The She Beast
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|The She Beast|
Film poster showcasing double bill with The Embalmer
|Directed by||Michael Reeves|
|Produced by||Paul M. Maslansky
|Written by||"Michael Byron" (Reeves)
"F. Amos Powell" (Charles B. Griffith)
|Music by||Ralph Ferraro
|Edited by||Nira Omri|
|Distributed by||Miracle Films (UK theatrical)|
The She Beast (Italian title: La Sorella di Satana; also known as Revenge of the Blood Beast) is a 1966 British-Italian horror film written and directed by Michael Reeves. The film stars Barbara Steele, John Karlsen and Ian Ogilvy. Although Ogilvy had already acted in a few television series in the early 1960s, this was his first full feature film debut. There is a restored widescreen version of the film on DVD released in 2009 by Dark Sky Films with an audio commentary by producer Maslansky and stars Ogilvy and Steele.
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During his reading, the movie flashes back roughly 200 years to a religious service, where a child shows up and reports the location of Vardella. Then by the leadership of the pastor, hysteria breaks out and the congregation sets out to find and kill the witch. However, one of the villagers warns the others against killing the witch, as he explains the Count must exorcise the witch firstly, lest she will not die and will linger on as a curse for generations to come.
Nevertheless, the congregation sets out and finds the witch. Upon finding her, the pastor directs the crowd to take her to the lake, where she will be impaled and dunked to death. As Vardella is tied into the chair, She curses the people and their descendants for what they are doing and threatens she will someday "be back." The Count and his attendant secretly watch the execution from a distance upon a hilltop, and seemingly purposely do not intervene. Then the story returns to the reflective Von Helsing in his cave.
Next, a young, newly married couple are traveling in a black Volkswagen Beetle through the Carpathians in Transylvania for their honeymoon. The husband, Philip (Ogilvy), realizes he is lost and stops to look at a map with his wife, Veronica (Steele). A lawman (Maslansky) happens by and Philip asks for directions and recommendations for overnight lodging.
When they arrive in Vaubrac, they find the town run down and unimpressive. But just before they were to drive on, the hotel owner, Ladislav Groper (Welles), happens upon them and offers them a room, bread and tea — attempting to accommodate their English traditions. While waiting for their food and tea, they notice Von Helsing strangely swinging on a nearby swing-set. After they toss aside their garlic that came with their food and tea, Von Helsing immediately comes up to explain why the garlic was in their tea — as protection against Satanism and Witchcraft. He then goes on a verbal diatribe explaining he is an aristocrat (albeit dispossessed of his castle by the current governmental regime) along with relating the history of the Von Helsing family and the Draculas. In the process, he cons them into buying him a bottle to drink. And wearing on, Von Helsing recounts the story and curse of Vardella the witch. However, the couple are skeptical.
Quickly tiring of the Count's recitation, the couple retire to their room for the evening. During their conversation, Groper rudely intrudes upon the couple's room without knocking, claiming there is no privacy in the People's Republic. Offended, Philip requests a different room but is denied. Nevertheless, once Groper leaves, the couple become romantic together. However they are interrupted again, this time by Groper watching their lovemaking through the window. Philip scrambles to beat up Groper. Returning to his wife, he wants to leave Vaubrac; but Veronica decides she wants to stay and reassures him that Groper is too badly beaten up to bother them again.
The next morning, they attempt to leave early, but Philip finds Groper stole the distributor cap from their car, of which he promptly retrieves. Driving down the road, Philip loses steering control of the Volkswagen and narrowly misses hitting a delivery truck head-on, but causing him to crash into a lake. Veronica's body is then possessed by the spirit of the 18th-century witch who was killed by the local villagers, and is now bent on avenging herself upon them. Both persons still unconscious, the truck driver (Ennio Antonelli), who has a bad local reputation with the police, retrieves Philip and what he thought was his wife, but was Vardella instead. He brings them back to Vaubrac, leaving them with Groper, so that the police would not accuse him of any wrongdoing.
Meanwhile, Philip comes to and inquires to Groper about his wife. When Philip realizes that Veronica is missing and something/someone else is in her place, he becomes enraged again at Groper, who denies knowing anything about who the other body is. Suddenly Von Helsing arrives and takes notice that what was mistaken as Veronica is indeed Vardella having returned. Then he reassures Philip that he can help him get his wife back.
Von Helsing asks Philip a series of questions regarding the accident, and then takes him back to his cave, where he lives. He begins reading from a record book entitled, "The Death of Vardella the Witch". Philip then grows frustrated and impatient with what he regards as unrelated to his missing wife, and finally leaves on foot in order to report the incident to the police. Von Helsing then goes in pursuit of him in his yellow roadster, an early model Citroën.
However, Von Helsing does not find Philip, but arrives back in town, where he visits Vardella, in order to bring her back to life. Meanwhile, Groper is heavily drinking, watching porn and gorging his face with food. The witch comes back to life, momentarily attacking and strangling Von Helsing, then leaves. Groper's niece (Lucretia Love) shows up horrified seeking protection from scary noises she had heard, which were due to the screeching Vardella had been making. However, Groper invites her in and attempts raping her. But breaking free of him, she escapes.
Groper goes after her, but once outside he is confronted by Philip, whom he clobbers with his bottle of alcohol, leaving him unconscious in the road to be run over by traffic. The truck driver happens by again, but swerves to miss him. Later Von Helsing comes upon him and drags him out of the road. Meanwhile, Groper is heavily drinking again, when all the sudden Vardella comes upon him and attacks and kills him with a hammer and sickle.
Von Helsing and Philip take off to find Vardella. Again, Philip wants to go to the police, but while driving, Von Helsing explains Vardella has returned and if she were to be gunned down by police, he would not be able to perform the exorcism necessary on the witch in order to bring Veronica back. Slowly, Philip begins believing in Von Helsing and what he says.
Meanwhile, back in town, there is an illegal cockfight going on; and Vardella has gone on a killing spree against the descendants of the people who had tortured and killed her hundreds of years before. On foot through town, Von Helsing and Philip begin searching for Vardella. Vardella shows up at the cockfight to get revenge on the villagers there. Von Helsing comes upon the scene and uses a syringe to drug the witch. They load her in his roadster and take her back to the hotel's kitchen and put her on ice for safekeeping. Then they go to Von Helsing's cave to pick up some ritual tools in order to exorcise Vardella.
After being jailed, the truck driver makes a deal to tell police where Vardella is in exchange for his freedom. He leads the police back to the hotel, where they find the drugged witch. The comrade police lieutenant intends to have Vardella autopsied and buried, which would ruin any chances of bringing Veronica back. Reneging, the police lieutenant takes the truck driver back into custody. And returning to the hotel from Von Helsing's cave, Philip and the Count find Vardella missing. So they head to the police station and steal back Vardella's body out from under them.
A car chase ensues, with Von Helsing and Philip in the paddy wagon and the police driving Von Helsing's roadster. The roadster momentarily stalls, enabling Von Helsing and Philip to evade them. However, Von Helsing realizes the ritual tools he needs to bring Veronica back are in his car, so they pull over and the police catch up with them. While laying in the paddy wagon, Vardella awakens from her drugged state. She then attacks the approaching police officers. Von Helsing uses his syringe to drug Vardella again, as well as the police officers.
They carry Vardella to the roadster and transport her to the lake, where they find the dunking chair. They strap her into the chair, perform a ritual and drop her into the water, where she disappears. Philip panics. But suddenly Veronica floats to the surface, and her husband retrieves her. Veronica and Philip are reunited.
In the end, the three of them are seen driving off in Von Helsing's Citroën, out of Transylvania to Czechoslovakia. Due to the havoc that Von Helsing wrought in Vaubrac, he decides to leave the country for England with his two new friends, although he feels his exorcism services might still be needed for future devilry in his native land. Light-heartedly, Philip jokes about the inhospitality of Vaubrac and is relieved by leaving. But on the other hand, Veronica seemingly has good feelings about Vaubrac and Transylvania altogether, claiming in the end, "I'll be back", echoing what Vardella had threatened before she was tortured and killed two hundred years earlier.
The film is both a combination of a horror story and a dark comedy, and satirizes the then Soviet Union. And the plot relies on an admixture combination of two legends: witchcraft and Dracula, that is, alluding to Veronica and Vardella as being the witches, while Von Helsing is a character from the Dracula stories, even though there are no vampires in this movie.
- Barbara Steele as Veronica
- John Karlsen as Count Von Helsing
- Ian Ogilvy as Philip
- Mel Welles as Ladislav Groper
- Joe 'Flash' Riley as The She-beast Witch (Vardella)
- Ennio Antonelli as the truck driver
- Lucretia Love as Groper's niece
- Michael Reeves as Michael Byron (writer)
The entire film was shot in 21 days. Many members of the crew appeared in the film as minor roles. Barbara Steele accepted a salary of $1000 for working one single day. She was forced to work that day for 18 hours.
In June 2010, Nick Coccellato of Eccentric Cinema gave the film a rating of five out of ten, writing "The She-Beast, AKA Revenge of the Blood Beast, is one of those movies that wouldn't be out of place on Mystery Science Theater 3000 back in the show's '90s heyday. The film is bad but not uninteresting, and there is a lot of the fun to be had in simply watching it unfurl with its lousy acting and overwrought direction […]"
Home media release
On 28 April 2009, Dark Sky Films released a DVD version of the film in an anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer with a Dolby 2.0 mono soundtrack. Special features include an image gallery and an audio commentary by producer Paul Maslansky and actors Ian Ogilvy and Barbara Steele.
- Hughes, Howard (2011). Cinema Italiano - The Complete Guide From Classics To Cult. London - New York: I.B.Tauris. ISBN 978-1-84885-608-0.
- Hughes, p.88
- Coccellato, Nick (5 June 2010). Lindsey, Brian, ed. "THE SHE-BEAST". Eccentric Cinema. Retrieved 2012-02-06.
- "The She-Beast". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2012-02-06.