TERROR TV FOR HALLOWEEN-NIGHT GALLERY-Return of the Sorcerer

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When it comes to Rod Serling   “The Twilight Zone” instantly comes to mind. People overlook his other TV show called “Night Gallery”. It was different then Twilight Zone, and it focused more on horror. Each episode started off with Rod Serling in a gallery full of odd paintings. He would then give an intro and show a painting that was connected the story the viewer was about to see and the episode started. There are several great episodes and I will be taking a look at one called “Return of the Sorcerer” which starred horror legend Vincent Price, and its the perfect “Night Gallery” episode for Halloween time.
     A translator named Noel (Bill Bixby) has been called by an eccentric man named John Carnby (Vincent Price) to translate an ancient text connected to the Necronomicon. He arrives to what appears to be a castle and meets John. It is apparent that Carnby is entangled in the occult and Satanism and Noel starts to hesitate after he learns that two previous translators translated the text and found out it was “grisly” and ran away. However Noel cannot resist because of the large amount of money, and he feels it is safe because of John’s female assistant. He stays and things get even weirder as the three gather and eat dinner with a goat that John claims is his father! Noel eventually learns the evil secret behind the text but it doesn’t end well.
      What makes this episode stand out from other Night Gallery episodes is that it is pure Satanic. And that is pretty extreme for a 70’s TV show. Also it is very atmospheric and kind of has a Mario Bava vibe at times. The Satanic seance scene is very well done and the whole episode has kind of a malevolent vibe similar to that of a Venom record. It also starts Vincent Price, who is an incredible actor playing the aging Satanic sorcerer. He also had screen presence and despite that he was pretty old when this episode was made, he still owns it and steals the spotlight. While all the Night Gallery episodes are good, this one rises above the average episode with its evilness.
                                           – Dakota Bailey

HIDDEN HORROR- Dr. Phibes Rises Again

dr-phibes-rises-again-aka-dr-phibes-everettLast 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.

-Ryan

HIDDEN HORROR- The Abominable Dr. Phibes

abominable_dr_phibes_poster_01Have you ever watched a movie you haven’t seen in a while and thought to yourself, damn I forgot how great this movie is? That is how I felt after re-watching “The Abominable Dr. Phibes,” one of the best horror films from the 1970’s and one that deserves more love and attention.

I would describe Dr. Phibes as a slasher-romance with interesting style choices. I haven’t seen a film quite like Dr. Phibes and I don’t know if I will again. It is one of the most unique and original visions in the history of horror cinema. You probably couldn’t make a film like this today.

Vincent Price plays the title character, a doctor of music/theology and a man out for revenge. His wife was killed during an operation and he blames it on the incompetence of the surgical team. He and his assistant Vulnavia (Victoria North) start to pick off the 9 members of the surgical team. These murders eventually catch the attention of law enforcement and soon Detective Inspector Harry Trout (Peter Jeffery) is put on the case.

Writers James Whiton/William Goldstein and director Robert Fuest clearly wanted to create something fresh and they succeeded. What’s most impressive about the film is how they make everything believable. As I mentioned earlier there are some interesting style choices. In the hands of a lesser filmmaker these might have come out as hokey or campy but in these filmmakers hands it adds to the experience of viewing the film.

For example, the film is essentially a slasher. However, Phibes doesn’t murder his victims with weapons. He has an elaborate scheme based around the ten plagues of Egypt found in the book of Exodus. You might be wandering how can he murder someone with frogs or boils or beasts. I won’t spoil as that is the fun of this movie. There is no explanation as to why Phibes has such an elaborate plan but it isn’t necessary.

The romance works surprisingly well. It adds a lot of depth to the character of Phibes. Yes he is committing these horrible acts of murder but you manage to feel some sympathy for the character as he is doing this out of love. When Phibes is speaking to his wife the writing and performance from Price are so strong that you really feel the love and dedication for his wife. The tagline on the original poster was “Love Means Never Having To Say Your Ugly” which is a parody of the quote form “Love Story.” Just in case you were wondering there is no relationship with Phibes and Vulnavia, their relationship is strictly professional.

There is also a subtle sense of humor. Most of it comes from the interactions with Trout and other members of Scotland Yard. This works because the dialogue is fresh and sounds natural. Even silly moments such as Price and North waltzing around in their hideout or Phibes conducting his clockwork band comes across as natural. Everything that happens comes across as believable and as something a character would do.

Price’s performance deserves praise. This is one of his more versatile performances. Price was known for his distinct voice and in this movie he is mute for most of it. In the story Phibes was left mute after a car accident so he can only speak if he is plugged into his organ (yes he has an organ) or victrola. As such this movie has the feel of a silent film and Price pulls off the silent film style of acting well. His facial expressions communicate everything.

The phrase Hidden Horror does not do “The Abominable Dr. Phibes” justice. This is one of the most unique horror films out there and I highly recommend it. Perhaps the stylistic choices won’t appeal to all people but for those who can get into it you will find one of the best directed, sharply written and original horror films ever made.

-Ryan Laskodi