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)

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1978)

Country: United Kingdom
Director: Paul Morrisey
Starring: Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Kenneth William, Terry-Thomas, Hugh Griffith, Roy Kinnear, Joan Greenwood, Denholm Elliott, Penelope Keith, Prunella Scales
Music: Dudley Moore
Based on characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle

Warning: Just a quick word, as this review looks back briefly on the careers of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, it features slightly more colourful (obscene) language than usual.

Many years ago, when I first tried to watch this version of The Hound of the Baskervilles, I really struggled with it. It was only my devotion to the work of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, and a desire to watch everything that they did together that got me through. The film is terrible. For this review, I bravely watched it again, and maybe because I have been watching other Holmes films – and variations of this story, I found myself, begrudgingly, enjoying the film. But don’t take that the wrong way. That is not a recommendation, and unless, like me, you are a huge fan of Cook and Moore, I suggest that you steer well clear of this movie.

While this film is a Sherlock Holmes film, first and foremost it is a vehicle for the stars Peter Cook and Dudley Moore who came to prominence in the sixties television show, Not Only…But Also. One of Cook and Moore’s first attempts to branch out into cinema was the ensemble piece, The Wrong Box which also featured Ralph Richardson, Michael Caine, Peter Sellers and Tony Hancock. Despite the high profile cast, the film wasn’t a success. Then came Bedazzled. The film is now generally looked upon as being a comedy classic (‘…you fill me with inertia’), but the film only did moderate business in the UK and the States. Audiences in the UK were not prepared for the shift away from the established characters that Pete and Dud had established on television, and US audiences were never going to fully embrace a movie without American actors in the lead (apparently it was a surprise hit in Italy where they had never heard of Pete and Dud). Next was Monte Carlo or Bust – which was known in Australia (and I think America too) as Those Daring Young Men in their Jaunty Jalopies, hoping to rekindle the success of Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines. It too tanked.

Cook and Moore’s careers began to stall – that is, until a fateful afternoon in New York in 1973, where Derek and Clive were born. From Peter Cook: A Biography by Harry Thompson – 1997 Hodder and Stoughton:

Page 335
In the autumn of 1973, shortly after arriving in New York, when boredom had already set in but daily drunkenness hadn’t, Peter had turned up on Dudley’s doorstep with a proposition: he wanted to go into a recording studio ‘just for fun’ and improvise a sketch. When they used to sit ad-libbing together as Pete and Dud on long car journeys or in hotel bars, the conversation often took a scatological turn; it was something of this kind that Peter wanter to improvise now. He had already booked the Bell Sound Studios, he explained, so Dudley obliged. They drove down to the studios, two microphones were switched on, the tapes were set rolling, and with no warning at all Peter launched into a routine…

Page 337
Soon afterwards, through ennui and depression overcame Peter, and his enthusiasm for the Derek and Clive project dwindled to zero.

There it would have ended, but for the fact that the recording technicians had bootlegged a selection of various live and studio sketches, a tape of which did the rounds of New York’s other recording studios and quietly began to breed…

…By the summer of 1976 the Derek and Clive tape was so widely available that it was being offered for sale in the personal columns…

…but at the end of the year in which he [Peter] felt directionless and shorn of inspiration, Derek and Clive represented a useful stopgap, a ready-made, off the shelf entertainment that could be released without undue exertion on his part. A deal was done with Chris Blackwell of Island Records, who issued Derek and Clive (Live) – the original title had been Derek and Clive (Dead) – in August.

Perhaps unexpectedly, the record was a huge worldwide hit, albeit mainly among adolescent boys…

Now where does The Hound of the Baskervilles fit in? The film was made as a reaction to Derek and Clive (Live). Cook and Moore’s smutty recording had made them famous once more. And you must remember, this is before Dudley Moore had success in Hollywood – this is a few years before ‘10’ and Arthur transformed Moore into a diminutive superstar. They were on a roll, and most importantly offers, and money began to come their way.

Peter Cook: A Biography by Harry Thompson – 1997 Hodder and Stoughton:

Pages 338 – 339
The release of Derek and Clive (Live) had presented Dudley with a difficult dilemma, quite apart from the problem of preventing his mother from getting hold of a copy (the first ‘c#nt’ would have given her a heart attack, he predicted – Penthouse Volume 11, No. 9). On the one hand, he had told Peter that he did not want to work with him again, and that he was going to stay in LA to try to make it in Hollywood. On the other hand, he had just completed a year of dismal unemployment, sitting in his garage playing the piano and waiting for the phone call that never came. Nobody in the film business, it seemed, was interested in one half of a theatrical double act with a commercially dubious record on celluloid. Derek and Clive (Live) had suddenly rekindled an enormous amount of interest in the Peter and Dudley partnership…

…but far more importantly, Michael White’s company let it be known that they would be prepared to finance a Cook and Moore film. It was the opportunity to revitalise both their careers that both of them had been waiting for, and Dudley had no option but to climb ruefully back on board.

…then sat down with Peter to write The Hound of the Baskervilles, a parody that took its starting point from the Sherlock Holmes sketch from Goodbye Again.

Now let’s have a quick look at what was put on screen. The film opens with Dudley Moore walking out and sitting at the piano and beginning to play…in fact this scene and the closing scene with Moore at the piano bookend the film. They have nothing to do with the story and only serve to highlight what a gifted piano player Moore is. Further evidence of this is throughout the whole film, where Moore provides the musical score – mostly in the style of a silent film.

After Moore’s musical interlude, the film cuts to a prologue where three French nuns pay a call on Sherlock Holmes (Peter Cook). Holmes has been hired to find a holy relic (Saint Beryl’s elbow) that has been stolen from the church. The nuns are fearful because it is only days before the ‘Festival of St. Beryl’ where thousands of blind cripples are flocking to the Chapel to kiss the holy relic, which at this point one of the nuns beseeches Holmes to find the relic ‘in the name of all the flocking blind cripples’. Get it? No, you’re right, it is not very funny. But that kind of forced humour sums up the film really.

After the title sequence, Dr. Mortimer (Terry-Thomas) visits Holmes and Watson at Baker Street. He explains that he is the executor of the Baskerville Estate, which is valued at over a million pounds (mostly property). The last master of Baskerville Hall, Sir Charles Baskerville died a most unusual and supernatural death, believed to be at the jaws on a gigantic hound. Mortimer further explains that a ‘gigantic brute – a veritable hound form hell’ has been the cause of death for the preceding masters of the Baskerville Estate too.

Reluctantly, Holmes agrees to meet to new heir to the Baskerville Estate (‘reluctantly’ because it would appear that Holmes has better things to do with his time like visit massage parlours). At the meeting, the new heir, Sir Henry Baskerville (Kenneth Williams) explains that he is fearful for his life, because on the previous evening someone stole one of his boots. It is surmised that the scent of the boot, will be used to lure the hound to Sir Henry. Holmes thinks it is all nonsense, and he is unavailable to take the case. He assigns Watson to resolve the mystery in his stead.

So Watson, embarking on his first solo case, meets Dr. Mortimer and Sir Henry at the railway station and they travel to Baskerville Estate where they receive a very cool welcome from the very, very strange people there – that is, the suspects.

Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles only provides the vaguest framework to hang this comedy on. The plot, what little there is, veers from the text quite often in clumsy attempts to get laughs. Unfortunately these attempts to get laughs are so forced that they produce groans rather than belly laughs.

The Hound of the Baskervilles was not to be Peter Cook’s last association with Sherlock Holmes. He also had a small cameo as the editor of the Strand Magazine in Without a Clue (another Holmes comedy), which featured Ben Kingsley as Watson, and Michael Caine as an actor playing Sherlock Holmes.

The Hound of the Baskervilles, whilst being pretty terrible as a film, may be an interesting curio for the well-versed Holmes fan, but the people who would get the most enjoyment out of the film are fans of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. This may be the nadir of their professional careers, but there are one or two sparks that are vintage Pete and Dud; such as the classic ‘One leg too few’ sketch – unfortunately these have very little to do with the story.

And for those of you in the know, can I offer two final words: ‘The’ and ‘And’.

Nearly everybody in the cast has ventured into spy territory. Here’s a few highlights. Peter Cook appeared in A Dandy in Aspic. Kenneth Williams appeared in Carry On Spying. Terry-Thomas appeared in Kiss The Girls and Make Them Die, Diabolik, Arriva Dorrelik and Our Man In Marrakesh (and many others). Denholm Elliot appeared in Madame Sin (and many others). Hugh Griffith appeared in The Counterfeit Traitor

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1978)

The Karate Killers (1967)

AKA: The Five Daughters Affair
United States
Director: Barry Shear

Starring: Robert Vaughn, David McCallum, Herbert Lom, Curt Jurgens, Telly Savalas, Jill Ireland, Terry-Thomas, Kim Darby, Diane McBain, Leo G. Carroll, Danielle De Metz

Music: Gerald Fried
The Man From UNCLE theme by Jerry Goldsmith

There are many reasons why this film could be regarded as the worst of The Man From UNCLE films – because of the way the story is structured, it is repetitive and episodic, rather than a fluid and cohesive piece of cinema. Having said that, and throwing away all the rulebooks, this movie has to be my favourite in the series. It’s an absolute hoot.

The film opens with – not one, but three autogyros flying over head – autogyros? Think ‘Little Nellie’ from You Only Live Twice. Down below on a winding mountain road in a sporty blue car are Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and illya Kuryakin (David McCallum). From above the autogyros start peppering our intrepid UNCLE agents with rockets. Due to there choice of car, it appears that the UNCLE boys can’t just roll down the windows and shoot back, they have to open the doors, and these are top opening doors, so Napoleon’s view of his overhead attackers is impeded. So how do they get out of this tricky situation? Illya drives the car into a tunnel. That’s it! I guess they waited the for the autogyros to run low on petrol and go home.

Now as you have no doubt guessed, the guys in the autogyros were THRUSH agents and they were trying to stop Illya and Napoleon from visiting Dr. Simon True who is a scientist who has been working on a vital desalinisation project. During the experiment, as Napoleon and Illya watch, Professor True has a heart attack. Just before he dies, he whispers that his ‘formula’ for the experiment has been passed to the ‘four winds’.

Meanwhile, Professor True’s widow, Amanda (Joan Crawford) is being consoled by her lover, Randolph (Herbert Lom). But Randolph’s care and affection only stretches so far when he can’t find a copy of the Professor’s formula – as that is all he was after. He only had an affair with Amanda so he could get the formula. He questions her and she refuses to co-operate. This is where Randolph starts getting rough – he calls in a band of THRUSH agents in red skivvies with black leather vests and gloves. These guys are the ‘Karate Killers’ from the title and they tear the place a part, and kill Amanda.

The men from UNCLE turn up too late with the Professor’s youngest daughter, Sandra True (Kim Darby). She surmises that the ‘four winds’ that the formula has been scattered to, are in fact Professor True’s four errant step daughters. The first of these daughters, Margo (Diane McBain) is now living in Italy – married to Count Valeriano De Fanzini (Telly Savalas). The Count is an unstable and jealous man and keeps Margo locked up, naked, in an attic. When Napoleon and Illya turn up with Sandra in tow, they don’t quite receive the welcome they expected. The situation gets worse when Randolph turns up the his squad of Karate Killers.

After a slap stick fight sequence, Margo gives the men from UNCLE a photo that her step father had sent to her. In the background of the photo, on a chalk board is part of a formula. On it’s own it doesn’t mean too much, but all of the step daughters have a piece of the formula, and once they have all the pieces they can work out Professor True’s plan for desalinisation.

The next daughter, Imogene (Jill Ireland) is in London, and all parties head across to the UK for the next part of the story. When we first meet Imogene, she has just been arrested – by Terry-Thomas – for indecent exposure. Of course Randolph turns up.

After that we head to the Swiss Alps and the Daughter is Yvonne (Danielle De Metz). She is entangled in a relationship with wealthy gigolo, Carl Von Kesser (Curt Jurgens). And once again Randolph turns up. As I mentioned at the opening, the story is rather repetitive, with our men from UNCLE traipsing across the globe tracking down one step daughter after another – and always Randolph and his cronies are on hand to throw a spanner in the works. But the repetition is not really a hurdle because each episode is fun, and has a great cast.

It’s probably not logical, but I rate this Man From UNCLE movie pretty highly. It is perfect lightweight spy entertainment with plenty of cliff hanger moments, which the boys have to extricate themselves from. This is also one of the more tongue-in-cheek movies of the series. The Man From UNCLE always had a healthy does of comedy thrown into the mix, but this is just swinging sixties excess at its best!

The Karate Killers (1967)

Arriva Dorellik

AKA: How To Kill 400 Duponts
Director: Steno
Starring: Johnny Dorelli, Margaret Lee, Terry-Thomas, Alfred Adam, Jean-Pierre Zola, Rossella Como, Riccardo Carrone, Agata Flori, Didi Perego
Music: Franco Pisano

Arriva Dorellik is a very, very broad comedy spoof based on Mario Bava’s Danger: Diabolik starring Johnny Dorelli. Dorelli is the stage name of Giorgio Guidi, who is an Italian actor, singer and showman.

A shadow of fear hangs over the Cote d’Azur. Master criminal Dorrelik has been perpetrating a string of audacious crimes. In an attempt to bring the masked fiend to justice, Inspector Green of Scotland Yard (Terry-Thomas), the world’s foremost authority on Dorellik has been called in to help.

As the Inspector is played by Terry-Thomas, you can expect another over-officious but bumbling characterisation, and not too dissimilar to his role in Danger: Diabolik. It’s Thomas’ usual schtick.

No sooner has Inspector Green arrived at Nice airport and there is a robbery at a jewellers in the city. Green and his French colleagues quickly make their way to the scene of the crime. Dorellik has made off with one of the world’s largest diamonds, and in it’s place he has left a letter to welcome the bumbling inspector.

But Dorellik hasn’t fled the scene just yet. He has stayed around to taunt Green. Once Green hears the madman’s laugh the chase is on. The chase sequence is in the tradition of the Keystone Cops with silly loud brass music and sliding whistle. Just as it appears that Green has his man cornered, Dorellik disappears between two palm trees.

We next see Dorellik in his underground lair. As far as underground lairs go, it is not too exotic. In fact it looks like a windowless apartment. It’s here that we meet Dorellik’s accomplice, Baby (Margaret Lee). Yep, ‘Baby’ is her name! It seems that Baby isn’t impressed with Dorrelik’s current string of crimes, particularly as it has only netted them a profit of eight dollars. When Dorrelik clumsily destroys the priceless diamond that he has just stolen, Baby walks out on him in frustration.

Now broke, Dorellik places an ad in the paper, selling himself as a criminal for hire. One man responds, Raphael Dupont. He explains, in Rio, Multi-millionaire Jacques Dupont has just died. The millionaire had no direct descendants so his fortune is to be divided up amongst the numerous Duponts in France. Raphael wants to inherit it all, and for that to happen all the other Duponts must be dead. He hires Dorellik to kill them all at one thousand dollars per hit. So Dorellik stands to be a rich man – that is if he can kill all the Duponts – and that isn’t an easy task, especially with Inspector Green on his trail.

Arriva Dorellik is a broad comedy in the strongest sense, and your opinion of the film will depend on your acceptance of Johnny Dorelli. His style of comedy is rather juvenile and those with little tolerance for low-brow humour will find this film tough going. Personally, when the mood strikes me, I don’t mind a trip down ‘dumb street’ and this film is pretty entertaining and what’s more it features the gorgeous Margaret Lee. I can sit through any of Margaret Lee’s films – yes, even Hercules Vs The Fire Monster. As an added bonus, Dorellik has her performing a show stopping musical number. What more could you ask?

Arriva Dorellik