Flickchart Comment #28: I Tentacoli [Tentacles] (1977) vs. Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972)

The theme with this match-up seems to be one of rising, the well-known to be thoroughly "Abominable" Dr. Phibes literally doing so even in the title for the sequel to his far-superior first effort. On the other side, you have the hamhandedly filmed antics of a massive octopus rising to the surface to wreak havoc upon landlubbers in the Italian Jaws-ripoff I Tentacoli (known to Americans, especially those of us unfortunate enough to catch this as part of a double feature onscreen back in the day, as Tentacles).

All that rising to very little effect. If you like a lot of murkily shot underwater cinematography, then Tentacles is your octopus. Double bonus if you want to watch a lot of Hollywood stars -- Henry Fonda, Shelly Winters, John Huston -- slumming it up big time in what I hope was a decent payday for all of them. Winters' abrasive voice does its usual number on me (i.e. making me want to not hear her at all), and the fact that she and Huston play "Ned and Tillie Turner" just makes me want to gag all the more. And who leaves a baby carriage unattended by the ocean, let alone anywhere? (Well, I would, but I hate babies in general... actually, it's baby culture that I hate.) Killer whales are the heroes here, and if you watch this film back-to-back-to-back with Jaws 2 and Orca, your head might explode.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes was great fun, and I return to it time and again, but I have never been able to whip up quite the same passion for its sequel, Dr. Phibes Rises Again. Yes, the revenge-driven doctor indeed comes back to commit a string of murders (this time with an Egyptian theme) as in the first, all the while attempting to resurrect his dead wife. And there are some decently strange scenes, gratuitous Robert Quarry acting, and an intriguing ending. Vincent Price, as always, is a fabulous presence (especially in his unmasked and scarred Phibes makeup), but following the first one, this one pales just enough for me to consider it a rather generic entry.

It's miles better than Tentacles, though, with the camp factor of Phibes defeating the sleaze factor of the Italian film handily. Maybe even "ham"-handily...


I'd actually go with Tentacles, if only because of how crazy, and crazy bad, it is. The guy releases the killer whales and just assumes they'll stick around to fight the giant octopus? Ridiculous. The killer whales that are so clearly plastic toys being shoved onscreen by a stage-hand while roaring like a lion? Kinda awesome.

Dr. Phibes, however, loses because it takes a fun, clever movie and rehashes it for no discernible reason. All I could wonder through the film is 'why is he going to this much trouble to kill people he's never met?'
Rik Tod said…
I agree with you on all of your points, TWD, but I couldn't risk Tentacles jumping any higher up my Flickchart list like it would. So I stuck with Vincent Price.

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