Dr. Phibes (The Abominable Dr. Phibes)
“Nine shall die!” It’s not often you get a mad genius who decides to use the Old Testament’s Ten Plagues of Egypt as his methods of revenge, but therein lies the badassery of the wrinkle-faced and wide-eyed Dr. Phibes, given life by a wonderfully energetic performance by the legendary Vincent Price in both 1971’s The Abominable Dr. Phibes and the not-as-good-because-they-rushed-it-but-come-on-it’s-still-awesome Dr. Phibes Rises Again from 1972. Both films, directed by Robert Fuest, give audiences Price at his most villainously campy, and at least the first film is something of a precursor to the thrill-kill horrors that came later. Can you imagine what Eli Roth would have done with this?
Dr. Phibes is a scientist and a concert organist (because why not?) whose face is horribly disfigured due to a car accident with his wife, who later dies at the hands of a group of doctors on whom Phibes vows revenge. But instead of a gun or a knife, Phibes brings the vengeance using bats, locusts, rats, and a frog mask, among other non-simplistic forms of weaponry. His madness is countered by Joseph Cotton’s Dr. Vesalius, who is the recipient of Phibes’ final and most sinister plot. The sequel digs further into Egyptian mythology and more wacky murder schemes, but it’s impossible to top the original’s unapologetic insanity. Released a year after Arthur Hiller’s Love Story, the film’s tagline, “Love means never having to say you’re ugly,” is the cherry on top of this darkly comedic pie.