Forgotten Films: SHE (1935)
This is the 15th in my series of Forgotten Obscure or Neglected Films
I am a big fan of the writings of Sir H(enry) Rider Haggard. His novels ERIC BRIGHTEYES, KING SOLOMON’S MINES and SHE are among my favorites, especially SHE. This film was done under the production eyes of Merriam Cooper, just two years after KING KONG. And with a magnificent score from Max Steiner, who also did the KONG score.
So with a story from Haggard and the production of Cooper and the cast which includes Randolph Scott, Helen Mack and Nigel Bruce, why isn’t this film better known and widely hailed as a classic?
Good question. Part of it is Randolph Scott who plays Leo Vincey a young explorer sent off on a quest by his dying uncle to find a land his ancient ancestor (whom he closely resembles) found 500 years earlier. As an actor, Scott made a great cowboy. As an object of undying love and devotion, maybe not so much.
Anyway, Vincey and his uncle’s good friend Horace Holley go searching north Russia looking for the secret of eternal life. Along the way they pick up Tanya (Helen Mack) and her father. When they discover a saber-toothed tiger buried inside a glacier with a man in Elizabethan costume, they think they are on the proper trail. A freak avalanche created by Tanya’s father uncovers a hidden entrance while killing the father. The trio enters the cave and finds warm springs creating a heat that allows people to live in a forgotten land. They are captured and nearly killed by cave people and are barely rescued, though Leo is injured. They are rescued by an oddly dressed group of folks who speak English. They learned it long ago from a visitor.
They are brought before Queen Hash-a-Mo-Tep, She Who Must Be Obeyed (Helen Gahagan), the immortal queen who had fallen in love with Vincey’s ancestor, who had taught them English, and for whom she has waited 500 years. She desires the love of Vincey, but he seems entranced by Tanya instead. But SHE will not have her love usurped by a young thing, not when she has waited so long.
The sets, once we enter SHE’s domain are wonderful art deco masterpieces. There are some wild dance sequences, particularly in the Hall of Kings. That segment was nominated for an Academy Award for Dance Direction.
The music is wonderful, the scenery is lush, the story is wild, but it seems to fall a little flat. The DVD from Legend Films also features a colorized version of the film. This is, amazingly, not a jarringly bad as the previous colorized films I have seen. I watched the film in black and white initially, just as Nature intended it to be seen, then I watched the final 20 minutes or so in the colorized version and they were quite good, particularly the dance sequence.
Helen Gahagan, who plays She, only made one film. She did theater and Broadway and later entered into politics, serving in the House of Representatives from California. She made a bid for the Senate where she was defeated by Richard Nixon, whom she called “Tricky Dicky”. She did not invent the nickname, but she had it stick. He, in turn, developed the term “Pinko” to describe her, since her voting mirrored that of a Communist politician.
Other cast members included Noble Johnson, Ray Corrigan, and Olympian Kim Thorpe all in uncredited roles, per IMDB.
In the mid 1970’s I got the Max Steiner score on a bootleg record and it was quite good. With the film to reference against, it is even better. And the Legend Films folks have a nice clean print of the film to work with. Also, Ray Harryhausen provides a commentary track on the film.
IMDB lists the original running time as 101 minutes but the US time at 95 minutes which is what is on my DVD. I wonder what the other 6 minutes contained?
Do not confuse this with the Ursula Andress or other versions of the same name. The name is all they share in common with the novel or this film.
Also the original novel is set in Africa rather than northern Russia. I am curious why that change was made. Anyone with knowledge out there?
Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.