The Film That Never Was

The Arts

In my upcoming memoir ‘Film Freak’ I talk about the power of B-movies, and two of my favourites have always been ‘The Abominable Dr Phibes’ and ‘Dr Phibes Rises Again’. But there was meant to be a third. According to my pal Graham Humphries, the cult movie poster artist, here’s the synopsis.

1971: The Bride of Dr. Phibes. Proposed to AIP by William Goldstein and James Whiton as a sequel to the first film. Set in the year 1934, it details a battle of wits between Phibes and a strange man named Emil Salveus, a member of a secret Satanic society called the Institute for Psychic Phenomena. We learn that Salveus is actually Lem Vesalius, the son of Joseph Cotten’s The Abominable Dr. Phibes character, Henri Vesalius. Salveus steals Victoria’s body, and Phibes kills the members of the IPP in a quest to recover her.

The group’s leader, Colonel Trenchard, is encased in amber and shattered into a million pieces. This is carried out at the IPP offices, where Phibes gets the names and addresses of the other members. Charles Carruthers is sucked dry by leeches in his bathtub. Orchestra conductor Sir Mastin Mateland finds himself covered with melted butter and eaten by a lobster. Lady Peune has a helium balloon tied to her wheelchair and ascends to the heavens. Arch Vicar Wren has his organs sucked out by a vacuum device. Sir Judah Ido Adibo of the Abyssinian Embassy is left with a clutch of cobras in his bed. Salveus himself falls into an acid pit he’d previously prepared for Phibes.

Phibes recovers and revives Victoria in a scene recalling The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). As Scotland Yard invades Phibes’ manor, the doctor and his bride enter a freezing chamber that will preserve them for a future date. A perplexed Inspector Trout remarks, “Commissioner, we could search hell and damnation, scour the very bowels of this earth….but he’ll never be found. (pause) Perhaps he was never meant to exist”.

Graham has even designed a poster for the film-that-never-was, and you can buy it here.

5 comments on “The Film That Never Was”

  1. Mike Cane says:

    In the 1970s, there was this absolutely wonderful fanzine called, I think, Bizarre. I was so jealous of the guy putting it out. He went around interviewing people like Diana Rigg, Brian Clemens — and director Robert Fuest. Fuest talked about the Phibes movies and I think mentioned the possibility of a third one in that interview. *sigh* I should go back to searching ebay for copies of that zine. I’d pay money to get it in PDF form. So much history in it, now lost. And as far as I know, there were only two issues. It was a huge zine and probably cost him a lot of money to produce. True labor of love. And Fuest, my god, just his direction in episodes of The Avengers could be a film school semester in themselves. And I just learned from wikipedia he died this year. Dammit.

  2. John says:

    “Orchestra conductor Sir Mastin Mateland finds himself covered with melted butter and eaten by a lobster.”

    Insane! That scene alone would’ve been worth the price of admission. We were robbed of a movie that could’ve been a classic in the horror genre.

  3. snowy says:

    The original film has a scene between Inspector Trout and Sergeant Schenley, where they discuss the recovery of a body impaled by a brass unicorn. And in just two or three lines they capture the entire weary futility of dealing with a crime spree that has escalated beyond their control.

    Copies of Sam Irvin’s Bizarre magazine pop up on Ebay from time to time, there is a copy of issue #3 on there today for $35.

    The themed murder idea would continue in Vincent Price’s next film ‘Theatre of Blood’. About a thwarted actor gaining revenge on the critics that snubbed him.

  4. Jez Winship says:

    I love the two policemen in the films, with Trout played by the ever-reliable Peter Jeffrey. They react to the bizarre and grotesquely absurd murders with such unflappable, seen-it-all-before calm and weary resignation. With the impaled body, their immediate concern is which way the thread of the horn runs, so that they can figure out the best way to ‘unscrew’ the corpse. I have to say, some of the deaths in the unmade script are starting to sound a little derivative. The death by lobster is a variant on the unfortunate nurse in the first film who was covered in a glutinous sprout soup and nibbled (mandibled?) to the bone by locusts. And poor old T-T had his blood siphoned off, too (admittedly not by leeches). Perhaps two films were sufficient.
    The music for the first film was by Basil Kirchin, a very interesting maverick British composer and musician, who provides the sounds of the clockwork dance band. His output (which included a lot of library music) ranged from jazz to electronic, avant garde modernism to a kind of English pastoralism. His imaginary soundtrack Abstractions of the Industrial North featured on Stuart Maconie’s Radio 6 programme The Freak Zone last Sunday.

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