Chosen One of the Day: That time Vincent Price murdered someone with brussels sprouts

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May 15, 2017

It feels incumbent upon me to mention that there is a movie where Vincent Price kills someone via brussels sprouts.

I'm exaggerating, but not by much.

The movie in question is The Abominable Dr. Phibes, a 1971 horror comedy in which Vincent Price plays a cape-wearing, organ-playing doctor who, from his underground lair populated by an animatronic band, comes up with increasingly elaborate ways to kill the eight doctors (and one nurse) he holds responsible for the death of his wife years prior. It's like Saw meets The Phantom of the Opera, if The Phantom of the Opera were exponentially more campy than it already is.

There's more weirdness in Phibes than I can fit into the brief plot description above. Dr. Phibes has a mute assistant named Vulnavia (Virginia North) who wears an increasingly elaborate assortment of ‘20s-by-way-of-‘60s outfits and stands in the background playing the violin while her employer murders his victims. And those murders? They're inspired by the ten Biblical plagues.

There's a lot going on in this movie at any given time.

But the pinnacle of Dr. Phibes -- indeed, I would say the pinnacle of the art of moviemaking itself -- is when Phibes gets around to the "locust" murder. His previous murders were already over-the-top. Why have rats gnaw a guy's face off when you can set rats loose in his plane, causing him to have his face gnawed off by rats and then die in a fiery plane crash? That's just science.

But the locust murder. Ohhhh, the locust murder. Phibes, with Vulnavia's assistance, carefully selects only the best brussels sprouts, which he boils into a reduction, ending up with a slime-like green goop. He then infiltrates the room above the one where his next victim, Nurse Allen (Susan Travers), is staying. She's being kept under lock and key by Phibes' bumbling detective, but no matter. Phibes bores a hole through the ceiling above Nurse Allen, precisely placed so that he may drizzle brussels sprouts goo onto the sleeping woman's face.

She doesn't wake up. Presumably, Phibes infused the brussels sprouts with sedative properties before going all Food Network with them, and director Robert Fuest cut that bit out because he deemed it too unrealistic for a film where a man is killed by having his face crushed by a frog mask. When Nurse Allen's face is entirely covered with Gak — please note that she is still not awake by this point — Phibes methodically pours locusts through the hole in the ceiling. The end result is this:

And that, children, is how you use brussels sprouts to kill someone you've been harboring a decades-long vendetta against. Use your knowledge wisely.