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MGM Studios DVD presents
Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972)

Trout: What about Baker, shall we dispose of the body?
Waverley: I don't know about the body, but we should give his head a decent burial.

- Peter Jeffrey, John Cater

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: March 11, 2001

Stars: Vincent Price, Robert Quarry, Peter Jeffrey, Fiona Lewis, Valli Kemp
Other Stars: Hugh Griffith, John Cater, Gerald Sim, Lewis Fiander, John Thaw, Peter Cushing, Beryl Reid, Terry-Thomas, Caroline Munro
Director: Robert Fuest

Manufacturer: Sunset Digital Studios
MPAA Rating: PG for (horror violence and gore)
Run Time: 01h:29m:23s
Release Date: February 20, 2001
UPC: 027616858511
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B-C+B- D

DVD Review

With rare exceptions, sequels usually disappoint, and Dr. Phibes Rises Again is, unfortunately, not an exception. In The Abominable Dr. Phibes, the title character had years to perfect his fiendish plot; in the sequel, neither he nor the filmmakers had proper time to ready themselves for this project. That's unfortunate, because this had the possibilitiy to be the equal of the first film, but in the haste to turn out a sequel the very next year, the opportunity was squandered.

We pick up three years after the end of the first film, with Phibes (Vincent Price) returning from suspended animation (never mind the embalming fluid). His assistant Vulnavia (Valli Kemp this time round) is also back, none the worse for wear from the ending of the first picture. Apparently the stars are right for an expedition to Egypt, where the waters of the River of Life will be in tidal flow and Phibes, with his dead wife Victoria, can go to return to life together. But Darius Biederbeck (Robert Quarry, best remembered as Count Yorga, Vampire), an archaeologist keeping himself alive via an Elixir of Life, is also after the River, and steals the ancient papyrus with its location from Phibes' safe. This, of course, sets into motion a series of horrible murders as Biederbeck and Phibes race to the River of Life in Egypt.

Where the first film was an exquisite exercise in style, the second comes up wanting. Part of the problem is that most of the film takes place shipboard and in the desert, limiting the possibilities for Brian Eatwell's sumptuous settings from the first film. The desert hideaway of Phibes is intriguing with its Egyptian-style wall paintings of people in 1920s garb. The musical settings are also not nearly as strong as in the first picture. The murders, lacking a plan as clever as that of the original, are seemingly random and bizarre for their own sake; Phibes even stoops to repeating himself, using snakes for the theme of both the first and final murders.

Some of the original supporting cast returns, including Peter Jeffrey and John Cater as Trout and Waverley, the Scotland Yard detectives in pursuit of Phibes. They do manage some good comic turns, though the interplay of Trout with Derek Godfrey as Crow are sorely missing here. Terry-Thomas and Hugh Griffith reappear as completely different characters (Terry-Thomas is hilarious), and Peter Cushing has a completely unrewarding walk-on bit as the captain of the ship to Egypt. Valli Kemp is a poor subsitute for Virginia North as the mysterious assistant Vulnavia; rather too fleshy and not as ethereally beautiful. Also, she can't fake playing the violin worth a damn.

Price has a jolly time as usual, with a number of clever improvised bits. He also appears to enjoy himself wearing sheik's robes as a sort of maniacal desert lord. One of the highlights for me is the reveal of his skull-head makeup among a pile of bones, eavesdropping on Biederbeck's plans.

Thankfully, MGM has at last restored the closing vocal by Price of Over the Rainbow. This was missing from all prior video versions of the movie due to rights issues, and is a pure pleasure to have back again.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic picture has a number of deficiencies. While the picture is very soft and grainy, there is also extensive digital artifacting present. Backgrounds often seem alive with movement. Colors are very good and black levels are excellent. The source print exhibits speckling and minor damage throughout.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, French, Spanishno

Audio Transfer Review: While the mono sound is clear and little hiss or noise is present, bass extension is quite lacking. While passable, there's nothing exciting in the audio track. For some reason, the ability to change audio tracks on the fly is disabled.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French, Spanish
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The sole extra is a lengthy theatrical trailer. Although in poor condition at the start, it soon improves to be quite acceptable. It is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic format.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

A rather weak followup, there is plenty of campy comic horror here. The transfer is a little wanting and there are no extras to speak of, but for the low price it's a must-have for Phibes phans.


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