Movie News: Depp and Burton to “Re-imagine” DR PHIBES?

Written by John Knott Monday, 22 July 2013

Movie News

Here’s a funny thing: For some reason, rumours that Johnny Depp and Tim Burton are planning to remake The Abominable Dr Phibes (1971) have come back to haunt the Internet. They first appeared just before Dark Shadows (2012) bombed; then they sunk without a trace before bobbing disturbingly to the surface like the grotesque bloated corpse of a once heroic sea captain on a dark sea of horror blogs. Colourful metaphors aside, we really think this is just a rumour as it seems to have less to back it up than it did when it first appeared last year. Rather has the look of somebody’s late discovery of last year’s story being recycled by others. We could probably do a mathematical model of this sort of thing but then, what would be the point? We could spend our time far more usefully by just perpetuating the story. You see, as rumours go, this is a good one.

For those not familiar with the original film and its sequel, they starred Vincent Price as the titular, disfigured and supposedly dead doctor. He blames his wife’s death on incompetent physicians and proceeds to gruesomely bump them off in a series of elaborate slayings inspired by the Ten Plagues of Egypt. Being set in the twenties it featured art deco sets and much black absurdity. The films were sort of proto-torture porn except with an excellent sense of humour and no residual nasty taste in the mouth.

Now, apart from the obvious Vincent Price connection (Burton was a big fan and Price’s final screen role was in Edward Scissorhands), the team of Burton and Depp would almost certainly make a good job of this. We don’t say that likely as this writer is not exactly Tim Burton’s biggest fan, but we’ll concede that there are things that he does well. Spinning a good yarn isn’t really one of them but this one is pretty simple; ultimately the Phibes story is all about style and a sense of the macabre. See what we mean? Burton was born for this one. As for Depp, mad-as-a-cake is what he does nowadays and playing someone who is horribly disfigured is the just the kind of role the perverse old pretty boy is likely to relish.

So that’s why we’re keeping this rumour afloat. While we don’t actually believe that Depp’s career is on the rocks (as some sectors of the press are reporting after a couple of recent box office disasters), what harm can getting back with his old mucker to do this one actually do? C’mon Tim, this writer always said Ed Wood (1994) and Sleepy Hollow (1999) were good even if he was a bit scathing about the rest. Impress us once more. Then when you’ve done that, the similarly themed Theatre of Blood (1973) would be nice. No pressure though.

Here’s a trailer for the original Phibes. Just look at the fun these two would have:

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0 #1 Ian 2013-10-10 01:30
That 21 Jump Street and Cry Baby heart throb playing Barnabus the vampire, a dirty old pirate and now Dr. Phibes!! . .. who would have ever imagined?!!! And that a-hole Burton is aparently under the delusion that this guy is the new Sir Larry Friging O'liviere or something!! Truly abominable indeed!!!

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