Take 3: Dr. Phibes Rises Again Review + 420, 425, and 430 Follower Thank You

While looking for a movie to review for my next Blog Follower Dedication Review, I realized it’s been a month since I wrote about a “spooky” title. It’s also been two months since I reviewed a sequel. Because of those factors, I choose to review the 1972 movie, Dr. Phibes Rises Again! Last year, I saw the predecessor, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, after one of my readers recommended it to me. In my opinion, the film was just fine, as I found the horror in the horror-comedy classification heavily emphasized. The fact The Abominable Dr. Phibes received a sequel was surprising to me. That’s because I had no idea the 1971 title received a second chapter until I recently stumbled across it. What other surprises are in store? Let’s take a trip through this review of Dr. Phibes Rises Again in order to find out!

Dr. Phibes Rises Again poster created by
American International Pictures and Anglo-EMI Film Distributors Ltd./MGM-EMI

Things I liked about the film:

A mystery-adventure: In my review of The Abominable Dr. Phibes, I stated how the story was more of a horror-mystery due to the limited incorporation of comedy. Like its predecessor, the sequel also features a mystery. But this time, an adventure story is included in the script, as the characters travel to Egypt. The change in scenery allowed something new to be brought to the overall story. It also added an exciting component, with the audience receiving an opportunity to witness new sights and join the ride with the characters. A new setting made the film’s twists and turns interesting, as Dr. Phibes came up with different ways to attempt to reach his goal. A distinct identity was given to Dr. Phibes Rises Again because of these creative decisions!

Toned down character demises: One of The Abominable Dr. Phibes’ flaws was how over-the-top demises of characters were, as they came across more gross than scary. These demises also overshadowed Vincent Price’s performance, which led to his talents being underutilized. While Dr. Phibes continued to go after anyone who stood in his way in Dr. Phibes Rises Again, the execution of his plan was toned down. Not only were there less demises, but there was also less on-screen gore compared to the first film. Vincent’s acting abilities received more emphasis because of this creative decision. That creative decision also allowed me, as a viewer, to focus on Vincent’s body language, facial expressions, and vocal inflections. Vincent’s role in Dr. Phibes Rises Again felt more like lead actor material compared to The Abominable Dr. Phibes.

Robert Quarry’s portrayal of Darius Biederbeck: When I talked about Queen of the Damned in my article, Twentieth Century vs. Queen of the Damned at the Against the Crowd Blogathon, I said the movie presented Lestat as a more likable protagonist. Stuart Townsend’s portrayal of Lestat helps make this statement accurate, as his consistent suave, confidence added to Lestat’s likability. Robert Quarry’s portrayal of Darius Biederbeck in Dr. Phibes Rises Again reminded me of Stuart Townsend’s portrayal of Lestat. This is because Darius’ suave, confidence was similar to Lestat’s. Darius was a goal-driven man, believing in himself and his mission. Even when those around him had their doubts, his confidence was unwavering, presented consistently by Robert. What also helped was how strong Robert’s acting abilities were, giving him an opportunity to present a stand-out performance. These aspects of Robert’s portrayal of Darius made it enjoyable for me to watch!

Egyptian hieroglyphic image created by wirestock at freepik.com. Luxor photo created by wirestock – www.freepik.com

What I didn’t like about the film:

A somewhat rehashed story: Dr. Phibes’ story in The Abominable Dr. Phibes revolved around trying to find a solution for his deceased wife, Victoria. This quest for a solution drove Dr. Phibes to go after those he felt wronged him and his wife. In Dr. Phibes Rises Again, Dr. Phibe travels to Egypt. But his mission is similar to the first film: find a solution for Victoria. I won’t claim this story is a carbon copy of The Abominable Dr. Phibes. However, I wish it had less similarities to the predecessor.

Confusing parts of the story: A confusing part of Dr. Phibes Rises Again is the return of Vulnavia. Dr. Phibes’ assistant, Vulnavia, was one of the key characters in The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Without spoiling the first movie, I will say something happens that prevents Vulnavia from appearing in the sequel. Yet, she does appear in Dr. Phibes Rises Again, with no clear explanation provided. This is just one example of confusing parts of the story that should have received more context.

An unresolved mystery: While in Egypt, Dr. Phibes discovers a sarcophagus. When he opens the sarcophagus, it appears a mummy had been removed. Dr. Phibes even questions what happened to the aforementioned mummy. But after this scene took place, the mystery is never resolved. In fact, it was never brought up after Dr. Phibes’ initial discovery. This made me wonder why the film’s creative team would include that mystery in their script if they had no intentions to solve it on screen?

Scary movie screening image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/small-skeleton-with-popcorn-and-tv_1323292.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Before I share my overall impression of Dr. Phibes Rises Again, I’d like to thank all my followers! I appreciate your support of 18 Cinema Lane! Now, on to my thoughts on Dr. Phibes Rises Again. On the one hand, the sequel tries to go in a different direction from the first movie. It even fixes some of the predecessor’s flaws. On the other hand, though, Dr. Phibes’ story was similar to his story in The Abominable Dr. Phibes. It also doesn’t help how parts of the story were confusing and a mystery was unresolved. Therefore, I will say this: as a movie, Dr. Phibes Rises Again is fine. As a sequel, it is slightly better than the first film.

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Have you seen The Abominable Dr. Phibes or its sequel? Are there any sequels you think are better than their predecessor? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Death on the Nile (2022) Review + 415 Follower Thank You

When I reviewed Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate for my last Blog Follower Dedication Review, I figured by writing about a mystery film, I would be giving the readers what they wanted. Well, for my 415 Blog Follower Dedication Review, I decided to give my readers yet another mystery, as both reviews for Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate and Cut, Color, Murder have been quite successful. This time, though, the movie in question is a more current mystery production from the big screen. Recently, my family rented the 2022 adaptation, Death on the Nile. This is the follow-up title to the 2017 adaptation, Murder on the Orient Express. On 18 Cinema Lane, I have gone on record to state I was not a fan of Murder on the Orient Express’ ending. I would say why, but then I’d have to spoil that movie for my readers. With that said, I watched the 2022 film with an open mind, hoping the ending would be better. But was that enough to be stronger than the 2017 title? Join me as I review Death on the Nile!

Death on the Nile (2022) poster created by Kinberg Genre, Mark Gordon Pictures, Scott Free Productions, TSG Entertainment, and 20th Century Studios

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Sometimes, in ensemble films, there is at least one performance that steals the show. In the case of Death on the Nile, I can’t say that happened, as everyone’s performance was equally strong. So instead, I’m going to talk about how all of the actors and actresses appeared at ease in their roles. Every interaction among the characters seemed natural. Despite the talent being on different journeys in their career, there was a shared chemistry to be found. Gal Gadot did not star in Murder on the Orient Express alongside Kenneth Branagh. However, when they interacted together, it felt like their characters, Linnet and Hercule, had known each other longer than their total screen time. Even actors and actresses whose characters developed their own relationships created a believable on-screen connection. Bouc is a close friend of Hercule’s, but wasn’t brought up or featured in Murder on the Orient Express. Rosalie is a character who made her debut in Death on the Nile. Despite never meeting prior to this film, Rosalie and Bouc formed a romantic relationship that felt genuine. Their bright smiles and warm embraces present the impression they were always meant to be together. It’s interactions like Bouc and Rosalie’s that allowed the overall acting performances to be enjoyable to watch!

An atmospheric setting: The majority of Death on the Nile takes place in Egypt, specifically on the Nile River. Despite a cruise ship being the primary setting for the story, the characters make an excursion to an ancient Egyptian tomb. I’m not sure if Death on the Nile was filmed on-location, on a set, or if everything was green-screened. No matter where the movie was filmed, this particular location was very atmospheric! The structure was covered in a warm sandstone, reflecting the nearby natural landscape. The interior walls were covered in hieroglyphics, only seen through torch light or a flashlight. Before the characters entered the tombs, a long, overhead shot showcased their entry. Even though a structure like this one would likely never be done justice through filmography, it emphasized the scope of a location of that scale!

The Egyptian tombs were not the only atmospheric location in this film. When it comes to the S.S. Karnak, the creative team knew what style they wanted to execute. Boy, did they stick the landing! This ship was posh, bearing the word “elegant” like a badge of honor. The floor was a dark wood, which nicely contrasted the white shiplap walls. Polished glass windows surrounded a grand sitting area, separating patrons into an isolated, beautiful world. Even this aforementioned sitting area was a sight to behold! A detailed oriental rug hosted an island to a set of plush armchairs and a sofa. An elegant bar overlooked both the seating arrangements and the windowed walls, which showcased a perfect view of the river. When I first saw this ship on screen, it looked, to me, like a miniature version of the Titanic.

The use of black and white imagery: Within the mystery genre, black and white imagery has been, in my experience, used rarely in more recently released titles. Even in Death on the Nile, this kind of imagery had a limited incorporation in the movie. But the use of black and white imagery is what stood out to me. This film’s very first scene is captured in black and white. However, it took place during World War I, with the rest of the story taking place in 1937. The distinction of past and present through imagery was clever and visually interesting. This creative tactic was used again later in the story. But this time, color was included to force the audience to focus on that scene’s particular aspects. Like I said about the previous scene, it was an interesting and clever way to use black and white imagery!

Magnifying fingerprints image created by Balintseby at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/glass”>Glass vector created by Balintseby – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/fingerprint-investigation_789253.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The mystery’s delayed start time: One of my least favorite aspects of the mystery genre is when the mystery starts at a later time in the story. This is because I prefer mysteries to be more interactive and get to the heart of the matter sooner. Unfortunately, Death on the Nile did not ask me what I wanted, as the mystery in this movie started at the halfway point. That means the audience was given half a movie to attempt to solve the mystery alongside Hercule. To me, this felt reminiscent of episodes of Murder, She Wrote, where the first half of the story is devoted to the mystery’s build-up. This creative decision caused a much slower start to the movie, as well as a delay in suspense.

A mystery overshadowed by relationship drama: Drama among the characters can work in a mystery’s favor, as it provides possible motives and suspects. Various types of relationships can also create tension within the overall story. But in Death on the Nile, the relationship drama ended up overshadowing the mystery. In fact, it dominated the film’s first half. While characters fell in and out of love, or simply reflected on love, one of my family members asked, “Isn’t someone supposed to get murdered in this story”? I could easily sense this family member’s impatience, as I too felt my good will toward the movie slipping away with each of the characters’ romantic embrace. I have never read any of Agatha Christie’s books, so I’m not sure if these relationships are straight from the source material. However, this part of the story was over-emphasized.

A past detail that doesn’t lead anywhere: Death on the Nile starts with showing Hercule during World War I. In that time, it is revealed he developed romantic feelings for a woman named Katherine. For the rest of the movie, though, this part of the story was never revisited. If Katherine was brought up, Hercule only talked about her in passing. Hercule’s past relationship and his time during World War I getting ignored was confusing to me. Why include these details if there was no plan to follow through on them? It felt like they were added to the story simply for the sake of being there.

Egyptian hieroglyphic image created by wirestock at freepik.com. Luxor photo created by wirestock – www.freepik.com

My overall impression:

Before I share my overall impression of Death on the Nile, I would like to thank my followers for helping make this review a reality! In four years, my blog has achieved far more success than I ever imagined. All of that is thanks to you. Now, back to sharing my overall impression. While the ending/resolution in Death on the Nile was stronger than Murder on the Orient Express’ was, the overall execution was weaker than the 2017 adaptation. The 2022 film contained a similar flaw to Knives Out: the drama among the characters overshadowed the mystery. Having the mystery start at the movie’s halfway point didn’t help Death on the Nile’s case either. Like Murder on the Orient Express, though, the cast was strong in Death on the Nile. In fact, it was difficult for me to choose a favorite performance. The locations in the 2022 production were atmospheric as well. At the publication of this review, I’m not sure if Kenneth Branagh has plans to adapt more of Agatha Christie’s books. It depends, at this point, if the potential is there.

Overall score: 6.1 out of 10

Have you seen any adaptations of Agatha Christie’s work? Have you read any of Agatha’s books? Don’t hesitate to comment in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen