Weird Wednesdays: She (1965)

Written in 1887 by acclaimed author H. Rider Haggard, who wrote King Solomon’s Mines, “She” was once again an adventure tale set in Africa. The story follows three retired British officers who trek out into Northern Africa in search of a lost Egyptian City of Kor.

They had been sent on the journey after one of the officers met a mysterious woman, Ayesha, who bewitched the man with her staggering beauty and sent him on the quest to find her and the city.

Mysterious tales of Africa were big at the dawn of the 19th century. Haggard’s novel came on the heels of Jules Verne’s landmark novel “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and you can feel some of that kind of tone in this Hammer film.

“She” was also really the first novel to explore the sci-fi subplot of a lost civilization.

The novel became one of the best selling novels of all time and influenced other greats such as Edgar Rice Burroughs and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The film stars Hammer heavyweight Peter Cushing as the stoic Horace Holly who leads the expedition.

John Richardson plays the lovesick Leo Vincey and also along for the journey is Holly’s manservant Job.

Classic Hollywood beauty Ursula Andress stars as the bewitching Ayesha and Christopher Lee as her second-in-command Billali.

Cushing is always a marvel to watch as the skeptical professor type character.

He embraced that persona throughout most of his Hammer career from playing Dr. Frankenstein, Van Helsing and The Mummy’s John Hanning. Christopher Lee once again plays the twisted sidekick but really he isn’t given much to do in this film.

John Richardson’s experience romancing beautiful women began when he starred alongside Raquel Welch in her career defining role in “10 Million BC” for Hammer films. Here he romances Ursula but it is hard at times to tell if the couple had any chemistry.

The most underrated performance in the piece for me was by Mexican actress Rosenda Monteros who just really gives it her all in her “what could have been” a throwaway role. She would go on to gather more acclaim when she starred opposite Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen in “The Magnificent Seven”.

Ursula Andress has always been an enigma to me when it came to watching her in films. You never know when the woman is acting or emoting or posing.

All of her expressions give off the mixed results. Well she is strikingly beautiful and it was the reason she had a career but if she can act is really up for debate.

Plenty of beauty queens/models in movies can go one way or have no acting talent at all. Ursula is hard to judge.

In this film she doesn’t really have to emote because her immortal character just has to beautiful, head-strong and well cold. She is definitely no Brigitte Bardot or Sophia Loren.

I liked that the movie took a chance and didn’t fall into the Hammer horror category.

This could have easily been a Mummy kind of movie. I also have to give credit to director John Daly because I think with his experience with making Tarzan films and working on Robin Hood for television he was able to keep the adventure feel to the film alive and develop an epic scope on a restrained budget.

3.5 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer

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