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Kino on Video presents
She (1935)

"My empire is of the imagination."
- Hash-A-Mo-Tep (Helen Gahagan)

Review By: Jeff Wilson   
Published: August 29, 2007

Stars: Randolph Scott, Helen Gahagan, Helen Mack, Nigel Bruce
Director: Irving Pichel

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for violence
Run Time: 01h:42m:10s
Release Date: August 21, 2007
UPC: 738329051426
Genre: adventure

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- C+C-C B+

DVD Review

H. Rider Haggard (1856-1925) began writing adventure novels following an eventful time spent in the British military during the 1870s. His first success was King Solomon's Mines, but his greatest legacy was the 1887 novel She. It proved an enormously popular work, particularly so in the realm of motion pictures, where it has seen numerous adaptations. One of the most famous of those comes now to DVD via Kino, in a buffed up and extras-laden edition. This 1935 version was produced by Merian C. Cooper, coming off his own huge success in King Kong. She would fare much worse commercially than the king of the apes, and that's not much of a surprise, given its so-so performances and stretches of tedium.

Leo Vincey (Randolph Scott) arrives at the home of his dying uncle to hear a fabulous tale: in a distant, hidden land, the secret of eternal youth awaits. His ancestor, John Vincey, apparently discovered it, but never made it back alive, ironically enough. Leo takes up the mantle to search for the family legacy, accompanied by Horace Holly (Nigel Bruce), a friend of Vincey's uncle. Their search leads them to the Arctic, where an glacier harbors the city of Hash-A-Mo-Tep, otherwise known as She Who Must Be Obeyed (Helen Gahagan). As a dead ringer for his ancestor, Leo finds himself the object of Ayesha's close attention, but the secret of eternal youth may carry a higher price than Leo wishes to pay.

Cooper originally wished to shoot the film in color, and under that line of reasoning, Legend Films commissioned film legend Ray Harryhausen to help work on a colorized version of the film. I understand the commercial reasoning for entering into projects like this, but I have yet to see results that look anything approaching worthwhile. The color version looks terrible, much like every other colorized film I've seen, and does nothing to appreciably heighten the impact of a film that isn't a classic anyway. Legend Films tries to shove colorization down the viewer's throats more than once in this package, to no avail. All that said, it's there if you want it, and if you don't want it, ignore it.

The film itself is decent but nothing earth-shaking; the performances are often mediocre, not helped by a script that is clunky. Scott's line deliveries too often sound like he's just reciting from memory, rather than acting. As She, Gahagan is chilly, better at being a tyrant than anything else. No wonder she went into politics after her acting career. The film comes to life in sporadic bursts, but the momentum leading to the finale is killed dead with a lengthy, opulent procession before a character is to be sacrificed. It does nothing to serve the story, and gets boring quickly. Still, you can see why they wanted to shoot something like this in color. Max Steiner's score is ahead of its time and is one reason to see the film, along with the Art Deco inspired sets. I presume the film has plenty of admirers, given the attention lavished upon this release, but there are better adventure films out there to spend your time and money on. If you are a fan of the film, then there's enough here to appreciate and work your way through, not the least of which is lost footage re-inserted back into the film, bringing it back to its original 101-minute length.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The original version of the film looks solid if not spectacular, with a rather too-soft image for my liking. The color version looks worse, with really poor color, especially on fleshtones. Legend Films appear to have added a lightning effect to the "flame of life" sequence, which if so, takes their tampering even further beyond pointless. There are no subtitles.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The mono soundtrack doesn't appear to have had much work done on it, and sounds about average for a film of this vintage.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 13 cues and remote access
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Things to Come, Plan 9 From Outer Space, Carnival of Souls, House on Haunted Hill, Night of the Living Dead
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Ray Harryhausen and Mark Cotta Vaz
Packaging: Double Scanavo
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Interviews with Ray Harryhausen, John Morgan, and James V. D'Arc
  2. Production stills, star portraits, pre-production shots, behind the scenes shots
  3. Advertising and promotional materials
  4. Movie program shots
Extras Review: A mix of quality and junk here, thankfully heavier on the quality side. Getting past the junk first, then: first up are two Harryhausen interview segments, one on the film in general (12m:36s) and another titled Colorization with Ray Harryhausen (09m:00s), which sees Harryhausen go to bat for the wretched colorizing job done on this film, under the old and moronic argument that "kids won't watch these films in nasty old and black and white." It's not even worth getting into further. If you like the colorization job, this is for you. Also on the junk side are new trailers for She and other films in the Legends catalog, all subjected to their colorizing scheme. Skip them.

On the plus side, there is an interview with composer John Morgan (17m:11s), which gets into detail about Max Steiner's excellent score, discussing its genesis and overall place in the film and the history of the film score. Also of interest is an interview with James V. D'Arc, curator of Merian Cooper's papers at BYU; he goes over Cooper's career and the film. She: Visions From the Past (29m:11s) presents scenes from the 1911 and 1925 versions of the film, with the relevant scenes from the 1935 as well, for comparison purposes. Finally, there is a good amount of stills, covering all aspects of the production; like a similar ad materials gallery, they are presented in slide show format, forcing the viewer to pause if a longer look is wished.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

She was a failure in its initial release, and it's not too hard to see why, given a blah script and equally lukewarm performances. Still, this double disc set from Kino gives the film a showcase that fans will no doubt appreciate, despite trying to give viewers the hard sell on a worthless colorized version.


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