Newest Review: ... for. Set in 1918, just after World War 1, Professor Holly (Cushing), young Leo (Richardson) and their loyal manservant Job (Cribbins... more
SHE WHO MUST BE OBEYED
Member Name: Mauri
Advantages: Stylish adaptation, Andress, Cushing, Lee and Cribbins
Disadvantages: Rather wooden central performance
SHE WHO WAITS!
We begin in post WWI Palestine, the year 1918. Three friends Major Horace Holly who is an expert in classical ancient history, his ward Leo Vincey and Holly's valet Job now all demobbed wonder what they will do with their lives now the war is over. In a sleazy bar in Palestine Leo is approached by a beautiful girl Ustane and is then knocked unconscious and abducted by a mysterious Arab Billali who has noticed that Leo bears an uncanny likeness to a figure on an ancient coin. On waking Leo fleetingly meets a beautiful woman who speaks to him in riddles about having known him in the past and gives him an ancient map that shows the way to the long lost Pharaonic city of Kuma that legend states was founded by an exiled Egyptian priest Killikrates and lies beyond the Mountains of the Moon. She tells him that if he completes the treacherous journey at the end all his wishes of power, riches, glory and love will be fulfilled. Soon the group mount an expedition to the city. After many obstacles on the way, on reaching their destination they find that the city in part is still inhabited and ruled by a powerful Queen Ayesha 'She who must be obeyed'. The real reason for the expedition now becomes clear and the three adventurer's lives are put in great danger.
'THE WORLDS MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN'
Ursula Andress who plays Ayesha was off course the first and recently voted the best Bond girl. This is one of her many post Bond roles and she looks stunning. There is another tenuous Bond connection to this film in that John Richardson playing Leo, whose career faltered somewhat on an international stage at least after the 1960's, was actually considered to take over as James Bond from Sean Connery but eventually lost out to George Lazenby.
This film has a lot to commend it, Ursula Andress is stunning as the immortal Queen and you can certainly believe that Leo would travel to the ends of the earth to be with her. Although relatively inexperienced as an actress this was a perfect role for her even though her English wasn't deemed to be good enough and just as in Dr No her lines were dubbed by Monica van Der Syl.
Hammer heavyweights Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee while not taking the centre stage are at their best providing the films with added gravitas through their acting talents. A Hammer film with both Cushing and Lee in it is always worth a watch. Light relief is brought in by the wonderful Bernard Cribbins as the comical Job constantly moaning and being ill at ease with the trials and tribulations of the expedition, watching him riding a camel is a great sight.
John Richardson takes on his first big role and it has to be said although he looks every bit the handsome leading man he does come across as a little bit wooden at times. He was also dubbed for this film; his rather monotone delivery wasn't thought to match his dashing good looks. A year later he was to have even greater success as the grunting caveman (monotone delivery didn't matter) in Hammer's smash 'One Million Years B.C.' where he starred alongside another of the 60's great sex symbols Raquel Welch, lucky man! In this film he is upstaged and out-acted in every scene but does just about enough to convince in his part. This was a particular failing of many of Hammer's movies, they often had wonderful backing and supporting cast employing the best character actors but never quite had the budget to hire the very best leading men and so hired up and coming actors into the lead roles not always with great success. Having said this Richardson is not by a long way the worst of these.
Alternative love interest Ustane is provided by Mexican starlet Rosenda Monteros whose biggest claim to fame was having played a small part in 'The Magnificent Seven'. Hammer regular Andre Morell also has small part as Ustane's father and is always worth his fee.
'HER WISDOM LIMITLESS, HER ANGER BOUNDLESS'
The story itself is interesting in that it is one of the first examples of the 'Lost World' sub-genre of adventure fiction, a style that has been used many times since haggard wrote his novel. The original book was massively popular on its publication and has never been out of print, by all standards it is classed as a classic of fiction and Hammer who did in this period vary their output form simply horror obviously wished to capitalize on the book enduring popularity. Since the last major adaptation had been filmed in the 19030's and updated version was certainly due. I've always been a fan of this kind of adventure novel, this is set at a time when the world was a much larger place, there were still blank spaces on even the best maps and it was possible to travel into the unknown something which nowadays requires either deep sea exploration or deep space exploration. This is the kind of story that years later Spielberg would exploit in the Indiana Jones films, real 'boys own' stuff.
As with many novels of the time there are strong racist and sexist themes running thorough that a modern readership might find objectionable one can say that Haggard was simply reflecting the prejudices of the time and in any case the film adaptation is far better in this respect although the native Africans and Arabs are portrayed as little more than superstitious savages to the more enlightened Europeans. Other aspects of the story are rather more in tune with our time. Haggard original story focused on the worship of beauty and youth over all other considerations and the ultimate desire for immortality does rather go well with our modern day obsession with image and youth and celebrity, being famous and remaining famous is one way to becoming immortal.
The film surprisingly gets quite dark in places and in the second half, once we have reached the lost city and Leo is faces with some hard philosophical and moral decisions to make it all becomes quite gripping. An action-packed finale leads to a rather surprising and bleak ending, which only serves to make this version distinct from the rest.
Much is made of the location; we see plenty of desert scenery, sand dunes and the liberal use of Camels. Hammer filmed the outdoor sequences in southern Israel which was one of the reasons that this was to be hammer's most expensive film to date with a budget of £323,000. Although the film suffers from a slightly light touch by director Robert Day and in places the pacing is a little too slow, as a spectacle it certainly impresses with great costume and set design. It manages to combine what Hammer had always had a reputation for mild eroticism and violence in to a package that a mainstream audience would appreciate. 'She' performed well at the box office and eventually spawned a less successful sequel in 1968.
TECHNICAL INFORMATION AND BONUS MATERIAL.
Ursula Andress ... Ayesha (She who must be obeyed)
Peter Cushing ... Holly
Bernard Cribbins ... Job
John Richardson ... Leo
Rosenda Monteros ... Ustane
Christopher Lee ... Billali
André Morell ... Haumeid
UK classification U (nothing to worry about here, a little mild mostly implied violence)
Runtime : 101min
This DVD is part of the Hammer Collection and apart from the film overall it is a little disappointing.
Firstly the print is not all that good, there are still quite a few scratches visible and it would have been nice to have are re-mastered or restored version of the film. Secondly it included no bonus material, no trailers, no interviews, no commentary and no 'making of' featurette nothing. The film is all you get.
Overall this is a good film, one of the best from Hammer in this period and although not typical of the studio's better known output it is well worth watching. The DVD is slightly miserly and the whole thing could've benefitted from restoration.
'She' can be bought from Amazon.co.uk for £4.47 including free delivery in the UK at the time this review was written.
Recommended (if a little disappointing with quality and extras on DVD)
© Mauri 2011
Summary: A stylish adaptation of a classic historical adventure with Ursula Andress looking at the best.