A Most Peculiar Love Story: “The Abominable Dr. Phibes” (1971)

                   Robert Fuest   (September 27, 1927 – March 21, 2012)

     With its roots in the serial murder giallo tradition of both Mario Bava’s“The Girl Who Knew Too Much” and “Blood and Black Lace”, Robert Fuest’s stylish “The Abominable Dr. Phibes” was produced at a time when the horror film was in critical need of rejuvenation. By 1971, the horror franchise of Poe adaptations had deteriorated from the classy and classic Roger Corman series into a meandering continuation of American International releases including productions incorrectly identified as Edgar Allan Poe inspired (confusing and frustrating the audience) including films which may have attracted wider audiences had they been handled with properly honest marketing techniques ( for example,”The Conquerer Worm”, needlessly retitled from the original, more appropriate “Witchfinder General”, a superior film, unlike the similarly themed “Cry of the Banshee” which actually was marketed with patently manufactured Poe writings in its advertising campaign to disguise its false attribution) and further misguided adaptations (“The Oblong Box”, “Murders in the Rue Morgue”) which, whether literal to not to their source materials, made it conspicuously evident that the AIP productions were moribund in a creative mire. Great Britain’s Hammer Films, by this time, had reached an equally alarming state of exhaustion with their signature Gothic material and found no foothold in expanding their horror traditions- whether through creative timidity or diminishing financing for what were perceived as out-of-date conceptions -with the introduction of such desperate gimmicks as a spate of lesbian vampire thrillers neither finding nor engaging an appreciable audience.

     Enter into this flaccid arena, the Art Deco masterwork of giddy Grand Guignol known as “The Abominable Dr. Phibes”, a period horror piece whose indeterminate time frame (though it’s insinuated to unfold in the mid 1920’s) grants the privilege of entering a world of immaculate cinema artifice, of complete suspension of disbelief, a glittery bauble of movie illusion in which the “villain” may operate with delighted impunity straddling the rules of both the corporeal and the supernatural as following the dictates of both the traditional genre horrors and the more contemporary giallo form. It’s clear from the start that Fuest does not intend any of the proceedings to be taken seriously and this complete absence of self-conscious importance (which differs from self-conscious awareness, which the film is brimming with- to the benefit of the viewer -so much so that Phibes’ lovely mute assistant Vulnavia [the striking Virginia North] breaks the “fourth wall” at one point to regard the audience with a look of mock astonishment) is what fuels the film with its dazzling sense of whimsy. Horrible things happen, but they are done so stylishly, it almost becomes a privilege to be invited as a fellow provocateur in sharing in the ingenious unveiling of each of the mad Doctor’s subsequent murderous enterprises- a significant development, though unnoticed at the time, in the horror genre.

    There is a moment in Alfred Hitchcock’s  “Psycho” when Norman Bates is disposing of Marion Crane’s car in a nearby swamp. The car slowly descends under the muck, and then stops suddenly, still exposed for any investigators to discover. Norman holds his breath in anticipation…and so does the audience, and then, just as suddenly, the car continues its watery submersion. In one miraculous stroke Hitchcock transfers the audience’s sympathy from the victim to the perpetrator (or at least,  to an abetter of the perpetrator as far as the audience knows at the time). Michael Powell attempted a similar experiment in transference of audience empathy with his notorious “Peeping Tom”, released the same year as “Psycho” though rather than an equally lucrative commercial reception, Powell’s film was met with an animosity so intense it  annihilated his film career. (Hitchcock  as a provocateur of violence would not be a great stretch given his chosen filmmaking field of interest, but the more genteel Powell was a different case entirely, and his film presented an more overtly sexually aberrant protagonist impossible to empathize with as opposed to Anthony Perkins’ All-American son only revealed to be a deranged psychotic in the final minutes of the film.) The aforementioned scene in “Psycho” was an historic and seminal moment in film; the apotheosis of Hitchcock’s raison d’etre in audience manipulation. (The entire basis of the limited arena of his craft.) The experimentation of audience manipulation would reach its most completely realized fruition- and public admission to what he was up to for anyone keen enough to be looking -in his subsequent feature “The Birds”, which manifests its intentions in two key scenes. The first, a scene in a diner in which among the trapped townsfolk is an hysterical mother (Doreen Lang) pointing to the source to whom she believes has brought the destructive birds to Bodega Bay. She then speaks directly at the camera, in a Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) P.O.V. shot, and screams:

 “Why are they doing this? Why are they doing this? They said when you got here the whole thing started. Who are you? What are you? Where did you come from? I think you’re the cause of all of this. I think you’re evil. Evil!”  

     Clearly the character is directing her comments directly to the audience, as Hitchcock is cannily acknowledging the audience’s complicity in the onscreen mayhem. It happens because, and only because, the audience wants it to happen. The reason for paying a ticket of admission. The second scene is the finale in which Mitch (Rod Taylor), his family and Melanie all escape in a car amid the thousands of birds laying siege to his house. The expectation is that they will be attacked and this is the beginning of an exciting action climax, but the attack never happens, and the final shot shows the car driving off into the distance unmolested. This ending is one of the single most controversial of Hitchcock’s career as it outraged a great many viewers and critics who felt cheated of the cathartic violence they were anticipating; even with the inclusion of several gruesome tableaux included earlier in the feature which obviously did little but whet an appetite tantamount to a bloodlust. If Hitchcock’s career long manipulation of the audience needed further embellishment, it’s quite possible that the director found he had reached the limits of explicit visualization of his most personal themes which may account for the rather tepidly conceived series of films to follow from the so-called “Master of Suspense” as there was little maneuvering room for increasingly jarring manipulation left after the more extreme calculations enacted in both “Psycho” and “The Birds”. In a way, Hitchcock may have been too clever in his audience mind games, and opened a Pandora’s Box that his more subtly skillful manipulations were no longer able to satisfy; the audience seized with a growing appetite for more gratuitous shocks and  sensations borne of the new freedoms that came with the relaxing of industry attitudes toward such instantly antiquated virtues as morality and sympathetic sentiment.   In 1967 Arthur Penn’s “Bonnie and Clyde” pushed the audience empathy toward the violently antisocial even further by proffering a pair of cold-blooded killers as a romantic duo, to whom the audience were expected to follow and become emotionally invested in simply because they were more attractive and better coiffed than the sweaty Oakies who were surrounding them. The scene late in the film where Clyde Barrow’s (Warren Beatty) protracted impotence is miraculously cured by Bonnie reading her newly penned “The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde”- a self-glorifying advertisement for the villain as misunderstood romantic idol if ever there was one -as the wind playfully gambols about the meadow as if we were in a soft-focus commercial for shampoo or feminine hygiene products, is symptomatic of the sympathetic portrayal the film offered in its landmark approach to discarding the heretofore banned depictions of heroic criminals due to the then-newly dissolved restrictions imposed for thirty five years by the Production Code. The film’s controversy remains to this day and it’ open invitation of the romanticized purveyor of violence has had extreme ramifications to the film (and television) industry which have yet to be accurately measured to this day.

     Which brings us back to “The Abominable Dr. Phibes”, a film eagerly willing to take advantage of the cultural shifts in attitudes toward the attraction of villainy in entertainment as well as satisfying Hitchcock’s unearthed audience pathology for anarchic behavior. Never for one moment in the film is Phibes regarded as anyone but the central figure of interest; even a resistance to the purveyor of the immoral acts, leading to a sympathetic eye toward any other character is  challenged with a deliberately engineered empathetic perspective as screenwriters William Goldstein  and James Whiton create a world of ciphers, in which the victims, though playing important roles in Phibes’ psyche, integral to his revenge, are formally represented as mere one-dimensional figures whose only function is to keep the storyline chugging along.  This viewpoint is essential in understanding the psychological shift that takes place in directing audience empathy in this film. By using the demonstrably effective tools of empathic alteration championed by Hitchcock-through a subtle transmutation of the viewer’s moral perspective by means of a cinematic variation  of “intelligent design” in which through the combined manipulation of narrative and image, in concert, a temporary alteration of the emotional, and if wholly successful, moral state will occur- the writers and director of “The Abominable Dr. Phibes” have successfully created the first horror film in which the audience is overtly expected to remain in an unrelieved synergy with the killer, to disavow any compassion for the victims of his murderous rampage and to desire and find satisfaction in any ultimate escape from punishment.

      The film shreds the very concept of anti-hero (becoming increasingly fashionable in 60’s American cinema with such popular successes as “Cool Hand Luke” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”) and create an entirely new type of film type: the hero villain. Certainly the premise of the serial murderer was nothing new to film, finding its most consistent expression, up to that time, in what is referred to in the U.S. as the Italian giallo field, but never before was the expressed intent of the film to be following the killer as a convenient transmigration of the concept of movie “hero”. This was prevalent in the post-Code American films mentioned earlier- each administering a newer form of the anti-hero- but each of the protagonists met with a violent end, as if the rules of lawful retribution in the Code had not yet been fully expunged from memory. “The Abominable Dr. Phibes” changes all of the rules, and administer the evolving changes of post-Code reprobate criminality without the final hypocritical insistence on comeuppance. For the first time in commercial cinema, and certainly the first time in horror films, the audience was allowed to enjoy the fruits of villainy without the pernicious killjoy imposition of a Production Code-fed “Crime Does Not Pay” finale. (It always seemed a slap in the face that you were allowed to enjoy a Cagney gangster film for two hours only to have the inevitable cold shoulder of moral disapproval [by way of a Tommy gun blast or similar instrument of awkward piety] rearing its ugly head at the eleventh hour. Crime may not have paid, according to the moralists of the Hays Office, but the villains certainly looked like they were having a grand time until the end.)

     This might make a film an unrelievedly distasteful experience were it not for the ingenious tone of the film: not straight horror (and certainly not mystery) but black comedy laced with a floridly flamboyant visual style. The films frames literally pop with colors and exotically articulated Art Deco details; a visual toy box treat for the eyes that makes it impossible not to delight in the anarchic sense of  whimsy with which the entire production was conceived and executed. Fuest does wonders in controlling the absurdist tone of the story, while the film is peppered with truly surrealist touches such as the occasional musical interlude in which the murders scenes or police procedurals are likely to be interpolated with Big Band favorites, a mad organ recital on a glittery neon Wurlitzer worthy of Oz or an impromptu two-step. The entire film reeks of what is easily labelled “camp” and yet the deliberation of this style and the high end of artistic accomplishment in its realization sends the film out of the usual camp/cult Stratosphere and into a sui generis trajectory. Unlike the artfully surreptitious manipulations of HitchcockFuest’s film openly identifies the anarchic willingness of the audience to shed its moral high ground and openly plays with the receptivity to bloodlust the audience spent decades having hammered back into the dark recesses of their minds. The variation of moral empathy within the intellectual construction of the scenario combined with the floridly playful tone of the physical production creates a type of cinematic soufflé of the variety which continually rises with increasing imaginative excitement and like the best movie confections, both delights and nourishes the filmic palate to the final frame.

     For a horror film there is a surprising absence of both mystery and suspense, but this is by design; the genre satisfactions emanating not so much in the fiendish applications of tortuous adaptations of Biblical horrors, but in the saucy, wink-wink style which justifies the viewer’s embrace of the grue as a high form of amusement.  The story is constructed in the typical cat-and-mouse narrative structure, with the police in constant pursuit of a mad killer, but in this case, the game is more reasonably described as a turtle-and-mouse exercise, with the police endearingly plodding as the madman continues his Rube Goldberg-like scheme of retribution unabated. From the first minutes it is apparent to the viewer just who is behind the series of imaginatively gruesome murders as we watch in every detail Dr. Phibes and Vulnavia at work on dispensing a victim, Dr. Dunwoody (Edward Burnham) with no less than a cage full of bats in his bedroom. The savagery and mysterious circumstances of the act leaves Scotland Yard Inspector Trout (a delightfully befuddled but persevering) Peter Jeffrey) baffled, all the more so than when he is informed by his partner Sgt. Tom Schenley (an equally amusing Norman Jones) that another doctor has recently been discovered in his library, stung to death by bees. The film then follows the dual story of both Phibes in his nefarious enterprise, and Inspector Trout in his investigation to unravel the puzzling reason why so many medical professionals are dying through circumstances completely alien to their surroundings (First bees and bats, later rats, locusts and a hailstorm in the backseat of a motor vehicle!) with the first concrete clue provided by a dropped amulet at the murder scene of one Dr. Longstreet (the glorious Terry-Thomas, making mountains out of an extended cameo molehill) who is undone by the curse of “Blood”. As it turns out, as Trout discovers in an opportune meeting with a Rabbi (Hugh Griffith) the murders are following the pattern of Biblical curses: “The ten curses visited upon Pharaoh before Exodus”, as Griffith’s rabbi explains. Further investigation by Trout will lead to the name Dr. Anton Phibes, whose wife Victoria (portrayed mainly in photographs by an unbilled Caroline Munro) died years earlier under the ministrations of the same medical personnel being systematically purged. Eventually, it emerges that the trail of victimization centers about the wittily named Dr. Vesalius (Joseph Cotten) who is quite the unpleasant fellow; arrogant, rude and dismissive, though he is soon caught in the fervor of investigating the search for the killer, his appetite for unraveling the mystery doubly ignited when the chief suspect in the case in presumed to have died ten years before in a flaming car wreck!

      Cotten’s performance is central in distinguishing the tone of the film from run-of-the-mill mystery/horror to black comedy/horror as his Vesalius is a richly complex creation; quite the adversary, not so much for Phibes, who seems blessed with an almost supernatural prescience on how to accomplish the most complicated homicidal machinations without detection, but to the fragile fidelity directed toward the very concept of the”heroic villain” itself. Vesalius’ initial condescension of the police (in the form of Inspector Trout) is predictably distancing- the policeman being such an affably likeable presence -perhaps exaggerated by the fact that Vesalius is the only role in the film in whose tone of characterization is in direct opposition to the film’s more overtly absurdist humor. Cotten is placed in the unenviable position of being the only straight man in a carnival of black humor; a task which he handles with great poise, commendably aided by some sharp dialogue and the fortuitous occasion of having much of his character developed during some well matched interplay between his character and Jeffrey’s Trout. For the record, as impressive as Vincent Prices presence as Phibes is- a basically mute performance, with later dubbed dialogue, Price demonstrates a theatrically graceful physicality which is too often overlooked in his vast arsenal of thespian instruments, showing evidence that he would have made a splendidly expressive silent film actor -the performance of the film is Peter Jeffrey as the often incredulously baffled, but never less than astute Inspector Trout, a marvelous comic creation threatened to be overlooked and undervalued due to the many more flamboyant or overtly eccentric characters surrounding him. Of equal value is Virginia North as the seemingly omnipresent Vulnavia, the beauteous mute companion of Phibes, the subject of a delightful running gag of having her garbed in outlandishly fashionable couture that changes with every scene (often times several times within a sequence) for no other apparent reason except for the fact that it’s stylish to do so.

     The film is in essence one grand, albeit twisted, jest; an ode to undying affection in the guise of an Art Deco pageant of spectacular heinously homicidal Rube Goldberg-like invention. A dizzying confluence of performance, writing, direction and design most pleasingly entwined to produce a vision of originality in a genre depleted by creative exhaustion and a natural stepping stone (aside from more immediate siblings as the direct, disappointing sequel “Dr. Phibes Rises Again” [see Nites at the Drive-In for a more complete appraisal] and the Shakespearean variant of the “Phibes” formula, “Theater of Blood”) to the next generation of reinvigorated popularity of American horror films with the emergence of the rather unfortunate, and far less imaginatively conceived “slasher” subgenre.

About chandlerswainreviews

I've been a puppet, a pirate, a pauper, a poet, a pawn and a king, not necessarily in that order. My first major movie memory was being at the drive-in at about 1 1/2 yrs. old seeing "Sayonara" so I suppose an interest in film was inevitable. (For those scoring at home- good for you- I wasn't driving that evening, so no need to alert authorities.)Writer, critic and confessed spoiler of women, as I have a tendency to forget to put them back in the refrigerator. My apologies.
This entry was posted in 1970's cinema, drive-in cinema, Entertainment, Film Reviews, Films, horror films, joseph cotten, movie reviews, Movies, vincent price and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to A Most Peculiar Love Story: “The Abominable Dr. Phibes” (1971)

  1. ghostof82 says:

    Ah, I love anything with Vincent Price in. Like Peter Cushing, the man was seemingly ignored by the critical establishment as some kind of hack simply because so many of his films were popular ‘b’-movies. I mean, in Cushing’s case, what’s wrong with being in so many gothic Hammer films? The man was brilliant in everyone of them and elevated each one of them into something greater than its parts. Now that’s the real sign of a fine actor. It’s just the same with Price. although there’s always a sense of a knowing ‘wink’ towards the audience with Price, whereas Cushing treated even the crummiest script as high art (witness Cushing in The Skull- he treats it like a piece of genius, it’s sublime work of his in that). But back to Price (I’m wandering as usual); a great actor, a great ‘presence’ on screen, a joy to watch. Really enjoyed this piece on Phibes, particularly your comments re: the great Terry Thomas, another of my favourite actors (could anyone else have played the servant in How To Murder Your Wife as perfectly as Terry Thomas did?).

    • Thanks for your kind comments. You speak of three of my favorite actors so I’m probably prejudiced in responding; on the other hand, if they weren’t consistently of a high caliber in their art, why would they be favorites? I have never understood the blindness that emerges from a critical consensus which diminishes a performer simply because the bulk of their efforts are in genre films. Playing a character with depth and meaning is the same challenge in any role (the quality of written material may vary but that’s an entirely different conversation) and to demean an actor for rising to- or in the cases of the three gentlemen in question -rising above the material, speaks more of the diminished capacity of the critic rather than the actor. Bravo for being among the enlightened!

  2. I Simply LOVED This Posting.
    I Own Both DR. PHIBES Films, And Greatly Enjoy Breaking Them Out Whenever I Think To 😉

    • chandlerswainreviews says:

      Thanks for the enthusiastic response Brad. So happy the Dr. Phibes posting found favor with someone who knows their stuff. It was certainly a fun piece to write. I can’t help but thinking that the first Phibes film is a virtually flawless horror film, at least I haven’t been able to determine anything wrong with it. Thanks again for your comments.

  3. Cliff Burns says:

    Wonderful piece on this retro-trash-classic. I first saw the “Phibes” films back in the early 80’s and was struck, even then, by their sinister humor, a take on the macabre that was off the beaten track. Has Vincent Price ever been better? A must-see for late show devotees and I think you’ve given it first class treatment. Bravo, Chandler…

    • chandlerswainreviews says:

      Praise from Caesar. Your comments and kindnesses are much appreciated Cliff, and I am very pleased that you’ve found my poor attempt at coalescing my digressing thoughts of interest. I remember first seeing this film at a midnight screening two years after it’s initial release and- being a Price enthusiast -it was everything I had hoped it would be, a perfectly satisfying film experience. Much as I admire much of his filmography (Who could forget the subsequent “Theater of Blood” or his gentle performance in Lindsay Anderson’s “The Whales of August”. not to mention the many previous triumphs in Corman Poe adaptations, as well as his stellar stage work? I was fortunate enough to see him as Oscar Wilde in “Diversions and Delights” and it was an absolute Master Class in stage performance.), I’m not certain if he ever made another film as perfectly realized as this. (“Laura”, maybe?)

  4. I think Vincent Price was a great choice to pick for a sympathetic villain. Glad that you mentioned Theatre of Blood, because it was one of the first films that came to mind when reading this blog. While I did find some connection with Theatre’s protagonist, I felt an equal connection to Price, sometimes a greater sympathetic connection depending on the critic he was after. Since you also discussed some examples of the sympathetic villain in Hitchcock, I was wondering about your thoughts on the necktie strangler in Frenzy. I never once felt a connection to him like I did to Norman Bates, but I wonder if Hitch made the attempt. Remember the potato sack scene, where crucial incriminating evidence was being towed away on a potato truck?? We walk with the killer. We watch as he realizes his mistake. We watch him frantically attempt to find the body on the truck. We watch as, in increasing panic and desperation, he deals with a now-moving truck and ever-rolling potatoes. When I watched the film, I simply thought it was Hitch’s attempt to briefly take the film in a different direction, add extra suspense, and also bring a turning point to the killer’s spree: If he could make this mistake, he was bound to make another one. But now that I’ve read your blog, I’m wondering if this scene was Hitchcock’s attempt to create this “Norman Bates moment” much like the not-so-sinking car. If so, I obviously am not feeling its success, whereas I did find it successful in Psycho. So what do you think?? Is the potato sack scene akin to the car scene?? And if so, do you feel it was successful??

    • chandlerswainreviews says:

      Greetings Bijoux.tatersack.com. Sorry for the delay in responding (I still have several older messages I still have to respond to. You always bring up such interesting questions that I feel it’s an opportunity to really sit back and dig deep into thoughts about film, necessitating my over thinking everything and never getting my thoughts on paper. Good for society, bad for good communication etiquette.) But, your question on Hitchcock’s “Frenzy” intrigues me. In so far as following the theory of Hitchcock’s manipulation of audience empathy in regards to this film, I think there is merit to your observations. Clearly we, as the audience, are directed by Hitchcock’s manipulations to empathize more with the killer Bob Rusk than with the innocent Richard Blaney. Rusk is charming, whereas Blaney is obnoxious and arrogant, engendering violent emotional disputes with everyone. Also, Rusk is portrayed as a congenial successful businessman where in counterpoint Blaney is a directionless drifter, whose explosive temper disrupts any progress he would have pursuing any permanence in work. It is clearly Hitchcock’s latest (and in a way, boldest) extension of his signature “wrong man” syndrome; in this case partnering the “hero” with every unsympathetic quality imaginable to ensure that the character will have no chance to gather audience empathy. However, Hitchcock, I believe, makes some uncharacteristic conceptual errors that undercut his “experiment”. First of all, this film was poor timing for the director to finally assert elements inconceivable during the Production Code, most notably the graphic assault on and murder of Brenda in which Hitchcock demonstrates the capabilities of the new relaxed boundaries of Production Code dissipation, but at the same time overshoots his depiction of murderous sexual rage. It’s a very ugly scene, necessary perhaps for an accurate depiction of this man’s homicidal predilections, but ruinous toward ever gaining sympathy for the character. Equally damaging is the murder of Babs, the one truly sympathetic character from the Blaney storyline. Certainly we cannot stand on the side of the side of Rusk at this point no matter what the manipulation by the director, and it’s probable that Hitchcock must have realized the folly of the process as the denouement is rather tepidly enacted, with virtually no cathartic release at the final moment when the genuine killer is caught in the act. In overplaying his hand, Hitchcock has left his audience emotionally removed from both the innocent and the guilty. As far as the potato sack scene goes, I’m certain there is a similarity to the motivational purposes of the “Psycho” sinking car scene, but with a far different empathetic constitution, it simply doesn’t work in this case. It might also be useful to examine the scene as strictly a suspense element but in this instance it doesn’t work for the same reasons. An interesting experiment, but one clearly doomed to fail.

  5. derek says:

    Great appreciation of this underrated (at least in non-genre circles) movie. I wish Fuest could have continued working in this vein, but the artistic and commercial failure of The Devil’s Rain sadly ended that. He had great wit, something that’s not common with most directors of the mamacabre. At least, not in modern times.

    • chandlerswainreviews says:

      Thanks very much for the comments Derek, Most appreciated, especially the compliments toward the late Mr. Fuest, whose star was prematurely smothered by one perceived Hollywood misstep. It boggles the mind that directors without any appreciable skills, sensibilities or vision may demonstrate the poverty of their creative abilities undeterred for decades while truly unique voices are silenced without regret by a seemingly self-defeating “creative” industry.

  6. tashpix says:

    Agree that Peter Jeffrey’s performance is one of the best things in the film. Have you seen “The Joker” episode of The Avengers, where he plays the villain?

    • chandlerswainreviews says:

      I don’t have a specific recollection of that episode, although I know Jeffreys appeared on the series several times in different capacities (as well as on “The New Avengers”). But I would be most anxious to see him in a villainous role. Thanks for the hint. The Phibes films certainly owe a debt to “The Avengers” both in tone and visual style (appropriate since Fuest worked extensively on the series), an aspect of the film I probably should have mentioned, but perhaps will go into in one of my endless digressions in an upcoming piece on Brian Clemens’ “Captain Kronos- Vampire Hunter”..Thanks for your comments and interest in the film.

      • tashpix says:

        I almost wrote about it myself recently, but now I don’t have to. 😉

        Jeffrey’s appearance in “The Joker” is actually pretty brief, but he’s outstanding. Since you haven’t seen it, though, I don’t want to give anything away.

        • chandlerswainreviews says:

          First of all. please do write about it. I’d hate to think I could be regarded as the definitive word on anything. Unless, of course, that’s a sign the world is truly coming to an end this year.

          Also, I had a chance to see “The Avengers” episode “The Joker” on your recommendation. Marvelous fun. I don’t ever remember another episode where Mrs. Peel actually seemed frightened! It takes quite a villain to accomplish that. You were absolutely right, Peter Jeffrey’s presence was brief but extremely effective. Great recommendation and I thank you for it.

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