She (1965)

Hammer's attempt at an epic period/Egyptian adventure, with Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Ursula Andress. UK WB R2 DVD.

The Film

In the mid-1960s, Hammer were going through a tough time, the uninspired Evil of Frankenstein (1964) and Curse of the Mummy's Tomb (1965) were putting them behind new rivals Amicus in the Brit-horror stakes. Having captured the profitable summer family film markets (in the days before everyone left the country during the summer) with their swash-buckling pirate movies, they elected to attempt a big budget epic, in this case loosely adapted from a well known H. Rider Haggard novel of the same name.

The story opens in Palestine, 1918, a motley trio are recovering from the war by living life to the full, uneager to head home. Major Horace Holly (Peter Cushing) a former lecturer in ancient history, his assistant and butler Job (Bernard Cribbins) and their hansome young friend Leo (John Richardson). Leaving the bar with an attractive young girl, Leo is abducted and introduced to a mysterious woman who introduces herself as Ayesha (Ursula Andress) and gives him a ring and a map, telling Leo to return the ring to her in her own kingdom. Thrown out of the house, Leo returns to his friends, and convinces them to accompany him to find the lost city. Setting off on camels, they encounter difficulties as first their water packs are slashed, then their camels stolen. Struggling on foot through the mysterious Mountains of the Moon, they are helped by the girl who lured Leo earlier - Ustane (Rosenda Monteros) has falled in love with Leo, and warns the trio of the dangers they face at Ayesha's city. She leads them to a small village where her father watches over Ayesha's slaves. Shortly however, they are found by Billali, High Priest of Ayesha (Christopher Lee), and the trio are lead to the city. Here they discover the truth behind Leo's calling and discover the horror of Ayesha's regieme, although they try and stop her, Leo has fallen completely in love with the woman and is soon under her spell... 

She was Hammer's first attempt at an epic, and sadly their only attempt at this exciting adventure genre although it did pave the way for their later caveman films and The Lost Continent (1968). The script had been in development for several years, starting off as a close translation of the book with a number of gory and vicious highlights, it was soon cut down to ensure the film a U certificate, essential for the family audiences Hammer were aiming for with this production - X rated films were popular, but not enough to turn a profit for a big budget film.
The story starts well, we are introduced to the main characters without any unnecessary build-up and very quickly Leo has learnt of his mission, within 20 minutes they are on their way. The storyline slows down here with lengthy (although impressive looking) sequences of the characters progressing through the desert, with a brief, almost obligatory firefight with bedouin on camels. Leo's capture in the slave town boasts some impressive tension, although the film slows down again in Ayesha's city before an exciting climax and surprisingly thought-provoking ending.

She benefits from a good budget that allowed location shoots in Israel for the sequence where the characters traverse the desert. This brings a strong realism to these scenes that studio work could not have achieved. Although having an epic feel, the budget is still only a fraction of that of the big Hollywood epics of the 1950s, and Ayesha's army amounts to just 30 guards in Roman costume (leftover from the true epic Cleopatra (1963)) while use of matte paintings is all too obvious in many scenes. Despite this, the interiors are good and look quite plausible. Hammer composer James Bernard gives a good epic-style score, different his usual heavy orchestral scores. 

A strong Hammer cast is at hand. Peter Cushing gets to play his usual expert character and at times could be John Banning, Cushing's character in The Mummy (1959), but although he plays this part well, he isn't particularly convincing at the start when his character is shown as a womaniser. Bernard Cribbins looks like he has stumbled out of a Carry On film and seems to be providing the comic relief, but he plays it well. Christopher Lee has a typical brooding menace. Ursula Andress is sadly little more than a pretty face and of all her assets on display here, her acting is among the least.

Despite all the criticisms, She is a good attempt by Hammer to make an epic film, and although not completely sucessful, is entertaining to watch, and would be doubtless impressive if seen on a big screen. Cliché as it is, the film has something for all the family; recommended to fans of Hammer's various non-horror entries or Peter Cushing fans, and with its U rating, She is safe for family viewing. 

In Brief

Anyone famous in it? Peter Cushing - Everyone's favourite Hammer star, who often played Baron Frankenstein or Van Helsing.
Christopher Lee - Hammer's best bad guy who also starred in the classic Wicker Man (1973)
Bernard Cribbins - popular comic actor who also appeared in Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (1966)
Ursula Andress - Sexy Swiss star of the first James Bond film Dr. No (1962).
Directed by anyone interesting? Robert Day - One off Hammer director who also shot Brit-Horror Corridors of Blood (1958)
Is it scary? No. Although there are some tense moments.
Any gore? A little blood.
Any sex? No. Some bikini-clad dancing girls is as close as it gets.
Who is it for?
Generally watchable. Hammer fans should enjoy.
Good soundtrack? A strong 'epic' score from James Bernard.


Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 2.35:1 widescreen. Non-Anamorphically enhanced. Colour.
The print is of average quality, frequent speckles but always watchable.
Note: The cheap widescreen lenses used on this film mean that the edges of the picture are slightly distorted throughout, this dates from the original print and is not a problem with the disc.
Audio English Language Dolby Digital Mono.
The audio is okay generally, although with frequent crackles on the soundtrack in some scenes.
Subtitles None
Run-timeFeature 1hr 41m 17s
Extras None
Availability DVD may now be out of print.
Region Region 2 (Uk, Europe) - PAL
Other regions? Optimum UK have released She as part of their Ultimate Hammer Collection and as a single disc release. This disc includes a new anamorphic transfer, although it is cropped to a 1.78:1 ratio.
Cuts? The film is believed to be fully uncut.



Return to main menu.

All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 26th March 2006.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

Please contact: