Directed by: Robert Day (Tarzan the Magnificent)
Starring: Ursula Andress, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, John Richardson, Bernard Cribbins
The umpteenth film version of H. Rider Haggard’s “famous novel” (the credits assure us of this), this 1965 Hammerfied take on She won’t get you nearly as high as the 1935 film, but nevertheless boasts a pretty fair amount of camp. It’s still a lost-city yarn about a 2,000-year-old woman called Ayesha (“She Who Must Be Obeyed”) who is all a-dither about her reincarnated lost love. In the bargain, you get Ursula Andress in the title role giving her usual awkward line readings, Christopher Lee as an evil priest in a variety of hats that appear to have been fashioned from 1930s football helmets (and one made out of a gilded pineapple), a volcano pit that looks like a lava light that got out of hand and the lamest leading man (John Richardson) imaginable. Unfortunately, there are some pretty dull patches, too.
She marks the beginning of Hammer Films’ attempt to expand beyond the melodramas and gothic horror pictures they were best known for—all the while keeping one foot at least in the realm of the fantastic. In this case, they imported a star—Ursula Andress—and retained their most powerful stars in terms of drawing power, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Unfortunately for fans, the film offered them little more than supporting roles, despite their somewhat glorified billing. (I suppose they were lucky not to have been covered in furs and cast as cavemen in the following year’s One Million Years B.C.) Overall, this is mostly Andress’ show. If nothing else, she certainly makes an impression in her feather robes (several ostriches must have gone naked for those) and golden headdress. I kept thinking of the bit in Casino Royale (1967) where David Niven asks her if she often wears an outré outfit in the office and she tells him, “If I wore it in the streets, people might stare.”
The best things about this version of She are the silliest—like the costumes and the horn players, who apparently live atop some seemingly inaccessible columns in the throne room just in case Andress shows up and needs a fanfare. (And she seems to need one whenever she wanders in.) The worst things—apart from a story line that makes little sense—are the slow patches that the film has far too many of. It hardly helps that it takes nearly half the movie to get to the lost civilization that makes up Andress’ dominion. There’s a good deal of tedious camel riding that is not improved by hokey double-exposure visions of Andress that are more reminiscent of Dotty Lamour appearing to Bing and Bob in the desert in Road to Morocco than anything vaguely mystical. In the end, it’s about 50 percent campy fun—with another 50 percent of rather dull adventure.
The Hendersonville Film Society will show She at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 18, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.