SHE (director: Robert Day; screenwriters: David T. Chantler/based on H. Rider Haggard’s novel; cinematographer: Harry Waxman; editor: Eric Boyd-Perkins; music: James Bernard; cast: Ayesha (Ursula Andress), Leo Vincey (John Richardson), Major Holly (Peter Cushing), Job (Bernard Cribbins), Ustane (Rosenda Monteros), Billali (Christopher Lee), Haumeid (Andre Morell), Captain of the Guard (John Maxim) ; Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Michael Carreras; MGM; 1965-UK)
“This lavish Hammer Films production proves to be a dull remake.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Adventurer and lawyer H. Rider Haggard’s 1887 novel She was previously filmed in 1935 by Merian C. Cooper, and this is the fourth version. Writer David T. Chantler opted for a warm Middle East location instead of the previous Arctic site. This lavish Hammer Films production proves to be a dull remake. It’s an escapist adventure tale about a love-sick cruel but irresistibly beautiful eternal queen, seeking the reincarnation of her dead lover. Director Robert Day (“The Green Man”/”Corridors of Blood”/”The Rebel”)gets the cornball part right, but fails to inject wit, humor or interest in the story. Nevertheless the pic did a great box office, thanks to the attraction of its sexpot star Ursula Andress (whose voice was dubbed to offset her thick Swiss accent).
In a Jerusalem nightclub, at the end of World War I, are three broke Brits just discharged from the army:the scholarly Major Horace Holly (Peter Cushing), the ladies man adventurer Leo Vincey (John Richardson) and the loyal valet for the upper-crusts Job (Bernard Cribbins). The attractive Ustane (Rosenda Monteros), a mysterious slave girl, meets John in the club and sets him up to be kidnapped in an ambush arranged by the immortal queen of the legendary lost city of Kuma, Ayesha (Ursula Andress). The sultry queen, with the tag of “She who must be obeyed,” desires Leo because of his resemblance to her long-dead lover, the high priest of Isis, Killikrates. Ayesha seduces John and promises him wealth, power and anything he desires, if he takes the arduous journey across the desert to the land of lost souls. Given a map of Kuma and an invaluable ancient Egyptian ring, the three friends travel to Kuma by camel. The trio face many obstacles on their journey, set by Ayesha and her high priest, Billali (Christopher Lee), which are tests to see if lover boy is immortal or capable of great feats. In the meantime Ustane has fallen in love with John and joins him in the desert to see if she can help. When things look desperate for the ailing John, Ustane leads the men to the village of the primitive native Amahaggers, slaves of Ayesha, where her kind-hearted dad Haumeid (Andre Morell) is the overseer. When the primitives act to sacrifice the ailing John to their gods, in the hopes of gaining their freedom, Billali intervenes and his soldiers take fifteen of the tribe to be executed by Ayesha for not obeying her orders. Billali also brings the travelers to see Ayesha. The queen tells Johnny boy she’s been in power for the last 2,000 years, and regrettably in a jealous snit had her lover Killikrates executed. She now realizes that it was a bad decision and believes she can alter things by making sure John lives forever as Killikrates’s replacement. The secret of gaining immortality is revealed as walking into the magical flame that turns blue when it’s ready to do its immortal thing. Things go wrong when Ayesha doesn’t know the game rules, that you can only step into the blue flame once and if you step in again, as she does, you become mortal and die immediately.
That such hokum is so drily and seriously delivered is a mistake. That Ursula are Vincey are such stiff actors, is an even bigger mistake.
REVIEWED ON 10/24/2011 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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