Scream Factory delves into the Hammer vaults
Hammer. The tool most synonymous with horror. A studio long the backbone of the British horror industry. Accessibility to many of their films has been difficult stateside, outside of some of the more well known releases. So praise be to boutique label Shout! Factory, who seem to be on a mission to fix that. Not just delivering their distinct brand of terrifying features, but going deeper into their vaults to share non-horror fare. Before their embrace of horror, Hammer entertained with titles such as One Million Years B.C., Quartermass and the Pit, and When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth. It’s all fantastical fare, to which the latest Shout! release, The Vengeance of She, firmly belongs.
A young beautiful woman named Carol (Olinka Berova) is plagued by hallucinatory voices calling her “Ayesha” and is drawn by a mysterious force toward the east. During her voyage, she meets Dr. Philip Smith (Edward Judd) who decides to accompany Carol to her unknown destination. Eventually the two reach the lost city of Kuma where Carol is greeted as the reincarnation of Queen Ayesha, the beloved of King Killikrates (John Richardson). Philip is imprisoned and meets Za-Tor (Noel Willman) who tells him of the high priest’s deceitful plan to obtain the secret of immortality by bringing back Ayesha to King Killikrates. Will Philip escape in time to reveal the truth and save Carol from destruction?
The film itself is a sequel of sorts to the 1965 feature She, starring Ursula Andress (Dr. No) as Queen Ayesha. (A release of that yes please and thank you Shout!) She was an adaptation of H. Rider Haggard’s original book She: A History of Adventure, a tale where the immortal ruler of a remote tribe looks to be reunited with the soul of her lost love. A rather grand affair, it weaves a fantastical setting and premise, with themes of imperialism and a matriarchy. Vengeance of She is something of a sequel/retooling, one that meets with mixed success. Picking up after the original, where Ayesha has perished, her love longs to be reunited with her. Enter Olinka Berova (a Czech actress formerly known as Olga Schoberová) as the titular ‘She’/Carol, a woman drawn to this strange locale, and this man, where she is worshiped as the reincarnation of their lost queen.
While well intended, the sequel fleshed out here just lacks the substance to truly work. Too much wheel spinning as they move from point A to B, with exposition unladen in-between. The film tries to builds a little intrigue through its efforts to depict the real motives of Killikrates, luring Carol to this remote location, but the execution is lacking. Limited production values are also apparent in the film’s efforts to depict an isolated region of Africa, with token set dressings and a handful of extras in costumes that look fit for this era’s Doctor Who.
Such was the way in this British cinematic era; the film has a theatrical quality. Hammer always seemed to fill their films with actors who approach proceedings with professionalism, and it does elevate some of the hammier, expositiony dialogue. Willman, Morell, Blakely, and Judd all add some gravitas to proceedings. Olinka Berova certainly has a presence, but it feels like she isn’t given much to do despite her character being the lynch-pin of the whole film. As such it’s a little hard to connect with her, or root for her survival — a curious situation given how the film feels geared toward launching the career of a new talent after Andress declined to return. The result is a film that does lack its star, but more importantly lacks focus and substance.
The Vengeance of She looks pretty fantastic on this release, stemming from a new 2K transfer. Detail is good, colors pop and show a nice level of saturation, blacks too show solidity and depth, and the film retains a nice grain without looking overly processed. No major issues or artifacts are evident. Extra features impress:
- Interview — Terence Clegg (Assistant Director): A very frank conversation, notably about the attitude of cast members, and a funny tale about the film’s finale.
- Interview — Joy Cuff (Visual Effects): This was her next job after working on 2001: A Space Odyssey. She gets into details about designing and constructing the set, and connections to the original She
- Interview — Trevor Coop (Clapper/Loader): This was only his second job on a feature film, so he gives rather nice insights into that, as well as specific details on this production.
- NEW Audio Commentary By The Monster Party Podcast Hosts Matt Weinhold, Shawn Sheridan, Larry Strothe, And James Gonis: Being frank, this commentary makes the film more entertaining. It’s somewhat spoofy, but also works in plenty of info and breakdown of the film.
- World Of Hammer — Lands Before Time: An episode of Hammer’s short lived show, haphazardly arranged, but with narration from Oliver Reed!
- Theatrical Trailer
- TV Spots
- Still Gallery
The Bottom Line
The Vengeance of She is something of a mixed bag. It’s a fascinating insight into a chapter of Hammer, and indeed British film history, but lacking the grandeur and depth of some of its brethren from that age. But you can’t fault Scream Factory’s intent or effort in bringing this release to home video. The transfer is impressive, and the package bundles a wealth of extras that are a delight to peruse. Hammer have a hell of a cinematic legacy, and many of the interviews and featurettes help appreciate their contributions.
The Vengeance of She is available via Shout! Factory from February 26th, 2019.