Barbara Steele recalled to film historian David Del Valle that making THE SHE BEAST was a "three day wonder that I did for Paul Maslansky for a flat fee of $5,000 as I was returning to London and this was an extended cameo. My memories of (Michael) Reeves were that of a rather enthusiastic film student with a tremendous drive to make films. It was his energy that kept the project afloat. I can't really remember much else as I have never seen the finished product and yet I still remain close friends with the Maslansky family."
A honeymooning British couple (Barbara Steele and Ian Ogilvy) motoring through modern-day Romania stumble upon a village cursed by a medieval witch named Vardella. Through circumstances involving an auto accident, the young bride is thrown into the same lake that Vardella was drowned in and supernaturally is replaced by the avenging witch. The rotting hag comes to life and all is saved by an amusing, elder descendant of the original Dr. Von Helsing (John Karlsen).
This was the first full feature directed by the celebrated and tragic Michael Reeves who invested the proceedings with a decidedly humorous slant including a notorious hammer-and-sickle joke and a sly turn by veteran Mel Welles as a lecherous hotel owner.
At a St. Valentine's Day party in Hollywood years ago attended by Del Valle with actor Julian Barnes (HAUNTED HOUSE OF HORROR), Ian Ogilvy commented, "Michael and I were a bit in awe of Barbara's Italian reputation as a cult figure that had appeared for Fellini. She only worked for three days but my memory of her is a rather pleasant one as she seemed to respond to Michael's dedication for getting on with it."
THE SHE BEAST was Barbara Steele's last Italian gothic to appear in the United States (as ANGEL FOR SATAN never had a U.S. release). This is one of the lesser Steele Italian Gothics although there are some noteworthy comparisons to CASTLE OF THE LIVING DEAD (1964) and WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968). Steele appears in 17 minutes of the film, tops. She is tremendously sexy and nearly bares her breasts in a bedroom scene with heartthrob Ian Ogilvy.
This film was shot in Techiscope but is presented cropped and without the benefit of pan & scan, one is forced to look at whatever dominates the center of the frame. This unfortunately reduces Steele's appearance considerably as she is frequently dropped from both sides of the screen by not having a scope master to work from. This reviewer's advice to Alpha is to simply avoid transferring films that are in scope if the source print is unavailable.
THE SHE BEAST lacks absolute sharpness but is not splicy or scratchy; it looks about as good as any of the Italian spectacles and imports that have appeared on low-cost DVDs. Your reviewer was told a splendid 35mm print does exist in Italy but a king's ransom is owed on it so until the bill is paid and some entrepreneur obtains it for DVD release this presentation will have to suffice for now. (Christopher Dietrich)
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