I finally got a chance to watch the film “She” the adventure film Merian C. Copper made after the success of King Kong after it languished on my my DVD shelf for several month after receiving it as a gift. There have been quite a few version of this film (including a 1965 version with Ursula Andress and Christopher Lee), based on novel and, though minor details change, the basic plot remains the same. A young man discovers his family knows of a secret place where the “flame of life” can keep you alive forever. He goes on an expedition to find it and does.. along with the beautiful queen, SHE who must be obeyed. She thinks he is his ancestor who found her and the flame (500 years before) and plans to keep him there and get rid of his current love interest. This version stars Randolph Scott, Nigel Bruce (who can't help but look like Dr. Watson in everything he does, poor thing) and Helen Gahagan.
First of all, this film is fantastic, in spite of... or many because of it many flaws. The acting is nothing short of atrocious. You might though the actors were in a hypnotic daze the whole time as in Herzog's “Heart of Glass”. The plot holes are so big and obvious, they don't even try to hide them. In fact, the end is so confusing, they point out in the last lines that the character have no idea what happened either. It takes Randolph Scott forever to figure out SHE thinks he is his own great great great grandfather and the SHE is 500 years old even though she tell him practically straight away. In fact, the whole cast is so dense, if you could reaching into the screen and slap some sense into them you would. Why does the queen (who was the inspiration for the evil queen in Disney's “Snow White' apparently) get old when she goes back into the flame again, when that never happened before? Why did it take 500 years for the family to send someone else to find the secret flame of eternal life? Not interesting enough a trip for them until now?
Yet somehow... the whole thing works. The sets are awe inspiring, the matte paintings even better than Kong and some of the effects, like the “primitive slave” (yes this film has a race of cave dwellers ruled by a “higher race” who dress like Roman centurions, doesn't every adventure film?) who swings from giant statue to giant statue to light the fires for the human sacrifice. An avalanche that destroys the camp at the base of an ice mountain and exposes the frozen lake beneath is truly amazing.
Some later versions of this film were called “She Who Must Be Obeyed” and don't think I am not designing myself a T-shirt saying that as soon as I finish writing this!