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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Vengeance of She (Blu-ray)
The Vengeance of She (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory // G // February 26, 2019 // Region A
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Stuart Galbraith IV | posted March 4, 2019 | E-mail the Author
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A very poorly constructed and executed sequel, The Vengeance of She (1968) is, nonetheless, a peculiarly enjoyable oddity from Britain's Hammer Films. She (1965), from H. Rider Haggard's famous novel, had been a comparatively big budget production for the company, 324,000 British Pounds, or around $8 million in today's money. That film starred Ursula Andress as She Who Must Be Obeyed, with Peter Cushing, Bernard Cribbins, John Richardson, and Christopher Lee rounding out the leading players. A moderate success, Hammer immediately began plotting a sequel, though Andress wasn't interested in reprising her title character.

The sequel apparently cost almost the same amount of money, and like that film was extensively shot on location: Israel for She, Monaco and Spain for Vengeance. Its cast has little in the way of marquee value but was still pretty distinguished, with Colin Blakely, Andre Morell, and Noel Willman among them. It, however, was a big flop, commercially and critically.

At the climax of She, in the lost city of Kuma, eons-old beauty Ayesha (Ursula Andress) unwisely dips into the blue flame of immortality a second time, causing her age and wither away in seconds, leaving her lover, Leo Vincey (John Richardson) all alone, cursed with the immortality she'd hope to share with him.

The Vengeance of She makes only cryptic references to these events. Set in the present day, 50 years after the events of She, the movie opens with blonde beauty Carol (Olinka Berova) wandering the French Riviera as if in a trance, haunted by strange (if crudely visualized) images beckoning her as, apparently, the reincarnation of Ayesha. After nearly being raped by a truck driver (Dervis Ward), a pointless vignette, she swims half-naked to the yacht owned by dodgy millionaire businessman George (Colin Blakely). Fleeing, again apparently, some creditors, he has little choice but to allow the strange girl to remain onboard. Also aboard are George's long-suffering wife, Sheila (Jill Melford), his psychiatrist friend Philip (Edward Judd), and the ship's captain, Harry (George Sewell).

Disoriented by one of her visions, Carol falls overboard and George dies of a heart attack trying to save her. In North Africa, Carol vanishes after boarding a bus and Philip becomes determined to help her, with Harry begrudgingly agreeing to help Philip navigate the harsh desert. None are aware that Kuma's current High Priest, Men-Hari (Derek Godfrey), thirsting for immortality himself, has promised Leo Vincey, now called Killikrates (Richardson, the only returning cast member from She), to deliver Ayesha reincarnated, the mortal Carol, before the stars align and the blue flame of immortality returns.

Peter O'Donnell, the creator of Modesty Blaise, wrote the terrible script. (Spoilers): one problem is that the first half is structured as a mystery, but since it's constantly cutting away from Carol, Philip et. al., to the palace intrigue in Kuma, revealing their plans for Carol from the beginning, there's no mystery for the movie audience to solve.

Worse, characters are repeatedly introduced then arbitrarily killed off and never heard from again. George and Sheila provide Carol passage to Africa only to have George drop dead and Sheila abruptly disappear from the narrative, just as they were getting interesting. Harry then insists he accompany Philip, claiming to be an expert on the African desert (not bad for a lifelong seaman) but, once stranded there, Harry ignores Philip's warning against drinking potentially poisonous water from a mudhole. So long, Harry. A sympathetic Arab, Kassim (André Morell), a kind of bush league Van Helsing in matters concerning the lost city of Kuma, tries to help aimless wanderer Carol, only to fail miserably against Men-Hari's long-distant supernatural powers. He's introduced and killed off in all of ten minutes.

Further, much of O'Donnell's script simply repeats, not half as well, plot points from She. In that film Christopher Lee played a fanatical High Priest desiring immortality, so Vengeance goes down that road, too. There is a germ of a good idea inherit in its premise: the lonely immortal sadly but patiently waiting for his lover to return, making him vulnerable to those able to exploit this longing. But, instead, O'Donnell makes him an impatient, unsympathetic despot, and the overdubbing of Richardson's performance (by David de Keyser) makes him sound like a grumpy Hanna-Barbera cartoon character.

Continuity errors of character and plot can't compete with those made during production. By the time Philip and Carol reach Kuma, Philip's clothes are in tatters, yet when they make their escape at the end, Philip's duds are not only mysteriously reconstituted, but look freshly cleaned and pressed. Maybe the lost city boasts a remarkably efficient dry cleaners.

Hammer had neither the budgets nor the panache to take on epic stories of this kind. The budget may have been three times what they were used to, but it was still tiny compared to the bigger ‘60s biblical and historical epics, already waning by this point. Lionel Couch's production design is ugly, the lost city a jumble of faux marble walls and cinderblock-type ones, with set decoration seemingly raided at random from some prop house. The look is extraordinarily generic, a combination of Arab, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman, wholly undistinguished.

Most of the good actors, like Blakely, Melford, Morell, and Willman, turn up for a reel or two then vanish. Edward Judd has by far the largest speaking role, but rather humiliatingly is billed third after Richardson, who's not onscreen that much and is dubbed by another actor in any case, and Berova, who's gorgeous but clearly no actress. Judd flirted with stardom earlier in the decade, but some combination of self-destructive arrogance, drinking, and limited range soon relegated him to less important genre films and, finally, TV and voice-over work, where he had better success. In the decade preceding his death film historians lost all trace of Judd, who reportedly became a rather colorful pub-crawler.

He was, however, quite likeable onscreen, even when playing deeply cynical characters. Nearly all by himself Judd makes The Vengeance of She watchable. He seemed to know even when they were filming it that it was a piece of junk, but his sincere performance keeps us interested.

Video & Audio

Shout! Factory's release of The Vengeance of She is mostly very good. Dissolves and other opticals tend to be on the grainy side, and even some straight cuts appear a bit soft, and yet scattered cuts throughout look razor sharp, so possibly the original lab work or even the hurried shooting schedule and imprecise cinematography is to blame. Mostly though, it's a strong transfer of inconsistent film elements. The DTS-HD Master Audio (2.0 mono) is adequate, and the film is presented full frame 1.78:1, an approximation of its original 1.66:1 release. Region "A" encoded.

Extra Features

Supplements include the type of audio commentary this reviewer intensely dislikes: jokey talk-backs at the movie's expense, in this case a "Monster Party Podcast" hosted by Matt Weinhold, Shawn Sheridan, Larry Strothe, and James Gonis competing for MST3K-type zingers. Those interested in learning more about the film's origins, production history, backgrounds on those who worked on it, etc., won't find much here. Three very short (the briefest barely two-and-a-half-minutes) on-camera interviews serves as a sad reminder that back in the day of Anchor Bay DVD releases of Hammer titles many of the principal cast and crew were still around and available for interviews. For The Vengeance of She we're limited to clapper/loader Trevor Coop, assistant director Terence Clegg, and visual effects artist Joy Cuff. However, their comments are interesting even if their involvement in the film was limited. Also included is a much-recycled "World of Hammer" episode, "Lands Before Time," narrated by Oliver Reed. An image gallery, trailer, and TV spots are also included.

Parting Thoughts

Strictly for Hammer fans, The Vengeance of She is not good but loveable like a particularly ugly, drooling mutt. For this audience, it's Recommended.

Stuart Galbraith IV is the Kyoto-based film historian largely absent from reviewing these days while he restores a 200-year-old Japanese farmhouse.

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