and then drops the key into a porcelain puppy statue. Phibes’ works is done, but the fun is just beginning. The trapped sap manages to break open the porcelain dog (why a dog and not a Sphinx?) only to discover that it was actually full of scorpions. Not just any scorpions mind you, but specially trained killer versions of which are insanely attracted to human flesh.
He follows this up with a kill that involves a giant wind fan (where he keeps these things no one will ever know) and a corkscrew killing device that has to be seen to be believed. It’s downright awesomesauce. And all of that is before Mr. Price sings “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
Snore Factor: ZZ