DIRECTED BY: Robert Fuest
FEATURING: Vincent Price, Peter Jeffrey, Virginia North, Joseph Cotten, Terry-Thomas, photographs of Caroline Munro
PLOT: Dr. Phibes, a mysterious, organ playing supervillain, kills off doctors in bizarre
and ritualistic ways as Scotland Yard races to find the pattern to the crimes and the identity of the killer.
WHY IT’S ON THE BORDERLINE: Dr. Phibes, the supervillain, is pretty damn weird, from his obsession with acting out 1920s torch songs to the audio jack in his neck that he connects to a phonograph when he wants to speak. Dr. Phibes, the movie, is somewhat weird, though less so than its central character. Doubtlessly, the proper but incompetent Brits who are perpetually one step behind the bad doctor would term the goings-on here “decidedly odd.” We’re not sold that Dr. Phibes is weird enough to make the List on a first pass, but we’re not comfortable writing it off, either, so it will sit in the Borderline category.
COMMENTS: The first scene of Dr. Phibes wisely spotlights the film’s keynote set and admirably sets a tone of ghoulish whimsy. Organ music swells as the camera travels up a marble staircase until it reaches an odd atrium. In the center sits an organ with a fan of pipes glowing with subtly garish yellows, pinks and reds. Flanking this centerpiece are trees with stuffed birds of prey perched on their dead limbs. At the organ sits the hunched, hooded figure of a man, who sways as if possessed and theatrically throws up his arms during random passages as he plays. After the opening credits fade a longshot reveals there is more to this room: there’s a clockwork band of automatons in tuxedos. The hooded figure finishes his dirge, steps away, winds a crank and begins conducting the stiff figures as they belt out an impossibly lush big band ballad. On a balcony above a door opens and out steps a beautiful brunette, Continue reading BORDERLINE WEIRD: THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (1971)