The Archivist Volume XXII: Cursed Lovers!

by Ryan Lewellen

Styled box

Welcome to the Archive. Following the infamous “Format Wars” (R.I.P. VHS), a multitude of films found themselves in danger of being forgotten forever due to their admittedly niche appeal. Thankfully, Warner Bros. established the Archive Collection, a Disc On Demand and Streaming service devoted to some of the more idiosyncratic pieces of cinema ever made. Being big fans of the label, we here at Cinapse thought it prudent to establish a column devoted to these unusual gems. Thus “The Archivist” was born — a biweekly look at some of the best, boldest and most batshit motion pictures the Shield has to offer. Some of these will be recent additions to the collection, while others will be titles that have been available for awhile. With over 1,500 pictures procurable on Warner Archive (and more being added every month), there’s no possible way we’ll get to all of them. But trust me when we say we’re sure going to try.

Here we are again. Another Other week in the Every of it all, and another duo of odd and under-seen films has graced my desk, courtesy of The Warner Archive Collection. This installment, just in time for… nothing in particular, features two fantasy stories about people desperate to love under the oppression of a curse! All-star casts, flashy costuming, and gorgeous cinematography abound in this double feature of doomed romance.

SHE (1965)

In the mid-60s, legendary B-movie studio Hammer produced its most expensive film to date in She, starring Ursula Andress, John Richardson, Peter Cushing, and Christopher Lee. Based on a novel by H. Rider Haggard, the movie follows the adventures of a trio of British soldiers fresh out of WWI in Palestine. Andress, a 2,000 year-old goddess, believes Richardson is her long-dead boyfriend, whom she executed in a rage of envy. Richardson would, of course, be down with fully-fledged boyfriendship to Ursula Andress, if it weren’t for the distracting cuteness of one of her villagers (Rosenda Monteros). He can’t quite decide between immortality with the goddess, and the earthly pleasures of her underling, and honey… that ain’t cool with She Who Must Be Obeyed.

I would love to tell you this movie is a campy blast, a lost Hammer film you need to have on your radar, but this is sadly not the case. She is more like She Who Fails To Keep One Awake. It’s downright dull. The characters are stock, or in Richardson’s case, completely empty, and the story is dreadfully slow. Save for some fleeting whimsy in dialogue, the film has little to offer until the final 30 minutes. Then, it all but makes up for the first 2/3 of the running time with intense and viscously bleak developments. So dark and unexpected is the fate of Monteros’ character that I anticipated its reveal as a red herring right up until the credits rolled. Beyond that, Christopher Lee is mostly wasted in a boring supporting role, and the modest effects aren’t the kind of ridiculous that makes you smile, but rather tilt your head in confusion. The costuming deserves a mention, particularly the crazy hawk/feather robe thing Andress wears for most of the second half. “Fabulous” is the only fitting word for it. Peter Cushing’s exciting performance as a passionate voice-of-reason professor is also a high-point, just not high enough to redeem this mostly bland affair.

On the other hand, we have the fun and clever Ladyhawke.


First, I need to give credit where due: this is yet another gorgeous Blu-ray from The Archive Collection showcasing superbly beautiful cinematography. So far, they really know how to choose the essential films for the HD format.

Phillipe “The Mouse” Gaston (Matthew Broderick) lives up to his name in escaping from the believed-to-be-inescapable prison of Aquila, a kingdom ruled by a hedonistic and fascistic bishop (John Wood). He is barely free before the threat of recapture is thwarted by Captain Etienne Navarre (Rutgar Hauer). Navarre plans to use Gaston to enter Aquila and kill the Bishop, who cursed him and his partner, Isabeau D’Anjou (Michelle Pfeiffer). By day, she is a hawk, and by night, he is a wolf, and the two have not touched or spoken since the envious bishop conjured a hex from Satan himself.

There are a couple major flaws in this relic from the 80s. For one, the score makes it tragically dated. This movie’s music is so out of place, it almost sounds like an expiration date. Trust me when I tell you, the whacky, jaunty synth-driven tunes composed by Andrew Powell and Alan Parsons (Yes: THAT Alan Parsons) simply don’t match the sweeping scenery, and medieval adventuring. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself laughing at otherwise inappropriate moments.

The movie also has a major writing flaw that doesn’t make any damn sense. It’s too complicated to sort it out in this brief write-up, and it doesn’t cause so much damage as to make the film fall apart, but it is an odd dramatic element that makes Hauer’s character seem completely unwise. Beyond those small quirks, LadyHawke is a blast. It features one of Matthew Broderick’s better performances, particularly in the early days of his career, and I haven’t enjoyed him this much since Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Matching the cinematography, Michelle Pfeiffer is at her most beautiful, and once this movie is finally down to get the swords fighting, they fight brutally hard. And a good sword fight is pretty hard to come by in today’s cinema. See it. It’s like candy for your eyes, even if it is mostly vomit for your ears.

Previous post STONE COLD (1991) and Brian Bosworth, Reluctant Action Hero
Next post The Life Lessons of Laika Films