She (1965)

She (1965)

“I am Ayesha, who some call She — who waits.”

An archaeologist (Peter Cushing), his valet (Bernard Cribbins), and his handsome young friend (John Richardson) stumble upon the ancient city of Kuma, where Richardson is recognized by an ancient ruler named Ayesha (Ursula Andress) as her long-lost love from a previous lifetime.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Christopher Lee Films
  • Deserts
  • Fantasy
  • Love Triangle
  • Past Lives
  • Peter Cushing Films
  • Search
  • Ursula Andress Films

Hammer Studios’ remake of the oft-filmed adventure novel by H. Rider Haggard appeared 30 years after the last cinematic version, produced in 1935 by Merian C. Cooper. The novel’s original setting in the deserts of Africa was restored, and the location shooting is impressive — though it unfortunately never strikes one as particularly other-worldly. Even less effective is the laughably static painting used to represent the lost city itself:

The real box-office draw here is, naturally, Ursula Andress in the title role, bedecked in either a slinky white sheath or an elaborate gold feather headdress, repeatedly intoning the line quoted above. While she’s no great actress, she’s weirdly believable as an uber-goddess determined to secure Richardson for herself after literally eons of waiting around and ruling her mini-universe.

But the whole affair is ultimately just typically low-budget Hammer fare, only must-see for true fans of this particular sub-genre.

Note: My favorite moment in the film:

Cushing looks at a series of mummified skeletons lining the walls of a cave, and asks Christopher Lee (Ayesha’s right-hand man, Billali), “Who are they?”

Lee’s deadpan response: “High priests like myself, to Ayesha – but with one difference: they are dead.”

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Some effective location shooting

Must See?
No; definitely feel free to skip this one.


2 thoughts on “She (1965)

  1. Not a must – but, if you can tolerate its slow pacing and dull direction, it has a script stupid/ridiculous enough to be enjoyable.

    I saw this at age 10 and not since – never been an easy one to come across; not that I was looking. I can remember what I thought of a number of other films when I saw them at that age. But, even at 10, this version of ‘She’ must have left little impression on my impressionable self. (OK, maybe I thought Richardson was hot but, c’mon, I was 10!)

    Seeing it again now, it really only works as camp – not among the best of its kind but, as I’ve indicated, it has its simple camp pleasures. It’s not particularly compelling – and it’s actually frustrating trying to figure out how Andress can hold sway over her subjects, keeping them in “fear and terror”. (We do finally get one brief moment of proof of her ‘strength’ when Andress commands Richardson to try and kill her. It’s not much but we do then get to think, ‘OK, so she doesn’t really have to lift a finger to get her way.’)

    For his part, Richardson is seen as nothing but an opportunistic tool, representing everything that can be ugly about beautiful people. He pretty much stays on that level up to the last frame.

    Cushing, Lee and Cribbins showed up on set and managed to get through their work without laughing out loud.

    It’s too bad that this probably happens to be the film most people think of when it comes to Andress (aside from her iconic image in ‘Dr. No’). Though not in the company of our great thespians (she was the first pick for the lead in ‘Sophie’s Choice’?!!), she can be a lot more fun than she is here – i.e., ‘The 10th Victim’, in which we also hear her own voice, albeit in Italian.

    The most intriguing way to approach this film, as someone at IMDb has written, is as a metaphor for coming out of the closet: “She who must be obeyed” being the representation of giving over to your real orientation.

    Fave scene: Richardson and Cushing (actually) have a serious conversation re: the merits of normal, mortal love vs. immortality with a hot blonde who basically offers omnipotent power over men and eternal hot sex.

  2. Solidly crafted fantasy flick with good performances, great locations and use of locations. James Bernard’s score is fabulous and helps immeasurably in setting the tone.

    It’s no classic and certainly not must see unless you’re a scholar of Hammer Studios and in that case it was one of their bigger hits and more expensive productions. Andress is surprisingly good, Lee unsurprisingly good as are Cushing and Cribbins. Richardson is fine but has a sort of thankless part.

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