Furs in Film – The Dr. Phibes Films

City Heat is a movie from 80’s about 30’s, two great fur fashion decades that film great together. What about movies from the 70’s about 20’s? The films in questions would be a couple low-budget camp horror films featuring Vincent Price as a guy who really holds a grudge well.

Dr. Phibes – The Films

1971’s The Abominable Dr. Phibes and 1972’s sequel Dr. Phibes Rises Again are rather similar films. Price plays the titular doctor, who in the first film enacts some very complex revenge on the doctors and nurse whom he blames for his wife’s failed care after a car accident 4 years previously. In the sequel he does the same thing against the people who stole his scrolls’o’resurrection and burned his house down. In both cases his ultimate goal is the return of his well-preserved dead wife, and in both cases he is assisted in his multifarious murder plots by the voiceless Vulnavia.

Dr. Phibes – The Furs

It is Vulnavia and her signature outfit that provides the lions share of the furs in the films. This outfit is a lovely black cape, blouse, boots, gloves, and a very full black fox hat. A version of this costume is seen in both the first film and the sequel. It’s not the only fur, though. Vulnavia appears once in The Abominable Dr. Phibes in the negative of her usual outfit, a white mink jacket and fur hat. Dr. Phibes Rises Again features more than just Vulnavia in furs. Fiona Lewis plays the love interest of one of the Dr’s foes and she appears in a couple of full foxes.

In The Abominable Dr. Phibes Vulnavia is played by Virginia North in what was her final film role. Miss North appeared in another film notable for fur, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The first appearance of Vulnavia in her signature hat is as chauffeur to Phibes.


Vulnavia’s other white fur outfit appears later, as she calmly assists the good Doctor in another homicide.


Virginia North had experience as a model, which served her well for this role, since she had no lines, and retained the appearance of cool detachment throughout.


Chauffeur, murder accomplice, dog walker… Vulnavia does it all, and looks great doing it. Here she wears a black cape to complement the fox hat.


The nature of the character is never explained, and theories include her being a clockwork android. One that does pause for a smoke break…


…and look directly at the camera from time to time.


Both the Doctor and Vulnavia appear to have died by the end of The Abominable Dr. Phibes, but, hey, it’s a horror movie and the antagonist always comes back for the sequel. 1972’s equally campy low-budget affair features more than just Vulnavia in fur. Here we have Fiona Lewis, as the main squeeze of the Doctor’s foe in Dr. Phibes Rises Again. Miss Lewis not only has a full fox wrap, but accents with a bit of a short cigarette holder.


While they chat, Vulnavia has returned and is up to her usual, calm, cool, and collected homicidal tricks. Her black fox hat and matching black cape/boot/glove ensemble are sadly not seen so much in the sequel.

The silver fox and black fox sequences are inter-cut allowing us to admire both at once.


Though the stylish fox hat returned, the head supporting it did not. If you’re comparing closeups and thinking, “hey, wait just one gosh-darned second here!”, you’re right, that’s not Virginia North, that’s Valli Kemp. Miss North could not don the black fox hat once more as she was supposedly pregnant by the time the sequel began rolling.


Valli Kemp had even fewer credits to her name, though her ability to stand and look very beautiful catapulted her to being Miss Australia of 1970, and subsequent runner up for Miss World of the same year. Here she and Miss Lewis pass on the deck of an ocean liner bound for Egypt, with Miss Kemp sadly not as warm.


I would nitpick about it still being the 20’s and this pretty full white fox jacket was, perhaps, a tad anachronistic, but I don’t really care. I’d nitpick more it was worn by Fiona Lewis and not Valli Kemp, who would have done it more justice.


The horror genre doesn’t generally serve up a lot of furs, so this was a nice exception to the rule. Though I grant Vulnavia’s signature outfit is a little light on fur. Still, the fox hat is great, and in combination with rest of the outfit, it is an excellent look for the character of a calm, detached-yet-stylish assassin. Yes, ideally the cape would have been black fox as well, that would have nailed it perfectly.

One gallery for both films: The Furs of Doctor Phibes

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