That bizarre evil genius, the abominable Dr. Phibes, is back with all his old diabolical deviltry” (Variety). This sequel to The Abominable Dr. Phibes, again features Vincent Price “as one of his most perfect horror villains in his long list of evil-doers” (The Hollywood Reporter).
The eminent Dr. Phibes awakens from a decade of suspended animation and heads to Egypt with his mute aide-de-camp Vulnavia and the corpse of his dead wife. To resurrect his spouse, Phibes gets up to his usual, diabolical tricks: cleverly murdering people in strange and heinous ways to invoke a magical incantation. But once he is in the tomb of the dead Pharaohs, the good doctor discovers that his pursuit of an after-life may be foiled by his nemesis who wants to end the reign of this sadistic surgeon of gore.
It appears that you can never keep a popular horror villain down: due to the success of ‘The Abominable Dr. Phibes’, the good Doctor was rapidly resurrected for another engagement. Unfortunately, it failed to reproduce the maniacal magic of the original.
For starters, the budget was tighter, limiting the scope of the film. Mind you, with the exception of the James Bond movies, it seems like this was a common occurrence at the time: the Planet of the Apes series is a perfect example of this, with each subsequent film receiving less and less production money. It was thought at the time that sequels only brought diminishing returns.
Of course, this was always a self-fulfilled prophecy, and ‘Dr. Phibes Rises Again’ was pretty much hobbled by a crummy script that was cobbled together in haste and by an incredibly inconsistent set design: one moment you would get these huge set pieces meant to recreate Egyptian tombs and then the other you would have props that were a step above of papier maché.
‘Rises Again’ is so bloody horrible a movie it’s hard to put into words. The story makes no sense whatsoever, the kills are ridiculous in a bad way (i.e. they’re impossible; they couldn’t take place as shown), and it leaves one unsated. But, worst of all, it’s not even remotely funny. As this was the main redeeming value of the original, not being able to elicit laughs or even mild amusement is a major weak point. Without hoaky the fun, it’s just a bad movie.
As well, there is no real story to speak of. Phibes goes to Egypt because, apparently, there is a River of Life there and he can awaken his dead spouse on/in/through it. Sadly, most of the whole film is about Phibes waiting for the right moment to access this so-called River of Life – so, in the meantime, the script tries to find ways to kill time along the way.
*MAJOR spoiler alert*
*MAJOR spoiler alert*
Without going into all the details, as tedious as they are, ‘Dr. Phibes Rises Again’ finds one simple-minded way after another to add new twists and give Phibes reasons to kill again (and in ways so lame that he’s no longer a mad genius – he’s just mad). You see, if they hadn’t done that, the audience would just be watching the man sitting there, waiting the three days out. So they strung the audience along, from one clutzy sequence to the next. It would be tedious if it was so damned pathetic.
I don’t even know why I’m giving the film a 4.0. The more I think about it, the more I think I should give it a 3.0. So let’s say that I suggest that the average viewer steer clear of this like it was the plague, and the extremely curious should consider this only with absolute caution: this is a film much more abominable than its predecessor.