Horror on the Lens: Dr. Phibes Rises Again (dir by Robert Fuest)


Since yesterday’s horror on the lens was The Abominable Dr. Phibes, it only seems logical that today’s should be the sequel to that film, 1972’s Dr. Phibes Rises Again.  Would you believe that, before I actually found the film on YouTube, I thought this film was called Dr. Phibes Rides Again?  Personally, I think Rides Again sounds better than Rises Again but what do I know?

All that matters is that Vincent Price is back!  Be sure to check out Gary’s review of Dr. Phibes Rises Again when you get the chance.

And watch the movie below!

Enjoy!

Horror On The Len: The Abominable Dr. Phibes (dir by Robert Fuest)


It’s really not October until you’ve watched at least one Vincent Price film and, for today’s horror on the lens, we have one of his most popular films, 1971’s The Abominable Dr. Phibes!

This is Price at his considerable best.  Be sure to read Gary’ review.

And watch the film below!

Enjoy!

 

Vincent Price Goes to Camp in DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN (AIP 1972)


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Since 1971’s THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES  was such a big hit, American-International Pictures immediately readied a sequel for their #1 horror star, Vincent Price. But like most sequels, DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN isn’t nearly as good as the unique original, despite the highly stylized Art Deco sets and the presence of Robert Quarry, who the studio had begun grooming as Price’s successor beginning with COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE. The murders (for the most part) just aren’t as monstrous, and too much comedy in director Robert Feust’s script (co-written with Robert Blees) turn things high camp rather than scary.

Price is good, as always, bringing the demented Dr. Anton Phibes back from the grave. LAUGH-IN announcer Gary Owens recaps the first film via clips, letting us know Phibes escaped both death and the police by putting himself in suspended animation. Returning with loyal servant Vulnavia (who’s now played by Valli Kemp, replacing a then-pregnant Virginia North), Phibes…

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Love Means Never Having To Say You’re Ugly: THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (AIP 1971)


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For a 13-year-old monster-crazed kid in 1971, attending the latest Vincent Price movie at the local theater on Saturday afternoon was a major event. Price was THE horror star of the time, having assumed the mantle when King Karloff passed away a few years before. Not to take anything away from Mr. Cushing and Mr. Lee, but “Vincent Price Movies” had become, like “John Wayne Movies “, a sort of genre unto themselves. AIP had squeezed about every nickel they could  out of the Edgar Allan Poe name so, with the release of THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES, a new character was created for the horror star, the avenging evil genius Dr. Anton Phibes.

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Phibes is a concert organist, theologian, scientist, and master of acoustics who uses his knowledge and vast wealth to gain revenge on the nine surgeons who (to his mind) botched an operation that killed his wife. We first see…

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Cleaning Out The DVR #20: Tom Jones (dir by Tony Richardson)


(For those following at home, Lisa is attempting to clean out her DVR by watching and reviewing 38 films by this Friday.  Will she make it?  Keep following the site to find out!)

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Oh, how I wanted to love Tom Jones!

No!  Not that Tom Jones.

I’m talking about Tom Jones, the British film from 1963.  Based on a novel by Henry Fielding, Tom Jones was a huge box office success and it was one of the few comedies to ever win the Oscar for best picture.  Whenever you watch a documentary about the British invasion of the early 60s, chances are that you’ll see at least a clip or two from Tom Jones.  The film (or perhaps I should say the film’s box office success) is a part of 60s pop history, right up there with The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show and Sean Connery shooting that guy in cold blood in Dr. No.

Up until last night, I had heard about Tom Jones but I had never seen it.

And I really wanted to love it.

The film takes place in 18th century England and it tells the story of young Tom Jones (Albert Finney).  It starts with a lengthy sequence that plays out like a silent film, complete with title cards.  Upright Squire Allworthy (George Devine) comes home and discovers that a baby has been left in his bed.  He assumes that the child was born to two of his servants and declares that he will raise Tom Jones to be a good and worthy man.

Two decades later, Tom Jones has grown up and now he’s being played by Albert Finney (who, it must be said, was quite a handsome man when he was young).  Because Tom is good-looking and kind-hearted, every woman in England lusts after him.  But Tom is in love with innocent Sophie Western (Susannah York).  However, Sophie is a member of the upper class and Tom is a “bastard,” at a time when that actually means something.

Indeed, Sophie’s aunt and uncle (played by Edith Evans and Hugh Griffith) demand that Sophie have nothing to do with Tom Jones.  They decide that she will marry Blifil (David Warner, young but already typecast as a villain).  Through clever lies and manipulations, Blifil convinces Squire Allworthy that Tom has turned bad and must therefore be exiled from his home.  Does Blifil want to get rid of Tom just so he can marry Sophie or is it possible that there’s more to Blifil’s scheming?

Before we get the answer to that question, we spend a while following the exiled Tom as he wanders around England and attempts to prove himself worthy of Sophie.  Along the way, Tom serves briefly in the army, gets into numerous fights, and has several affairs.  One of those affairs is with Mrs. Walters (Joyce Redman), who he briefly thinks might be his mother.  Eventually, Tom ends up as the lover to the decadent Lady Bellaston (Joan Greenwood).  Through Blifil’s scheming, he also ends up framed for attempted murder and facing the gallows…

And, as melodramatic as that may all sound, Tom Jones is definitely a comedy.  It doesn’t take itself seriously and there’s hardly a single scene that isn’t played for laughs.  Director Tony Richardson goes out of his way to make sure that you never forget that you’re watching a movie.  There are freeze frames.  There’s plenty of characters around to supply sarcastic commentary.  There’s even a few cases of fourth wall breaking.

As I watched Tom Jones, it was hard for me not to compare it to Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon.  After all, both films take place during the same period of time and both deal with a young man making his way through European society.  I would even argue that, in its way, Barry Lyndon is far more satirical than Tom Jones.  The main difference between the two films is that Barry Lyndon is all about subtext whereas everything that happens in Tom Jones happens right on the surface.

As I said, I really wanted to like Tom Jones but, seen today, the entire film seems to be trying a little bit too hard.  Tony Richardson’s direction is so manic that it gets a bit exhausting after a while.  That said, I can understand why the film was such a success when it was first released.  I’m sure in 1963 — after having to deal with decades of pompous costume dramas — viewers probably found Tom Jones to be a breath of fresh air.  Not only was it a British film released at a time when all things British were in style but it was also a film that, by the standards of 1963, dealt frankly with sex.  In short, Tom Jones is definitely a film of its time.  If it doesn’t hold up as well today, that’s because it wasn’t made for 2016.  It was made for 1963.

And obviously, if the judgment of the Academy is to be trusted, Tom Jones was the perfect film for 1963.  That said, I would have given best picture to another British film, From Russia With Love.

Lisa Watches An Oscar Winner: Ben-Hur (dir by William Wyler)


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I’m actually kind of upset with myself because, at one point, I was planning on spending all of February watching TCM’s 31 Days of Oscars and reviewing all of the best picture nominees that showed up on the channel.  Unfortunately, I ended up getting busy with other things (like Shattered Politics, for instance) and it was only tonight that I finally got a chance to sit down and watch TCM.  Oh well, maybe next year! But for now, I’m just going to watch and review as much as I can before the month ends.

With that in mind, I just spent four hours watching the 1959 best picture winner Ben-Hur.

In many ways, Ben-Hur feels like a prototypical best picture winner.  It’s a big epic film that obviously cost a lot to produce and which features a larger-than-life star surrounded by a bunch of a memorable character actors.  It features two spectacular set pieces and some human drama that’s effective without being particularly challenging.  It’s a film that deals with big themes but does so in a rather safe way.  Perhaps not surprisingly, it’s a film that, today, is often dismissed as being old-fashioned and simplistic and yet it’s still a lot of fun to watch.

Opening with no less of an event than the birth of Jesus, Ben-Hur tells the story of Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston), a wealthy Jewish aristocrat who, as a young man, was best friends with a Roman named Messala (Stephen Boyd).  When Messala is named as the new commander of the local Roman garrison, he is upset to discover that Ben-Hur is more loyal to his religion than to the Roman Empire.  Feeling personally rejected by his best friend (and perhaps more, as there are a lot of theories about the subtext of their relationship), Massala frames Ben-Hur for the attempted assassination of Judea’s governor.

Over the next 220 minutes, we watch as Ben-Hur goes from being a prisoner to a galley slave to the adopted son of a Roman general (Jack Hawkins) and finally one of the best chariot racers in ancient Rome.  Throughout it all, he remembers a mysterious man who once attempted to give him a sip of water.  Meanwhile, Ben-Hur’s family has been imprisoned and afflicted with leprosy.  Appropriately, for a film that opened with the Nativity, it ends with the Crucifixion, during which Ben-Hur’s struggle to save his family also comes to a climax.

Ben-Hur is undoubtedly flawed film.  (Among the film that were nominated for best picture of 1959, my favorite remains Anatomy of Murder.)  The film runs about an hour too long, some of the supporting actors give performances that are a bit too over-the-top, and the entire film is so reverential that in can be difficult for modern audiences, especially in this age of nonstop irony, to take it seriously.  In the lead role, Charlton Heston is always watchable and has a strong physical presence but you never quite believe that he’s the thinker that the script insists that he is.  There’s nothing subtle about Heston’s performance but, then again, there’s nothing subtle about the film itself.

And yet, if the film struggles to connect on a human level, Ben-Hur still works as a spectacle.  The gigantic sets and the ornate costumes are still impressive to look at.  The film’s two big action sequences — a shipwreck and the chariot race — are still exciting and thrilling to watch.  Ben-Hur may be dated but you can still watch it and understand why it was so popular with audiences in 1959 and, though I may not agree with a lot of the decisions, I can see why the Academy honored Ben-Hur with a record 11 Oscars.  It’s the type of spectacle that, in 1959, could only have been found on the big screen.  By honoring Ben-Hur, the Academy was honoring the relevance of the Hollywood establishment.

In the end, Ben-Hur may not hold up as well as some best picture winners but it’s still worth watching.