She (1965)

Based on the H. Rider Haggard novel, this Hammer feature — directed by Robert Day (The Initiation of Sarah) — takes Ursula Andress to the only logical place she can go after blowing minds as she rose from the beach in Dr. No. Now, she is a goddess.

Professor Holly (Peter Cushing), Leo Vincey (John Richardson, TorsoBlack Sunday) and Job (Bernard Cribbins) have left the war behind and are their way to Africa when they discover a map of a secret land that is only rumored to exist. There, “She-Who-Waits” and “She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed ” Ayesha (Andress) rules eternally.

She believes that Leo is the reincarnation of the lover she killed 2,000 years ago for cheating on her and wants him to walk through the blue fire to become immortal by her side.

In the midst of that drama, Leo has fallen in love with Ustane (Rosenda Monteros, The Magnificent Seven) and Ayesha decides to kill her for such impudence. Her tribe, the Amahagger, attack Ayesha’s army, all while her most fanatical follower, Billali (Christopher Lee) attempts to walk through the blue flames himself.

Despite Ayesha dying at the end of this film, the character would return in Hammer’s The Vengeance of She, with Olga Schoberová taking over the role.

The first Hammer movie to be built around a female character — in spite of them hating the sound of Andress’ accent and having her dubbed by Nikki van der Zyl* — this is an intriguing while dated look at a female ruler subjugating her subjects while remaining eternally in love.

She has been made so many times, starting in 1899 with Georges Méliès’ The Pillar of Fire. It was remade in 1908, 1911, 1916, 1917, 1925 (with Haggard writing the cards that appeared between the silent action) and 1935 before this movie and in 2011. I guess you can consider the Sandahl Bergman film She is somewhat inspired by this, even if it’s just the title.

*She also dubbed Andress in Dr. No, as well as Eunice Gayson in From Russia with Love, Shirley Eaton and Nadja Regin in Goldfinger, Claudine Auger in Thunderball, Mie Hama in You Only Live Twice, Virginia North in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Denis Perrier in Diamonds Are Forever, Jane Seymour in Live and Let Die, Francoise Therry in The Man with the Golden Gun and was the voice of Corinne Cléry and Leila Shenna in Moonraker. She was also the voice for Monica Vitti in Modesty Blaise, Racquel Welch in  One Million Years B.C, Sylva Koscina in Deadlier than the Male and Lulu in The Cherry Picker.

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