Our writer from a land down under has another piece for you guys to enjoy, and it’s not about an Asian horror film! Over to Connor-
im stepping away from asian cinema for a bit. moving to british cult horror. . . . .
i dont think ive ever referred to him as anything less than ‘vincent price’. not vince price or vinny price or even vin peezel (these instances dont count of course). always vincent price. he is awesome. i call him by his full name because every single time i say it or write it i remind myself of the song ‘the one that got away’ by tom waits. word association sticks for life im afraid.
i picked this movie up when i was in a library – in a broken case, with below average cover art (if we’re gonna get critical about that sorta thing) and all up looking like something you could find in the discount bin of a service station for less than a chocolate bar.
basically, unless you were looking for this specific movie, youre not going to be taking it out of the library.
unless youre me.
and what is ‘me’? well. . . . the last proper hollywood action blockbuster that i saw in the cinema was skyfall. before that it was avatar – whenever that came out. and before that it was the dark knight in 2008. theyre not really my thing (seems like im due for another one though). i have no issue with the executives picking out the dull, bound-for-money scripts – theyve found a way to maximise profit and they stick to it – and thats great for them, but to me thats pretty boring. it means lots of sequels (x-men, avengers, star wars, fast and furious — take a pick), and all the rest of the movies end with an uplifting resolve. thats just my conspiracy anyway.
that said though, i have seen a lot of other, more interesting movies in the meantime. so at least im comfortable with movies like these — youre not going to see $300mil remakes of the kinda stuff youll find me watching – but to me thats a good thing. id hate to see the movies i like get ruined by things like: good cameras, or a director who knows how to film things, proper acting, or a good script — in doing stuff like that, and making it full hollywood, you get rid of: all the terrible one liners, the bad make up, countless continuity errors, and youll probably end up with someone like tom cruise playing a tall man, or a handsome man, or a disabled war vet, or a samurai (shame), when someone more qualified (or just qualified in any way) could do a better job. i dont like blockbuster movies. simple as that. its not even me being cool and protesting, i just dont enjoy them. soz.
and now i will review.
i have to admit, i do love vincent price, but at the same time i am perfectly aware that the majority of the movies which he starred in were probably the result of him being contractually forced to do, or maybe he just wanted to be in every single horror movie ever made for as long as he possibly could. basically, theyre low budget, badly scripted, and vincent prices acting is the saving grace most of the time. same thing for christopher lee.
so. . . . . ‘the abominable dr phibes’….
i thought (from the name) (before i even looked at the front cover of the case) it was gonna be a movie by ed wood – its got that sort of ring in its name. it wasnt done by him though. it was done by a man who, according to the back of the dvd case ‘directed many tv episodes of the avengers’. so you just know that this is at least marginally better than something like ‘plan 9 from outer space’ — thats what i thought id be comparing it to anyway. i assumed that it would be a highly wasted 90 minutes of my time, and id feel bad for vincent price, because this was his 100th movie (thats how they marketed it back in 1971), and youd want that sort of achievement to be marked by a good piece of cinema.
and i feel like this is a good movie. i actually feel like this is a really good movie. and i dont feel sad for vincent price.
basically, vincent price is dr phibes. suuuurpriiiiiiiiise news. at some point in time his wife was in an accident and died on the operating table. dr phibes wants to kill all nine people that tried to help out with the operation.
you might think that 9 is a lot of people to be taking part in an operation — it is. its at least 5 more than youd need in almost every situation (apart from maybe pinning down dr octopus or something) – but itd be a really short movie if it was about killing 4 people, and the rest of the plot wouldnt make sense, because vincent price wants to kill them in the order of the ‘G’tach’ – which is (without bothering to google stuff because thats too sophisticated) something like the 10 great plagues. it might even BE the 10 great plagues, but in an easier-to-do-onscreen version. so: bats, frogs, locusts, rats, etc etc etc.
at the same time as all of this is taking place, theres a secondary parallel story about the policeman or detectives or whatever they are from scotland yard trying to track down dr phibes. i dont much care about that section (though it is totally integral to the story and probably considerably more than half of the screen time) because it was an overload of old british accents, which, to me, after a while start to sound false. the movie was filmed in hertfordshire, so they are real accents. joseph cottens involved. hes a good actor.
anyway, the movie starts out with some mystic figure orchestrating a band of mannequins. i dont think its entirely relevant to the actual story, but if youre here to learn, then i can teach you: — your first viewing of a character should be something that defines who they are as a person, so you straight away gauge what theyre like. essentially, vincent price in a black dress waving a wand at plastic men is an accurate depiction of dr phibes.
what weve learnt there is that dr phibes is a musician, and hes weird. and his band, ‘the clockwork wizards’ are in need of conducting.
so he kills some people – in the right order of the plagues, and they die, and the police are like ‘oh nooooo, we gotta get this dude before he kills everyone’, but vincent price is just ripping it up because hes vincent price.
pretty simple storyline when you think it over, but that doesnt stop it being a good movie. it kind of feels like a really early draft of the ‘saw’ series; the deaths are imaginative. (in my post-writing research i found that there are some elements of ‘saw’ that have been drawn directly from this movie) and theres some ridiculously good scenes in here. such as:
– vincent price (looking phenomenally similar to bob dylan) drinking a martini through the side of his neck for reasons that arent made clear for another 30 minutes or something
– vincent price randomly confessing that he doesnt actually have a face (the actual reason isnt even properly explained, but is speculated several times)
– every single scene where vincent price has to talk without opening his mouth because -as you now know- he doesnt have a face and is actually just wearing a vincent price mask — he talks through a wire attached to a grammaphone
– the scenes where vincent price is playing the wurlitzer with no kind of synchronisation to what music is really playing – the music tends to be fairly similar to church hymns, but he looks more like hes playing foosball with a great deal of anger, flailing arms and passion
its even got a really cool ending that i wont bother to spoil, even though i know you wont watch it once you read this. but thats your own fault.
because of my low expectations for this movie, i was sorta ironically disappointed when it turned out to be good. i dont know if it is realistically a ‘good’ movie in the grand scheme of things, but i liked it. i like most movies that arent hyperbudget-actionactionaction-for2hours kinda things.
you probably wont like it. i dont even know who you are, but i can guess you wont like. its over 40 years old now. its got actors you probably havent heard of, acting in the old fashioned stage style. theres no gore, theres no blood, theres nothing scary about it. its an old school horror movie, and that doesnt suit everyone. but then again i could be wrong. i dont particularly care if i am.
and just a little coincidence – i drew a picture of a vincent price as a frog in my spare time a few weeks back –
so it felt a little weird to then see a scene in this movie with vincent price holding a frog mask at a masquerade ball, waiting to kill someone.
and of course – once i google the movie for myself (the day after i write this), i find that it has JUST been revealed that they will be remaking this movie, with malcolm mcdowell. now i have shot myself in the foot very profoundly.
i dont enjoy eating crow.
i am, however, pretty excited for the remake now.