In 1920's Great Britain, the medic profession seems to be dieing out: One
doctor is killed by bees in his own library (this murder is never shown,
though), another (Edward Burnham) by vampire bats deliberately placed in his
bedroom. At a masque, a doctor (Alex Scott) is strangled by a weird, mechanic
frogmask, while yet another doctor (Terry-Thomas) is sucked dry of all his
blood while watching some dirty movies.
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The police, led by inspector Trout (Peter Jeffrey), soon find first clues,
that lead them to doctor Vesalius (Joseph Cotten), whom all the deceased
doctors worked with one time or another, & to a pattern, that of the
biblical 10 curses of the pharaos.
After some time, even some motive is found, as all the dead dotors helped
doctor Vesaius in a surgery on a certain Victoria Phibes (Caroline Munro), who died though. So
the prime suspect would be her husband, Dr. Phibes (Vincent Price), but he is
thought dead, too - the audience of course knows by now he is still alive, the
police, wisth the help of Vesalius takes a little longer to establish that
fact, which of course involves the ever popular opening of graves.
Meanwhile the killings of doctors involved in the operation of Phibes' wife
goes on, as one (Peter Gilmore) is attacked by rats in his own aeroplane (while
flying), while another (Maurice Kaufman) speared by a statue of an unicorn
catapulted from across the street, yet another frozen to death in his own car
It now boils down to the last 2 participants in the operation, the nurse
(Susan Travers) & Vesalius himself, both of whom the police seal up inside
a hospital for protection ... but not knowing Phibes is already in the
hospital, the nurse is soon killed by a locust attack inside the room that was
supposed to be her safe haven.
For doctor Vesalius, Phibes has reserved the most evil & elaborate
scheme though - the death of the first born ... He forces Vesalius to perform
the same operation on his own son he did on his wife - as he has placed a key
inside the boy's body that alone will open his chains & save him from the
approaching acid ... (Vesalius succeeds though).
The last curse, the curse of darkness, Phibes has reserved for himself, as
he places himself in a coffin besides his wife & has himself automatically
embalmed, thus escaping the clutches of the approaching police ...
As many other American companies in the 60's/early 70's, AIP moved
part of their productions to Great Britain to profit from the tax leviations
that were in effect back then for British produced films, & some of their
films (Especially this one) would profit greatly from this move, as Great
Britain did offer some beatuiful outdoor settings almost cut out for horror
movies, a great array of actors that seemed to be virtually at home in macabre
comedies (a breed very rare in the United States) & directors who were not
yet spoiled by routine production schedules but (like Robert Fuest) trained in
quirky TV-series like The Avengers. This all, a darkly funny
script with very creative murder-scenes (echoed in big budget Hollywood movies
as late as 1995's Seven) & some beautiful art-deco sets make this
probably the best AIP-effort of its time, and one of the quintessential