Thursday, August 4, 2011

SHE (Robert Day, 1965)

To obey immortality is to concede one’s soul, sacrificed upon the golden alter of greed. Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee try their best to elevate this mundane adventure tale above its humble Hammer origins, imbuing every inflection with Shakespearean delight, imposing their very essences upon the weak narrative. SHE is a film that is about a half hour too long and two millennia short.

The premise is rather ludicrous as Englishman Leo Vincey is stalked by a cadre of mad Egyptians, throwbacks to their ancient origins, ruled by an immortal matriarch who subjugates by fear and oppression. Leo somehow resembles the dead lover of Ayesha, murdered over two thousand years ago and identified by a forged profile on a golden amulet. I thought it looked like Bill Clinton, so maybe not the best evidence to base a civilization on. However, Ayesha is sure so she kidnaps Leo, gives him a ring and a map, and tells him he must traverse the burning desert and face many trials until he reaches the city of Kumar, where he will be rewarded with power, riches, immortality…and her sensuous embrace.

The trials consist of being lost in the desert without water, attacked by black robed marauders, and just general physical and emotional dehydration. I suppose the budget went to Ursula Andress and travel expenses for the location shooting, instead of some cool Harryhausen creature discomforts. The story devolves into a love triangle (that ends badly for the beautiful Ustane) with tepid dialogue and head-scratching infatuation. The set design is typical Hammer, reducing an entire civilization to a throne room and antechamber….and a bad matte painting.

SHE has a rather droll set of main characters but is supported by an excellent cast, including a cheeky Bernard Cribbins as Job, Cushing’s manservant and compatriot. Their fate is much more interesting.

Final Grade: (C)

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