This was one of the first films I remember going to see in a theatre as a kid, and was my first exposures to psychotronic cinema.
The Abominable Dr. Phibes is a 1971 British comedy horror film directed by Robert Fuest, written by William Goldstein and James Whiton and starring Vincent Price and Joseph Cotten. Its art deco sets, dark humour and performance by Price have made the film and its sequel Dr. Phibes Rises Again cult classics. The film also features Terry-Thomas and Hugh Griffith, with an uncredited Caroline Munro appearing in still photographs as Phibes’s wife.
The film follows the title character, Phibes, who blames the medical team that attended to his wife for her death four years prior and sets out to exact vengeance on each one. Phibes is inspired in his murderous spree by the Ten Plagues of Egypt from the Old Testament.
Dr. Anton Phibes was an expert in theology and music who was supposedly killed in a car crash in 1921, shortly after the death of his beloved wife, Victoria, during an operation. However, he survived the crash, horribly scarred by the accident and left unable to speak, forcing him to remake his face with prosthetics and use his knowledge of acoustics to regain his voice. Resurfacing in 1925, Phibes believes that his wife died a victim of incompetent doctors, and begins elaborate plans to kill them.
Phibes begins his quest for vengeance with the help of his beautiful and silent female assistant Vulnavia, using the ten plagues of Egypt as a basis, wearing an amulet with Hebrew letters corresponding with the appropriate plagues as he commits the murders. After three doctors are killed, Inspector Trout, a detective from Scotland Yard, learns that they had all worked together under the direction of Dr. Vesalius, who reveals that all of the deceased had been on his team in Victoria’s case, as well as four other doctors and a nurse. When another murder is reported, Trout suspects Phibes is alive, and he and Vesalius go to the Phibes mausoleum at Highgate Cemetery. They find ashes in a box in Phibes’ coffin, which Trout believes are the remains of Phibes’ chauffeur; Victoria’s coffin is empty.
Despite all of the police’s best efforts, Phibes is able to kill the remaining doctors and the nurse. Reserving the final punishment for Dr. Vesalius, he kidnaps the doctor’s son, Lem, then calls Vesalius and tells him to come alone to his mansion on Maldene Square if he wants to save his son’s life. Despite Trout’s protests, Vesalius knocks the inspector unconscious and immediately races to Phibes’ mansion, where he confronts the mad doctor. Phibes has placed Vesalius’ son under anesthesia and prepared him for surgery; a small key implanted near the boy’s heart will unlock his restraints, but Vesalius must perform the surgery within six minutes (the same amount of time Victoria was on the operating table before her death) to get the key before acid from a container above Lem’s head falls and destroys his face. Vesalius succeeds and moves the table out of the way; Vulnavia, backing away from the police, is sprayed with the acid instead.
Convinced he has accomplished his vendetta, Phibes retreats to the basement of his house to lie in the stone sarcophagus containing the embalmed body of his wife. He drains out his own blood and replaces it with embalming fluid as the coffin’s inlaid stone lid slides into place, concealing them both in darkness. Trout and the police arrive and discover that Phibes has mysteriously disappeared. Trout and Vesalius recall that the “final curse” was darkness, and they speculate that they will encounter Phibes again. From Wikipedia