With Dr. Phibes’ initial outing, director Robert Fuest and his cast created a truly quirky and engaging slasher-style film. However, when Vincent Price rose again for the sequel, the unique charm of the original tends to get a little muddled.
As with many horror sequels of its ilk, a viewing of Dr. Phibes Rises Again does require that the audience is willing to go along with the glossed-over explanation of the doctor’s reanimation and the, frankly, contrived quest toward Egypt so as to recover the Scrolls of Life and finally resurrect his departed wife Victoria (he might have thought of doing that before everyone knew he was a crazed killer, but who am I to judge). That, of course, isn’t to say that the original film was completely free of plot problems itself, but somehow with that movie’s bizarre ambiance, one took little time to pay much attention to the concessions that were made in the storyline.
And that brings us to the second substantial issue with Rises Again – The mood of lovable, gruesome weirdness captured so well in this film’s predecessor is not quite the same. To be sure, there is still a substantial amount of campy fun to carry on through the running time, yet some of the mystique has certainly worn off.
Perhaps this is a problem that can be attributed to the fact that instead of being an enigmatic and mostly silent presence, Price’s Phibes is now more of a vocal exposition fountain detailing everything concerning his thoughts and intentions – instances where the key rule of “show, don’t tell” might have helped a bit.
And yet, despite these obvious flaws, Dr. Phibes’ return does have some good fun and enough of the overall wackiness of the original to make it an entertaining watch.
It’s difficult to not wish some of the creases were ironed over a bit more because it is as many sequels of B-movies are – slapdash, somewhat unnecessary, and a bit off the mark. But in comparison to many other sequels to beloved films, it at least goes on a different journey than the first and avoids being a carbon-copy of the original, so it holds up fairly well if you’re craving for another adventure in this universe.
Rating 3 out of 5