Hammer’s adaptation of Haggard’s 1887 novel “She” looks promising on paper. An exemplary cast, starring Hammer heavyweights Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, and John Richardson, alongside comedy actor Bernard Cribbins, the beautiful (but entirely wooden) Ursula Andress, featuring exotic locales, adventure, comedy, romance and action. Unfortunately the film fails in almost every aspect.

After military service, archaeologist Holly (Cushing), his valet Job (Cribbins) and close friend Leo (Richardson) are soaking up the ambience of Palestine, when they are approached by Ustane (the strikingly beautiful Rosenda Monteros). It is revealed that Leo is the double of a long-dead High-Priest of an ancient civilisation. Armed with a map our 3 adventurers set course for the ancient city of Kuma, which they find is ruled by the immortal Ayesha (Andress). Ayesha is convinced Leo is the reincarnation of her love from 2000 years ago and tries to persuade him to accept immortality to rule by her side.

Despite the future credentials of the main players, the script is one of the worst I have ever heard, and the actors all struggle to rescue meaningful performances from it. Dialogue is predictable, cliché and at times grindingly repetitive, with the possible exception of the light-hearted comic relief brought to proceedings by Bernard Cribbins. After a promising beginning, our adventurers set off for Kuma, at which point the plot slowly plods along and only really picks up again in the final scene. Along the way there are a couple of action scenes, some romance, and some supernatural elements, but they are all done so half-heartedly they might as well have never happened, and do nothing to break the pace of the sluggish plot, leaving it dull and flat.

The film is not without a few redeeming qualities though. It was one of Hammer’s most expensive films, and in a rare move for the studio, exterior shots were done on-location in Israel, giving the film an epic feel not typical for Hammer. Production design varies wildly but it has a few moments of true beauty underlined by generally excellent cinematography of exotic locales and desert wilderness. The cinematography gives the film a scope that manages to make the film feel bigger than it actually is. Also, despite the lumbering pace of the bulk of the film, the last 20 minutes turns out to be a fairly exciting, if predictable, climax. Seeing Cushing and Lee in a scene together is always exhilarating too, even if it is underpinned by awkward dialogue.

Hammer’s She is a bit of a muddled film that doesn’t quite know where it belongs. It has elements of adventure, horror, romance and action, but unfortunately doesn’t do enough to succeed at any of them, and this is hampered further by the largely terrible dialogue. Despite high production values for a Hammer film, this is overall a disappointment and for hardened Hammer completionists only.

2/5

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