Have I mentioned how much I enjoy the Trifecta Writing Challenges? If not, hear me: I really enjoy the Trifecta Writing Challenges. This week’s is no less challenging than others, but it made me think of my all-time favorite pair of films, Vincent Price’s “The Abominable Dr. Phibes” and “Dr. Phibes Rises Again.” If you don’t know these films but love the campy stuff of the late 60s/early 70s, you must rush out post-haste to view them. In the meantime, watch the trailer below and then enjoy my Week Sixty-Two ode to Mr. Price er, Dr. Phibes.
Oh, be warned: I am a huge fan of pipe organs, so this piece deals heavily with the topic of such. There are all sorts of funky organ facts included in the bullet points below my submission; if it’s not your thing, just click elsewhere when you get to the end of the poem…
“Some minor decorating, some touching up, and it will seem like home,” Phibes cooed as he surveyed his Atlantic City abode. It was a far cry from Maldene Square, but it provided secret access to the Boardwalk Hall Auditorium Organ; he was sure it would be the perfect place to again enjoy life, or after-life, with his beloved Victoria.
He found fall to be the best season there; less heat than summer, lower humidity than spring, yet more comfortably warm than winter. He roamed the night streets freely, his hood and cape no more theatrical than the accoutrements of the other nocturnal wanderers he occasionally encountered. He had found a subterranean entrance to the hall and his nightly concerts had become a welcomed but eerie addition to the usual din of seagulls and slot machines. He warmed up to Mendelsohn’s “War March of the Priests” each evening; the tune stretched his abilities to work all the stops, and the organ voices in the last chords brought a satisfying rumble from the mouth of the primary Grande Ophicleide. As the great beast’s four gallery voices faded to silence in the large empty space, Phibes smiled as a plan to revive Victoria once more began to form and he spoke aloud:
And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone;
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown;
Let us possess one world; each hath one, and is one.
My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two better hemispheres
Without sharp north, without declining west?
Whatever dies, was not mix’d equally;
If our two loves be one, or thou and I
Love so alike that none can slacken, none can die.
For those organ neophytes, particularly you who do not know the joy of the Boardwalk Hall Organ, here are some tidbits and terms for you. For those who are also Phibes neophytes, here are a few reference points from the films as well:
- The initial quote (“Some minor decorating…”) is from the second Phibes film, “Dr. Phibes Rises Again.”
- Maldene Square is identified as the location of Phibes’ primary residence and apparently is a fictional London neighborhood.
- The Boardwalk Hall Organ is a global treasure; it holds a world record as the largest pipe organ. Read about it here, and check out some fabulous photos too.
- Phibe’s wife, Victoria, is the focus of his “work” in the first film.
- “War March of the Priests” is the first song played in “The Abominable Dr. Phibes” film.
- Stops are the parts of the organ that allow or keep air from moving to the pipes. Read a proper description here.
- The Grand Ophicleide refers to one of the 100-inch stops on the Boardwalk Hall Organ. This organ has four stops this size and they are lovingly referred to as “the big reeds.”
- The four gallery voices refer to the number of voices (or sounds made by the pipes) contained in the Gallery I section of the Boardwalk Hall Organ; organs are usually divided into different parts or sections.
- The “large empty space” references the size of the main auditorium in which the Organ is housed (488 feet long, 288 feet wide, 137 feet high).
- The closing poem is part of John Donne’s “The Good Morrow,” which is partially quoted in “The Abominable Dr. Phibes.”
If you happen to be extra curious, or are a fan of pipe organs (large and small), check out this video:
And as a final aside (can you tell I really enjoyed writing this???) as a kid I used to get to go hear what has been dubbed the largest fully functional pipe organ (or something like that), which is known as the Wanamaker Organ. And on a family vacation once we visited the Stalacpipe Organ is the largest instrument in the world…