Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972)

Release Year: 1972
Director: Robert Fuest
Starring: Vincent Price, Robert Quarry, Valli Kemp, Peter Cushing, Berryl Reid, Terry-Thomas, Milton Reid, Caroline Munro
Music: John Gale

I haven’t seen The Abominable Dr. Phibes since I was a kid, so I cannot remember too much about it. Thankfully this sequel leads in with a detailed recap of the first film, in which it appears that he placed himself into hibernation with his dead wife – well she’s sort of dead, in suspended animation. Phibes (Vincent Price) is trying to bring her back to life. After many years of hibernation, Phibes rises once more to continue his quest – which is to restore life to his wife Victoria (is that Caroline Munro – she doesn’t receive a credit?). And let me say that again – Phibes quest is to restore life to his beloved wife, Victoria. If you think I am being repetitive, your darn right. But you should see this film. Man, that is all that Phibes says. In many different ways – over and over. It got to a point where I just wanted him to shut up and kill some people.

In the years since Phibes placed himself in hibernation, his house has been knocked down and the map to a secret spot in Egypt – that can restore Victoria’s life – has been stolen. Well it was found by an antique dealer who sold it to an archaeologist named Beiderbeck (Count Yorga, er, I mean Robert Quarry). Phibes naturally wants this map back. With a little help from his mute assistant, the beautiful Vulnavia (Valli Kemp), Phibes retrieves the map and then boards a steamer for Egypt.

But Biederbeck didn’t die, when Phibes retrieved the map, his manservant (Milton Reid) did. So Biederbeck wants the map back. He too has a reason for wanting it. He has been living on a young serum for the past one hundred years, and his supplies have run out. He needs the location of the sacred river of life in Egypt, just as much as Phibes does, and will go to almost any length to get it. He too, boards the steamer heading off for Egypt.

Dr. Phibes Rises Again is a great example of style over substance and this film has camp style to burn. But it is sluggishly paced and we only get about two horror (very mild horror) moments. However the film looks great and has some wonderful ‘out there’ touches. I was particularly fond of Victoria’s glass coffin which has the grilles from two Rolls Royces mounted at each end.

In some ways, this films biggest crime though, is that it lacks a resolution. This is most likely because they intended to make a third Phibes movie, so this didn’t eventuate. I would have liked to have seen Victoria revived and her reaction at what her husband had become. I know it’s kind of predictable, but it would give me a sense of closure with these characters – instead we are left hanging.

I hate to say this – it seems unsporting – but I was disappointed in Dr. Phibes Rises Again.

Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972)

Starcrash (1978)

Country: United States / Italy
Director: Luigi Cozzi (as Lewis Coates)
Starring: Caroline Munro, Marjoe Gortner, Christopher Plummer, David Hasselhoff, Robert Tessier, Joe Spinell, Nadia Cassini, Judd Hamilton, Hamilton Camp
Music: John Barry

You may have noticed I have been a little light on for posts lately. Well I have had a dose of the flu and been a bit out of it, but sometimes that can work in your favour. During my feverish state I watched Star Crash, a film that had slipped by me all these years. And, it probably has to do with my delusional fevered state, but I believe Star Crash to be one of the greatest films ever made. Sure, it’s a Star Wars rip-off, but Star Wars has dowdy white robed Princess Leia as a heroine. Whereas Star Crash has Caroline Munro in a black leather bikini. That in itself should be enough for most of mankind, but the film also has space ships, amazons, troglodytes, stop motion monsters, and special effects that look like they could have been taken directly from Barbarella. Then we have Marjoe Gortner as some kind of energy guy who can see into the future. And it has Christopher Plummer as the Emperor of the Universe. Plummer once again proves that a decent actor can be given the most atrocious script to read, and still make the words resonate. Oh yeah, Hasselhoff’s in it too. But the movie is really about Caroline Munro in skimpy costumes.

The film starts with an imperial space cruiser searching for a secret planet in the haunted stars. This hidden planet is controlled by the totally evil Count Zarth Arn (Joe Spinell). And as the cruiser gets closer, the ship is attacked by red monsters. These aren’t your average monsters. They’re more like the bubbles in your red lava lamp, but they drive everyone on the ship mad. Well, almost everyone. The cruiser has three escape launches, and these are fired before the ship, well it sorta dies. It doesn’t really do anything. It just floats there.

Then we cut to our heroes. Stella Star (Caroline Munro) is a superb pilot, and Akton (Marjoe Gortner) is a superb navigator, but these two in the past, have breached the law. On their trail are two super space cops. The first is Thor played by Robert Tessier. You may remember Tessier as the bald header bruiser in Charles Bronson’s Hard Times, and many other 70’s action films with Bronson or Burt Reynolds. Here he is painted blue. The other cop is a robot cop (or Robocop if you prefer), named Elle (Judd Hamilton – voiced by Hamilton Camp in the English version). Elle is a pretty determined sort of character and never gives up. When Stella Star and Akton attempt to escape by flying blindly into hyperspace, Elle and Thor follow after them.

When Stella And Akton leave hyper space, they are in the Haunted Stars and are quite close to the drifting Imperial Cruiser. Stella goes for a space walk over to the cruiser and finds one man left alive, he is dehydrated and rambling about red space monsters. Before Stella and Akton can report the ship, Elle and Thor turn up and arrest them. And for their crimes, each of them is sent to separate penal colonies.

Meanwhile news of Stella and Akton’s discovery of the cruiser is relayed to the Emperor (Christopher Plummer). On board the cruiser was his son, Simon (Hasselhoff), and he wants to know happened. So he arranges for Stella and Akton to be released, and teamed up with Thor and Elle. Now all four are working on the same side, they set about tracking down the three launches that were fired from the Imperial Cruiser just as it was attacked.

Okay, I may have been a bit lavish in my praise saying this is one of the greatest films of all time, but it certainly falls into the ‘so bad, it is good category’. If you have a cold or flu, or a simply feeling a lit bit out of it, my prescription is one shot of Star Crash. It won’t cure you, but somehow you’ll feel a lot better.

The Starcrash trailer – uploaded to Youtube by: sideshowcarny

Starcrash (1978)

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Directed by Lewis Gilbert
Roger Moore, Curt Jurgens, Barabara Bach, Richard Kiel, Caroline Munro, Bernard Lee, Walter Gotell, Desmond Llewelyn, Geoffrey Keen
Music by Marvin Hamlisch
Title Song, “Nobody Does It Better”, performed by Carly Simon

The Spy Who Loved Me is the first James Bond film I saw at the movies. In the town where I grew up we didn’t have a cinema, it was an old fashioned drive-in, and I organised with my friends to go with their families on different nights. This was my Star Wars. This is the film I went and watched again and again.

The Spy Who Loved Me is undoubtedly Roger Moore’s best appearance as James Bond. He seems less wooden than his first two appearances, and while some of his latter appearances were quite good, towards the end he was clearly too old for the role. The movie itself is fast, action packed and ferociously funny. If it has a weakness, it is that it was too successful. Many of the ideas and stunts used in the film have been recycled so many times (even by the Bond series), that a newcomer to this 30+ year old film may find themselves with a case of deja-vu. But remember, The Spy Who Loved Me did it all first with a great deal of flair and polish.

The story concerns James Bond’s efforts to thwart a madman with webbed fingers, Carl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens) from starting World War III. Stromberg hijacks two nuclear submarines, one American, the other belonging to the U.S.S.R., and replaces the crews with his own men who have orders to fire nuclear missiles at opposing cities in America and Russia. He hopes the reprisals from the Superpowers will destroy civilisation, leaving him to rule the world from his city beneath the sea. World Domination! Yeah, sure it’s corny, but it is good fun. Apart from planning to start World War III, Stromberg also feeds a female assistant to the sharks.

The girls in The Spy Who Loved Me are stunning. Barbara Bach plays Major Amassova – Agent XXX. She was so impressive, that she was snapped up by Ringo Starr. I guess that’s what being a Beatle can help you do – the one thing that all guys would like to do – and that is marry a Bond girl. Lucky guy. Another eye catcher in the film is Caroline Munro as Naomi. She doesn’t get to say much, but with a wink, she says a thousand words.

Richard Kiel plays Jaws, the menacing physical heavy of the piece, who is seven feet tall, has steel teeth and is virtually indestructible. Jaws was so popular, his character returned in the next James Bond movie, Moonraker. Kiel, in his book Richard Kiel – Making It Big In The Movies – Reynolds & Hearn Ltd 2002, had this to say:

“He (Cubby Broccoli) also told me that they had already considered David Prowse, and, seeing that this didn’t register with me, he explained that David Prowse was the guy in the Darth Vader suit in the Star Wars film, then being produced in England. My excitement at the possibility of being in a Bond movie began to dim slightly; it didn’t take much of an actor to be in a head-to-toe suit, especially when James Earl Jones was saying all the words.”

“I had no idea of whether I would live or die, or how the audience would take to the ‘Jaws’ character.”

The film features quite a few little gadgets, but the one that steals the show is the Lotus Espirit. Bond is involved in another car chase and simply drives his vehicle off the end of a pier and it turns into a submarine. The car was such a sensation that it toured the world. I remember nagging my parents to take me to the Melbourne Car Show so I could see the car. My parents gave in and we went to the car show – which was only a four hour drive from where I lived. After seeing the car on the BIG screen it seemed so small. But I was a happy boy.

John Barry wasn’t available to do the score to The Spy Who Loved Me, so the duty fell to Marvin Hamlisch, who’s Bee Gees inspired score is quite good in a seventies disco-funk kind of way. The incidental music in the Mojave Club and at the Pyramids is quite effective too, with a contemporary sound fused with more traditional middle eastern sounds. The theme song, Nobody Does It Better, sung by Carly Simon is one of the more successful songs in the series and was a massive hit.

As you would have noticed, The Spy Who Loved Me occupies a special place in my heart. You can say what you like about Moore versus Connery, or the decline of the Bond films in the seventies. You can even take me to task over the cheesy musical references to Dr. Zhivago and Lawrence Of Arabia – to me it doesn’t matter, The Spy Who Loved Me is one of my favourite films of all time.

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)