The Abominable Dr. Phibes

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)
MGM Home Entertainment
Cast: Vincent Price, Joseph Cotten, Virginia North
Extras: Theatrical Trailer

’The Abominable Dr. Phibes’ stars Vincent Price as Dr. Anton Phibes, a mad genius thought to have been killed in an automobile accident and subsequently entombed following the death of his wife from a botched medical procedure. But, in a series of bizarre and gory murders, the doctors who operated on the late Mrs. Phibes are one by one turning up dead. As fate would have it, Dr. Phibes has cheated death and, with the aide of his beautiful, mute assistant Vulnavia (Virginia North), is exacting his revenge on those whom he believes killed his wife by inflicting the fabled Biblical plagues of Egypt upon them.

’The Abominable Dr. Phibes’ is a very enjoyable horror film on a number of different levels. As Vincent Price’s 100th film, it showcases the legendary actor at the top of his game as he hams it up with great physical skill and, surprisingly, very little dialogue. Additionally, the storyline is quite engaging and the talented cast makes the most of the darkly comic moments provided by the script. ’Dr. Phibes’ also boasts some wonderfully elaborate Art Deco sets that are a real feast for the eye. Throw in one of the most unusual musical scores to ever accompany a horror film and you have a truly original, and highly entertaining, movie.

The DVD is presented in an anamorphic widescreen format, preserving the 1.85:1 aspect ratio of the original theatrical release. Given that this is a bargain basement disc from the very inconsistent MGM, I was a bit apprehensive about the potential quality of the transfer. As it turns out, the picture is really quite good. The image is very sharp with no evidence of edge enhancement and, while the print is marred by occasional film grain and blemishes, it is in much better shape than I had expected. Colors are faithfully reproduced, contrast is well-balanced, and black levels are fairly accurate as well. It’s safe to say that this is the best ’Dr. Phibes’ has ever looked on home video.

Audio comes in English, Spanish, and French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono mixes. For a basic mono soundtrack it’s more than serviceable. Distortion is non-existent and the audio mix capably handles the high shrieks and boundless musical cues that pepper the film. Dialogue is always clear as well and is never overwhelmed by the music or sound effects. The lack of dynamic range is certainly noticeable but no more so than on most low-budget films of this nature.

The only extra on the disc is the film’s theatrical trailer. While many fans would have liked to see more in the way of bonus features, I can’t really fault MGM on this release. The film itself is blessed with a beautiful anamorphic transfer and adequate sound and, as part of the Midnite Movies series, the DVD is readily available for less than ten bucks. At that price I feel that MGM has delivered the goods and I encourage fans of the late, great Vincent Price, and classic horror movies in general, to take a look at ’The Abominable Dr. Phibes.’