Since I reviewed The Abominable Dr. Phibes last Saturday, it seemed only appropriate to follow it up a week later with the 1972 sequel, Dr. Phibes Rises Again. Vincent Price stars in the title role again, and Robert Fuest is the director of the film once more. Additionally, Peter Jeffreys and John Cater return as Inspector Trout and Superintendent Waverly, though in this film they’re even more comic relief than before, with their dialogue usually being good for a few laughs. Virginia North is replaced as Vulnavia by Valli Kemp; how she returns is as unexplained as her basic nature.
For a man so obsessed with his wife, Dr. Phibes sure has a penchant for summoning attractive women out of weird crystal halls.
In the sequel, Phibes, still mourning the loss of his wife, is taking a more proactive role about it. Rather than a revenge quest, he’s out to restore her. The film has more of a supernatural bent to it than the original, and Phibes has uncovered a mystical river in Egypt that can resurrect the dead and grant life eternal, but it can only be accessed within a small window of time. Of course, there’s still plenty of murder to be had. Phibes isn’t the only one after the river. Darius Biederbeck (Robert Quarry) also seeks it for his own purposes, and so Phibes takes to murdering Biederbeck’s men in an effort to keep the river for himself and his wife. There’s an interesting contrast between Phibes, whose every action is based around his rage over losing his wife, and Beiderbeck, whose goals are selfish and who is neglecting his fiancee Diana (Fiona Lewis). Biederbeck is even rather unperturbed about the murders happening around him. It’s not villain vs. hero this time around, it’s villain vs. villain, with Inspectors Trout and Waverly bringing up the rear as the main heroic characters.
And not being much use even before they wind up several thousand miles outside of their jurisdiction.
There’s a bit more comedy, and a bit more deliberate camp in this film than in the first. This helps add to its charm. Unfortunately, it needs that extra levity in order to lift it up a bit. The plot seems a little more tenuous and out of place for the character as established in the first film, which did not have any significant supernatural elements. What’s more, the murders, which were the focus of the first film, don’t seem quite as clever this time around. There’s still some creativity, but where the killings in the first film were based on the plagues of Egypt, this time around there doesn’t seem to be any overarching theme, and the film suffers a bit from it. The camera also lingers a bit too long on a few of the more gruesome killings, instead of leaving things to the imagination the way the first film did. The narrative also seems a bit more “choppy”, and it came as no surprise to find out after viewing it that it was meant to be much longer but they ran into budget troubles.
Despite these issues, Dr. Phibes Rises Again is still an entertaining film. It’s just not up to the level of the first one. Vincent Price fans will still want to see it, and so will fans of gruesome murder movies. But most people probably won’t mind missing it.