Friday, October 30, 2015

13 Films Of Halloween:
DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN!

PHIBES RISES AGAIN (1972)

Starring: Vincent Price, Robert Quarry, Peter Cushing, Terry Thomas, Hugh Griffith
Written by: Robert Fuest, Robert Blees.
Directed by: Robert Fuest
Produced by: Sam Arkoff and James H. Nicholson (American International Pictures)



When we last left Phibes he was dead - and embalming himself in his crypt. Obviously no one was thinking there would ever be a sequel, but here we are a year later and Phibes has returned. What’s interesting about this film is that it shows us how to engineer a sequel using “clues” to that sequel in the original film... so Dr. Phibes used the Ten Plagues Of The Pharaohs in the first film, and it was mentioned that he was an expert on Egypt... so what they hell can happen in Egypt that makes sense for a sequel? Hey, maybe Phibes was there trying to find some way to bring his dead wife back to life? Once you find that idea in the previous film, what in that previous film can be used to support that idea? You assemble more “clues” - clues that were never planted there because every intention was that Phibes was *dead* and there would never be a sequel. Hey, there were stars and planets on his crypt - what if opens when the stars and moon are in a certain position? More pieces of the puzzle can be found, and now with a bit of rewriting of the past, Phibes can Rise Again.

In Egypt.

In a story that now seems like some sort of mash up between RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and FINAL DESTINATION. Yes, RAIDERS - which would be made nine years later. This story is about the search for an ancient Egyptian treasure - and the race between two rivals - an evil archeologist and his cutthroat team and our lone protagonist who wants the treasure for (discussed at the end of the film) selfless reasons. There are secret chambers and ancient curses and all kinds of stuff shared by both RAIDERS and RISES AGAIN! The key to the search is a map... with a twist that changes what the map means, and that map is stolen. Oh, that lone protagonist *does* have a sidekick... who is much better looking that Sallah. The lone protagonist also has a romantic interest who is kidnaped by the bad guys at one point. Oh, and lead bad guy: German. Though mentor archeologist’s name Ambrose only sounds a little like mentor archeologist Abner, that seemed close enough for me to scribble down while watching the movie. There’s even a truck loaded with the treasure that gets stolen - and a chase... which is basically off screen because this is not an adventure film it’s a horror film. Instead of exciting action and great stunts we get bizarre deaths.

The FINAL DESTINATION stuff is carried over from the first film - Phibes has his crazy Rube Goldberg murder methods where no matter how hard the victim tries to escape death... they just make it worse!



We open with a recap of the first film, with a bit of a rewrite in the V.O. narration (though not on the screen) where instead of embalming fluid replacing Dr. Phibes’ blood, it is some sort of suspended animation fluid - and Phibes and his dead wife are actually alive. Hey, he *didn’t* die at the end of the first film (so that final curse of Eternal Darkness just meant he turned out the lights and he can turn them back on for the sequel).

Three years later...

The moon comes into conjunction with the other planets and shines on his crypt... waking him!

He strokes his dead (?) wife’s hair in the crypt, climbs out, goes to his organ (covered in 3 years of dust) and plays, plugging in the voice jack to his neck. “Victoria, for three years I have rested by your side. Now the moon has risen to the exact position which last occurred two thousand years ago, signaling the opening of this crypt, and the beginning of our greatest adventure. We shall embark to the land of Egypt, where years ago in a mountain overlooking the Valley Of The Pharaohs, I did prepare for us a wondrous shrine, unknown by any living man. There, my beloved, awaits the key to resurrection for you and eternal life for both of us.”



He calls once again for beautiful Vulnavia (this time played by Valli Kemp) his trusted aid, to help him bring his dead wife back to life. He has her get the map of the River Of Life, which they must find at its flood, and prepare for their journey...

But upstairs - the house has been destroyed... and the safe has been broken into and the ancient map stolen. Only one man could have done this - Biederbeck (Robert Quarry)!

Biederbeck shows Ambrose (Hugh Griffith) the ancient map. Biederbeck had one section of the map, and claims to have bought this other section from a dealer who found it in the rubble of Phibes house. Ambrose doesn’t understand Biederbeck’s *obsession* with these weird spiritual artifacts, is he not a man of science? Why deal with these superstitions? Ambrose has excavated the entire area and found nothing. Biederbeck says that Ambrose’s problem is that he looks down instead of up - the stars will show the way to the Temple Of Ibisis... if there’s treasure - gold - Ambrose can keep that, Biederbeck is looking for something legendary and possibly supernatural (the Ark Of The Covenant?). Beiderbeck’s attractive fiance Diana (Fiona Lewis) enters to remind him they are having dinner with the Princess tonight. Biederbeck puts the map in his safe and they leave.

Outside, Phibes and Vulnavia get out of their car when they see them leave and grab a basket filled with... something.

In the house, Biederback’s Bodyguard (Milton Reid) is playing pool as he guards the safe, when he hears a slithering. A golden snake under the pool table. He beats it to death with his pool cue, Then another slithering sound. Another golden snake - another death by pool cue. Except the snake keeps slithering! The bodyguard picks up the snake and sees that it is a mechanical wind up toy. Another snake slithers onto the pool table - just a toy... Not this one! It bites him! He quickly grabs a knife, slices open the bite and sucks out the venom, then goes to the phone to call for an ambulance.

Phibes waits until the Bodyguard gets the phone up to his ear and then nods to Vulnavia, who pushes a button... and a steel spike shoots from the earpiece of the phone and pierces the Bodyguard’s head - on one ear and out the other! As Phibes goes to the safe, Vulnavia picks up the snakes and hangs up the phone.

Crime scene - Inspector Trout (Peter Jeffrey returning) examines the Bodyguard’s body and questions Biederbeck... who seems to care more about his missing map than his dead Bodyguard. Trout asks who would want to steal this old map? There are a dozen living scholars who might find it of value, but they are all *scholars* not thieves. Trout thinks that this is a calculated act - not just some random burglary.

Phibes puts his dead wife in a special air-tight glass coffin, and takes it along with his assistant Vulnavia to South Hampton where they board a ship...

On the deck of the ship, Phibes and Vulnavia dance.

On the same ship, Biederbeck worries that he is down to his last vials of his Elixir Of Life - he must take 3 drops per day - if he fails to find the Temple Of Ibisis he will die.



Biederbeck tells his archeologist mentor Ambrose that mountains erode, rivers find new courses, everything on the land changes with time... but starts remain the same. That is why he will find the temple that others have been unable to find - he will use the stars! He sends Ambrose down to get the model of the mountain which is in their automobile on the cargo deck... and tell no one about this. As Ambrose leaves, he passes Diana who was listening at the door.

On the cargo deck, Ambrose searches for their car, passing a huge plywood advertisement for a Gin brand featuring cut out women and a massive glass Gin bottle... wishes the gin bottle (and the women) were real. Finally finding the car and the model of the mountain... then spotting a strange thing in the corner - another big advertisement display? A Woman in a glass case! Seemingly a *real* woman! (Mrs. Phibes). And a life size mechanical band. Ambrose presses a button and the band plays... as he watches it play, Phibes comes up behind him and grabs his neck.

The Ship’s Captain (Peter Cushing) comes to Biederbeck’s cabin to inform him that the search for Ambrose has turned up nothing - it’s as if he has vanished off the ship. Biederbeck seems unconcerned by this. He would rather they continue forward than stop and search for him in the water.

Meanwhile - off the coast of England - a giant glass gin bottle washes to shore. A message inside? Nope - Ambrose. How the hell did he get in the bottle? Trout ends up getting the case, of course.

In Egypt, Phibes and Vulnavia go into an underground Pharaoh’s Tomb, between the towering legs of a huge Anibus god statue (just like in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK’s Well Of Souls scene... and this set is its twin) where Phibes has built a secret passage to his Egyptian headquarters - which may need some minor decorating, a little touching up, but will suit his current purposes. A dance floor, an organ, and the transplanted mechanical band.



Back in England, Trout is questioning the shipping agent Lombardo (Terry Thomas) about the giant gin bottle and the dead man inside, Ambrose. He tells them that Ambrose, being and archeologist, was a regular traveler to Egypt on their ships. Trout asks if there was any passenger on the ship that might be a little... odd. Lombardo seems to think that most of the passengers are odd. Or oddish. Well, on this last trip an attractive and fashionable young woman had them install an organ in one of the cabins. Some passengers enjoy playing the piano on these long voyages, but this was the first request for an organ. Trout asks if this passenger with the organ was named... Phibes. “No, Smith... we get a lot of Smiths.” Oh, and he also had in cargo a group of mechanical musicians... Lombardo has all of the details on the ship’s manifest. Trout wants to look at the manifest. Lombardo says Mr. Smith’s ticket was one way. The Chief Inspector hopes that means that Phibes won’t be coming back to England. Trout says, “He always comes back.” (Potentially setting up further sequels which never happened, but *could have*.)

Phibes and Vulnavia touch up the new digs.

At the police station, Miss Ambrose (Beryl Reid) cousin of the dead man washed ashore in the giant bottle, and provides information as to where he was going in Egypt.



Back in Egypt, Biederbeck and his group arrive at base camp and ask where the others are. Archeologist Hackett (Gerald Sim) says they have all gone ahead to the dig site. Biederbeck tells his fiance Diana to wait here while they go to stop the others from premature digging.

At the archeological site, Stewart (Keith Buckley) goes into an ancient Egyptian tomb and pokes around the darkness with his lantern. Climbs a stone stairway into a narrow passageway. Something fluttering in the darkness. A falcon! The falcon attacks Stewart’s face, tearing it to pieces and eating parts of him!

In Phibes new digs, the falcon returns to its perch. “Did you have a good dinner?”

Phibes has found a secret chamber - invisible because this section is usually flooded with water, but the moon’s position at this time (when all of the planets align) creates a gravitational pull that recedes the water... exposing a passageway which may lead to the River Of Life! Phibes enters the passage, finding a secret doorway, and a golden sarcophagus! Inside, the remains of a mummy. But in a secret compartment inside that sarcophagus - a silver key!



Biederbeck and Hacket arrive at the dig site - the same one with the secret passage which leads to Phibes new digs. He chastises Shavers (John Thaw) and Baker (Lewis Fiander) for starting without him. The two young diggers are insolent and creep right to the edge of insulting Biederbeck (later they will watch the shadow of Diana undress on the side of his tent and make sexually suggestive comments - and we will get to see the shadows of naked boobies in a movie rated so that even a 13 year old boy could see it).

At basecamp, fiancĂ© Diana discovers something sparkly in the sand. She carefully brushes away the sand to find what seems to be a golden sarcophagus. Bushes away more sand exposing... a skull with still a little meat on it. She runs to the dig and grabs Biederbeck - she has a little discovery of her own that she thinks he ought to see. As they leave, one of the skulls littered about on the floor under the giant god statue opens its eyes - it’s Phibes without his face.

In his new digs, Vulnavia brings Phibes a tray with his face and wig, and he gets dressed. Mrs. Phibes is in a chrome and glass coffin... which moves on rails into that secret compartment where the sarcophagus was - where the River Of Life will rise when the planetary alignment comes. Phibes vows to kill everyone who gets in their way - if you haven’t been paying attention, instead of the Ten Plagues from the Bible, this time people are killed by Things Found In Hieroglyphics (for $100, Alex).

At basecamp Shavers sees a woman in veils dancing in the moonlight (Vulnavia) and follows her into the desert night to a luxurious tent. As she dances near a giant golden statue of a scorpion inside the tent, he comes closer to her... closer... then Phibes (dressed as a sheik) enters the tent and turns a key on the scorpion statue and the pincers close on Shaver’s arms, trapping him! Golden needles in the pincers pin his arms in place. Phibes puts the key in a plaster statue of a dog just out of reach of Shaver’s hands, and he and Vulnavia leave the tent. Shavers realizes he can maybe reach the plaster dog if he moves his arms... which rams the golden needles deeper into his arms. He does this - ouch - and grabs the statue. Tries to break it open. The good news is that he succeeds, the bad news is that he drops it on the floor just out of reach, the worse news is that inside that plaster dog statue were a dozen *real* scorpions! They crawl up his legs - and he can’t brush them off! He screams as the scorpions sting him all over his body - yes, even there - they crawl into his pants!

Inspector Trout and Chief Inspector Waverley have arrived in Egypt and are slightly lost in the desert. No one to ask for directions. Then they spot something on the hillside... a luxurious tent.

Phibes and Vulnavia go to the tomb... and discover that both the golden sarcophagus *and* Mrs. Phibes coffin have been stolen!



Biederbeck has the golden sarcophagus loaded up on the back of a truck, and finds the silver key...

Just as Trout and Waverley pull up at basecamp... with Shavers on the golden scorpion attached to the roof. When Biederbeck asks who would do such a crazy thing to a man, Trout asks him if he’s ever heard of a Dr. Anton Phibes?

As Biederbeck tries to patch up his relationship with Diana, Trout and the other Archeologists wonder if you need a search warrant to go through all of the tunnels and catacombs of that tomb where they found the sarcophagus to see if they can find Phibes?

Baker ends up pulling guard duty - sleeping in the sarcophagus tent. A wind is blowing through the desert, so he zips uo his sleeping bag and buries his head inside. What he doesn’t know is that Phibes has a giant theatrical wind machine that he is blowing at basecamp. While Baker is wrapped up in his mummybag, Vulnavia secretly straps him onto his cot, then slices a hole in the tent. She goes to man the wind machine as Phibes goes down to Baker’s tent and begins twisting the crank on a giant vice that compresses Baker’s cot - and his body...

As Inspector Trout and Chief Inspector Waverley sleep in a tent a few feet away, huddling together from the wind... unable to hear Baker’s screams over the wind.

Phibes and Vulnavia have retrieved Mrs. Phibes coffin and the sarcophagus and taken them back to the room... but when he pulls the lever on the sarcophagus - the silver key is gone.

Biederbeck discovers the compressed version of Baker. Trout tells Biederbeck that there is no hope of winning against Phibes - he’s just too damned clever. Biederback is going to stay, but tells everyone else to strike basecamp and go back... back to England. Trout and Waverley discuss if they should dispose of Baker’s body - or just bury his head?

Hackett drives Diana to safety when they hear bagpipes... and see a British military flag on the horizon. There’s a military regiment out here? They can help! He orders Diana to stay in the car while he climbs the hill to get help. At the top of the hill - no regiment, just a lone soldier holding the flag and three other soldiers playing the bagpipes. When he gets closer still, he discovers that they are Phibes lifesize mechanical musicians. He races back to the truck... but Diana is gone. Crap! He starts up the truck - and sand *blasts* out of the vent... sandblasting him into a skeleton!

Biederbeck realizes Phibes has Diana, races into the tombs and looks through the tunnels and catacombs until he hears the organ music... follows it to Phibes. Phibes and Biederbeck face off. Diana for the silver key. He has 3 minutes too save Diana - Phibes has her chained to a platform in a well... which is slowly filling with water!

Biederbeck tries to release her... then sees that as the platform rises, the ceiling lowers. And on the ceiling are dozens of golden serpents with spiked tongues. He wedges a board between the two - which temporarily saves her life. He runs up to confront Phibes.

Phibes and Biederbeck make a deal - the key for Diana... and there is a chance that Biederbeck can *share* in the River Of Life. He hands over the silver key... just as that board that Biederbeck wedged in there breaks! The golden serpents begin to descend again. But when Phibes uses the silver key, the water rushes into Phibes’ chamber and leaves Diana’s... so her platform moves down, away from the golden serpents. Diana will live! But has Phibes (and Mrs. Phibes coffin) floated into the River Of Life?

Trout and Waverley finally find Phibes fantastic headquarters - just in time to see Vulnavia walk into a tunnel and vanish. Where does she go between films? Is she from a temp service or something?

Biederbeck runs out, dives into the water in the chamber and swims to the open gates leading to the River Of Life... which close as he gets to them. He yells through the closed gates for Phibes to come back and let him in as well. But Phibes rows Mrs. Phibes coffin down a flooded tunnel to the River Of Life. Diana tells Biederbeck that it’s not the end of the world... but for him it *is*... he has run out of elixir and without the River Of Life begins *rapidly* aging. He goes from handsome Robert Quarry to and withered old man in seconds. The wedding with Diana is probably off!

Phibes and Mrs. Phibes head to eternal life...

Tomorrow we bring this series to an end on Halloween... with Vincent Price’s return to films after his retirement in a film made by a bunch of guys I know!

- Bill

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