Last time I reviewed the little-known horror gem “The Abominable Dr. Phibes.” Naturally I felt I had to follow it up with a review of its sequel “Dr. Phibes Rises Again.” It has been a while since I have seen this one and watching it again I have to say that it is nowhere near as good as its predecessor. However it still has enough going for it that I feel it is worthy of being mentioned.
To properly describe the plot of this film I have to talk about the ending of the first. If you haven’t had the pleasure of watching it yet then you might want to skip down a couple of paragraphs. The first film ends with Dr. Phibes going into his wife’s tomb and putting himself into a form of suspended animation. Basically he takes all the blood out of his body and replaces it with embalming fluid.
The sequel takes place 3 years after the first. Phibes is awoken from the tomb by a planetary alignment, more on that later. With his revenge complete he has a new goal, which is to bring his wife back from the dead. To accomplish this he and Vulnavia, yes she is back and this time played by actress Valli Kemp, must travel to Egypt. In Egypt there is a Pharaohs tomb hidden in a mountain and a river runs under this tomb. Every 2,000 years when the planets align a certain way, yes this is the same alignment that awoke Phibes, the river of life flows into this river. Phibes believes when this happens not only can his wife be brought back to life but they will both be given eternal life.
However Phibes isn’t the only one interested in finding this river. A rich socialite by the name of Darrus Biederbeck (Robert Quarry) is also interested in finding it. He forms an expedition and stuff happens. Law enforcement becomes involved and Inspector Trout (Peter Jeffery) returns, this time joined by his Superintendent named Waverly (John Cater).
Biedberbeck is the weakest part of this film. At the beginning it appears there is a history and rivalry between the two and Biedberbeck seems to be a worthy opponent to Phibes, the James Moriarty to Phibes Sherlock Holmes. This is however not the case. Biedbercek is actually a bland character. Robert Quarry plays the role well but he isn’t given much to do. He mostly stands around, shouts things and is proactive rather than reactive. There is a reason to why he wants to find the river and when you find out that reason you do feel some sympathy for him. However Phibes is such a great character and is worthy of a stronger opponent.
A difference between this film and the first one is the use of humor. One aspect I love about the first film is how understated the humor is. It’s a very funny film but it isn’t trying to be a comedy. Everything feels natural. Here they are actively trying to be funny. This is necessarily a bad thing as the movie is quite funny. Trout and Waverly have some great moments together. One of my favorite scenes is when Phibes and Vulnavia are eating fish and Phibes, who has to eat through a hole in the side of his neck, pulls out a fishbone. While I do prefer the first films style of humor this one is quite funny and I found myself laughing quite a bit.
Price brings in another good performance here but it is different from the first film. In the first one Phibes hardly spoke. Price’s performance is very much like that of a silent film star. Here Phibes speaks throughout the film. It is still a silent film-esque performance as Phibes doesn’t open his mouth however the mystique of the character is taken away. However I think I can understand why the writers did this and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Much like the first film the performances are solid, the story is creative, the kills are unique, the writing is sharp, it moves at a good pace and the musical score is fantastic. It’s not as strong a film as the first one but there is still a lot to enjoy here. If you enjoyed the first Dr. Phibes movie I would recommend giving this one a watch. If you did not enjoy the first one then you are better off skipping this one.