Robert Fuest, a director of horror and suspense films including Vincent Price starrers “The Abominable Dr. Phibes” and “Dr. Phibes Rises Again” as well as “The Last Days of Man on Earth,” all cult favorites, died March 21 in London. He was 84.
The London-born Fuest was a production designer on “The Avengers” and later helmed eight episodes of ITV’s eccentric spy series. He earned production designer credits on a variety of British TV shows in the 1960s before making his feature helming debut on 1967’s “Just Like a Woman,” a British comedy about middle-aged swingers that he also scripted. His next directing efforts, in 1970, were an adaptation of Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights” that has some ardent fans and the critically acclaimed horror-thriller “And Soon the Darkness,” which did not find commercial success.
Fuest scored, however, with Samuel Z. Arkoff production “The Abominable Dr. Phibes” and its sequel, darkly humorous horror pieces still beloved today. The first film found Price’s disfigured Dr. Phibes wreaking revenge on the nine doctors whose mishandling of his wife’s case led to her death; Phibes models his modes of vengeance on the 10 plagues wrought upon Egypt in the Bible. Fuest co-scripted the sequel.
Fuest’s “The Last Days of Man on Earth” (it was released as “The Final Programme” in the U.K.) was a sci-fi thriller, also with comedic overtones, which Fuest scripted based on Michael Moorcock’s novel. The story centers on the design for a perfect, self-replicating human being; Fuest was also production designer on the film.
Fuest’s relatively brief bigscreen ended in 1975 with horror movie “The Devil’s Rain,” starring Ernest Borgnine, Eddie Albert and William Shatner, about Satanists who can melt their victims. (The director returned in 1982 with the French-language softcore film “Aphrodite.”)
The rest of the director’s career was spent in television, helming a few “ABC Afterschool Specials,” telepic “Revenge of the Stepford Wives” and special “The Big Stuffed Dog,” as well as some episodic TV.