Friday, 10 May 2013

She Who Must Be Obeyed!

How does the song not go? ‘She’ may be the film I can’t forget? By my reckoning ‘She’ was the first Hammer film I ever saw (I estimate that it was in 1972). At the time, I thought it a film of enormous scale and ambition, a thrilling epic filled with fighting and violent death. I also liked the fact that Bernard Cribbins was in it.

Time has inevitably tempered some of my thoughts on the production, particularly in terms of just how much of a spectacle it provides. Some of the things that indelibly marked my impressionable mind (the execution of the black tribesmen by pushing them into a well of fire) are revealed to be much tamer than I remember (though no less horrible), and some of the sets now seem hewn from papier mache than granite. What we’re left with, however, is a good old fashioned adventure film – a stretch for Hammer in terms of scope and budget, but one that was rewarded with excellent business.

The story, about reincarnation and lost civilisations, is from the pen of H. Rider Haggard, a man who specialised in far fetched tales of white men in search of glory, and of weird, off the map places filled with savage, sterotype races who meet (or mete out) imaginatively sadistic deaths.

Cast wise, it has Bernard Cribbins, Peter Cushing (in a much more ‘laddish’ role than usual), Peter O’Toole lookalike John Richardson, Christopher Lee and Andre Morrel. Most of all it has Ursula Andress as Ayesha, ‘she who must be obeyed’, the best looking evil tyrant in history. It's great entertainment, and a lot of fun. What else do you need?       


  1. Great entertainment, indeed, Chief.
    Ursella Andress' Ayeesha was an amazing contrast of beauty and utter savagery. Her wicked indifference to the destruction of human life is the thing I remember most profoundly about this film. Furthermore, even as the simplicity of Bruce Lee's characters placed them well within the range of his acting skills, so the simple ruthlessness of Ayeesha placed that character within the scope of Andress' [limited] dramatic range.
    Like you I was most struck by the cruelty of the tribesmen execution scene. Given our climate of political correctness, I'm surprised that this scene has not been edited from the film.

  2. Lovely to be reminded of the existence of this one on a grim weekday morning... perfect cinematic comfort food really, for all its inherent shoddiness, and a good exemplar of one of life's basic truths: nothing that begins with Peter Cushing and Bernard Cribbins starting a brawl in a belly-dancing club can possibly be bad.