The Abominable Dr. Phibes

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Main Details

  • Released in 1971 | Color | Running Time: 94 min | Aspect Ratio: (1.85:1)
  • Production Co: American International Pictures (AIP)
  • Distribution Co: American International Pictures (AIP) (USA) | Anglo-EMI Film Distributors (UK) | MGM-EMI (UK) |
  • Directed by Robert Fuest
  • Written by James Whiton and William Goldstein
  • Starring Vincent Price, Joseph Cotten, Virginia North, Terry-Thomas, and Sean Bury
  • Produced by Ronald Dunas and Louis M. Heyward
  • Original Music by Basil Kirchin
  • Cinematography by Norman Warwick
  • Film Editing by Tristam Cones

Also Known As

  • Abominável Dr. Phibes, O (Brazil) | Abominable Doctor Phibes, L' (Spain) (Catalan title) | Abominable Dr. Phibes, El (Spain) | Abominable Dr. Phibes, L' (France) | Abominevole Dr. Phibes, L' (Italy) | Blodtörstige hämnaren, Den (Sweden) | Dr. Phibes (USA) (promotional title) | Dr. Phibes - den fasansfulle (Sweden) | Odrazajacy dr Phibes (Poland) | Ohavny Dr. Phibes (Czechoslovakia) | Satanikos doktor Phibes, O (Greece) | Schreckenskabinett des Dr. Phibes, Das (West Germany) | The Curse of Dr. Phibes (undefined) | Vampyyrin kosto (Finland)


  • Revenge Is The Best Medicine. | Love means never having to say you're ugly! | Dr. Phibes has great vibes! | There are two sides to Dr. Phibes.....both of them EVIL!

The Ten Plagues of Egypt

Dr. Phibes takes his inspiration for the murders from the Old Testament, the Ten plagues of Egypt:

  • 1. Boils: Prof. Thornton is stung to death by bees (not shown, only referred to during the film)
  • 2. Bats: Dr. Dunwoody is mauled to death by bats
  • 3. Frogs: Dr. Hargreaves's (who is not really a surgeon; just a psychiatrist) throat is crushed by a mechanical mask of a frog
  • 4. Blood: Dr. Longstreet has all the blood drained out of his body
  • 5. Hail: Dr. Hedgepath is frozen to death by a machine spewing ice
  • 6. Rats: Dr. Kitaj crashes his plane when attacked by rats
  • 7. Beasts: Dr. Whitcombe is impaled by a brass unicorn head
  • 8. Locusts: Nurse Allen is eaten by locusts
  • 9. Death of the first born: Phibes kidnaps and attempts to kill Dr. Vesalius's son Lem
  • 10. Darkness: At the ambiguous ending of the film, Phibes drains the blood from his own body while injecting embalming fluid, apparently joining his wife in death.

Production Notes

  • Robert Fuest rewrote most of the original screenplay. One of the few scenes to remain as scripted was one in which Trout consults a rabbi and first learns of the curses. Some original plot lines and sequences that were altered or eliminated:
  • Phibes was to be much more violent in the original script, abusing Vulnavia, smashing furniture, etc. The filmmakers ultimately decided to make the character more sympathetic.
  • The victim of the plague of rats was to be attacked on a boat rather than in a plane. It was changed as most people's reaction was, "Why couldn't he just jump off the boat?"
  • Vulnavia was going to be revealed as another one of Phibes' clockwork devices (he has a clockwork band called "Dr. Phibes' Clockwork Wizards.")
  • Phibes was originally to kill Vulnavia and then escape his house (which was to catch fire) in a hot air balloon with Victoria's body.
  • In order for Joseph Cotten to know his cues, Phibes' dialogue was read aloud by a crew-member.
  • Cotten would grumble on the set that he had to remember and deliver lines, while Price's were all to be post-dubbed. Price responded, "Yes, but I still know them, Joe." (In fact, Price was well-known in Hollywood for his ability to memorize all of the characters' lines in a given production, not just his own.)
  • Price commented that Cotten was uncomfortable doing these scenes, so he intentionally pulled a lot of faces to make him laugh.
  • Vincent Price went through hours of make up, which often had to be reapplied as he kept laughing.
  • The name "Vesalius" is a reference to Andreas Vesalius, a Flemish scientist who cut up corpses to learn about the workings of the body.
  • The film was followed by a sequel, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, in 1972. Several other possible sequels were planned, including Dr. Phibes in the Holy Land, The Brides of Phibes, Phibes Resurrectus and The Seven Fates of Dr. Phibes, but none were made.
  • Dr. Phibes' wife, played by '70's model, Caroline Munro (who later appeared in such Hammer Horror fare as Dracula A.D. 1972 and Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter), was excluded from the film's credits.


  • The film opens with War March of the Priests (Mendelssohn) flamboyantly played by Dr. Phibes on a grand organ.
  • The succession of murders is accompanied by period music including "Charmaine", "Darktown Strutters Ball" (sung by Paul Frees), "You Stepped out of a Dream", "Close Your Eyes" and "Elmer's Tune".
  • The film also features a version of the Johnny Mercer hit "One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)" (sung by Scott Peters)
  • "Over the Rainbow" closes the film over the end credits.
  • The horror-punk band "The Misfits" has a song by the name of 'The Abominable Dr. Phibes'. It is a shortened version of the "Kryst the Conqueror" song 'Dr. Phibes Rises Again'. 'Kryst' was a post original Misfits band featuring brothers Jerry (long time founding member bassist of the Misfits) and Doyle (guitarist). The extended song was rerecorded by the Misfits with Michale Graves singing, on the album "Cuts from the Crypt".
  • Punk and Goth pioneers, The Damned pay tribute to Dr Phibes on the track "13th Floor vendetta" from the 1980 "Black Album", The song opens with the lines " the organ plays to midnight on maldine Square tonight"
  • German deathrock band Madre del Vizio has songs named "Dr. Phibes" and "Il Retorno del Dr. Phibes".
  • German ska band The Busters released a song named "Dr. Phibes" on their 2004 album "Revolution Rock". It is an instrumental with the organ as the main instrument, including a long organ solo.
  • British heavy metal band Angel Witch released a song entitled "Dr. Phibes".
  • American death metal band The Black Dahlia Murder have released a zip-up hoody featuring artwork inspired by the movie. The piece of merchandise is entitled simply 'Phibes.'
  • Italian Electronica band Overmamba released a song entitled "Phibes Returns" on their debut EP Crawl Out.
  • British Heavy Metal band Angel Witch included an instrumental titled "Dr. Phibes" on their "Loser" EP and the 1990 re-issue of their self-titled album.
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