The Abominable Dr. Phibes

The pomp and circumstance of Felix Mendelssohn’s “War March of the Priests,” as played on a grand pipe organ by a hooded figure seated in an opulent ballroom during the opening credits of The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), perfectly sets the tone and timbre of director Robert Fuest’s film, both with playful irreverence and an eloquently ominous aural shroud of dread. The events we’re about to see play out in the film will hardly be a righteous procession of missionary or military zeal, as Mendelssohn’s music was originally intended to evoke. Instead, as it rings and bellows forth from the ornate instrument in this eerie chamber, one which feels at once haunted and strangely festive, Mendelssohn’s fervor is immediately cast with the unmistakable sense of having been drawn forth from someplace much darker than one of heavenly inspiration.

The organ itself rises from the bowels of
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