Sunday Matinee: She

SheShe is a 1965 film from Hammer Film Productions based on H. Rider Haggard’s 1887 adventure novel. Hammer had wanted to expand out of the horror genre and this film kick-started a whole line of adventure / lost world films for them.

Those unfamiliar with Haggard’s story the novel is a classic adventure story about a lost civilization in African run by an immortal queen who is seeking the reincarnation of her lost lover. The story, along with Haggard’s other classic adventure tale King Solomon’s Mines, inspired countless adventure stories to follow.

The film has standard Hammer actors Peter Cushing as the archeologist Holly and Christopher Lee as She’s head priest Billali. Ursula Andress is Ayesha aka She who must be obeyed or She for short. The producers didn’t like the sound of Ursula’s voice so she was dubbed by the same actress who dubbed over her voice in Dr. No, Nikki Van der Zyl.

The movie was a hit for Hammer but this adaptation isn’t very true to the novel. For some strange reason Hammer set the film in 1918 instead of the 1880’s like the novel. This really doesn’t add anything to the story. Cushing is no longer the guardian / father of Leo Vincey (John Richardson) and the Vincey family history has been completely erased. Instead of the story starting like the book with the secret of the Vincey family history being revealed to young Leo from Holly and thus starting the archeological quest. The film starts out in Palestine at the end of WWI and war buddies Holly, Vincey and Job are sitting in a bar when a servant of She discovers Vincey and takes him to She where he is told to go on quest for her. Even though She’s standing right in front of him. From there the movie follows the book a little bit more closely but with such an early reveal to the whole mystery, much of the suspense is gone in my opinion.

The film had one sequel, Vengeance of She, where only John Richardson returned to the cast. Andress was replaced with Olga Schoberová. Hammer did start putting out more adventure / lost world films including One Million Years B.C., Prehistoric Women, The Lost Continent and When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth.

There have been at least 10 adaptations of the novel with the most faithful being the 1925 silent version that Haggard himself helped work on. There was a 1935 adaptation which was set in the Arctic instead of Africa and more recently (2001) a really cheesy low-budget version. The Hammer version isn’t bad but it could have been so much better.

Author: Shane Hnetka

Shane Hnetka has spent most of his life watching movies and reading comic books. He has decided to use this vast knowledge for evil instead of good.