Friday, July 17, 2015

She May be the Supernatural Egyptian Queen

Three adventurers, war veterans, cross the desert in search of a city that probably doesn't exist in 1965's She, Hammer studios' adaptation of H. Rider Haggard's 1887 novel. There've been other adaptations, I haven't seen them, nor have I read the book, but I can say the abnormally expensive looking Hammer film captures a lot of the charm of a Victorian magazine serial, the format in which the novel was originally published.

Here's a side of Peter Cushing you don't often see. He plays one of three World War I veterans--the film moves the story up to 1918--Professor Holly. He and the handsome young Leo (John Richardson) and their former subordinate, now valet, Job (Bernard Cribbins, Wilfred Mott from Doctor Who) are celebrating their discharges in a Palestinian bar when Leo is led away by the beautiful Ustane (Rosenda Monteros). She introduces him to another beautiful and more mysterious She named Ayesha (Ursula Andress).

She gives him a map and Leo manages to convince his good natured comrades to join him on the seemingly impossible task of finding the lost Egyptian city Kuma.

This was my favourite part of the film. It's clear that Hammer actually brought the cast and crew to the locations for once, a marked contrast to the set-bound Mummy from a few years earlier--and the chemistry between the three men is wonderful, particularly between Cushing and Cribbins. Cushing plays his easy going professor as a man who knows the danger but shrugs and faces it anyway purely for the excitement of discovery, Cribbins plays Job more amiably than his biblical namesake but can't help shake his head in disbelief now and then at the foolhardiness of his superior officers.

The latter portion of the film concerns their adventures in Kuma, which is also pretty good. I liked Ursula Andress' headdress and feathered cloak she wore whenever she was in her throne room.

And Christopher Lee gives a nicely subtle performance as her cleverer than he seems adviser.

The guy behind him may have the most unflattering breastplate I've ever seen.

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