She Beast (1966)

  • Year: 1966
  • Released: 01 Jun 1966
  • Country: United Kingdom, Italy
  • Adwords: N/A
  • IMDb:
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  • Metacritics:
  • Available in: 720p, 1080p,
  • Language: English
  • MPA Rating: GP
  • Genre: Comedy, Horror, Thriller
  • Runtime: 79 min
  • Writer: Charles B. Griffith, F. Amos Powell, Michael Reeves
  • Director: Michael Reeves
  • Cast: Barbara Steele, John Karlsen, Ian Ogilvy
  • Keywords: witch, monster, transylvania, supernatural, revenge, voyeur,
71% – Critics
24% – Audience

She Beast Storyline

Vardella, a witch who was improperly killed in the late 18th century, vows to return and kill those involved with her prosecution. In the current day Romania, a newlywed couple gets lost and ends up in the same Transylvanian village where the earlier events occurred. After the hotel owner spies on them making love, they leave town hurriedly. The steering mechanism of their car goes amiss and they plunge into a lake. The groom escapes unharmed, but the bride reappears as the apparently dead body of the witch. The local Count Von Helsing, displaced from his castle into a cave, agrees to help the groom exorcise the witch and bring his wife back. Things get complicated when the local police accuse the groom of murdering his wife. Their case falls apart, however, when Von Helsing steals the body the body the police are holding and wakes it up. Then it is a wild goose chase until the groom and Von Helsing can properly put an end to the witch. As the witch is drowned for good in the lake, the bride floats to the surface gasping for breath.—Garon Smith

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She Beast Movie Reviews

A Formidable Film, Worth Rediscovering Thanks to Dark Sky

An English couple are vacationing in Communist Romania… don’t ask me why. After a bad run-in with a local innkeeper appropriately named Groper, they run their car into the lake. The man (Ian Ogilvy) is saved, but pulled up with him is not his wife (Barbara Steele), but a 200-year old witch named Vardella.

Now, the first thing you might be asking is this: why would Dark Sky Films, distributor of some of the finest gems in horror and exploitation, release a film that has been in the public domain for years and not very widely praised? There’s a very good answer to that: because Dark Sky, among their many other talents, takes one man’s trash and turns it into another man’s treasure. They somehow uncovered an original print, and have given us the film in beautiful widescreen with a very nice, crisp picture… and if that isn’t enough, they tracked down Ogilvy and Steele for an exclusive audio commentary. (Also, if you’re like me, you’ll appreciate the subtitles.) Can you beat that?

Seriously, though, the film isn’t even bad. The characters are interesting and the story has a smooth flow. Really, it’s the characters that sell this film. VonHelsing is an interesting modern incarnation of his namesake. The Romanians have a great comedic value with their communist jokes. After one man is found dead, a policeman turns to another and asks, “Is he talking?” The other says, “No, he’s dead.” So the first one says, “That’s obstruction of justice.” And then shortly after we get a chase scene that some critics have frowned on for its silliness, but I wonder if they hadn’t been paying attention — the cops were hilarious throughout the film.

Writer/director Michael Reeves has to be given plenty of credit for this. In his early twenties when he made this (before moving on to his masterpiece, “Witchfinder General”), it’s a good tale in the same vein as later Hammer Horror stories. The only real complaint I have is the top billing for Barbara Steele, who only appears in the film for maybe fifteen minutes. I understand her popularity at the time, and she’s something of a horror icon, but it’s a bit misleading to make her so prominent in the advertising.

Thank you, Dark Sky, for taking what was a film dead in the water and reviving it. Modern horror fans may find it a bit slow and bulky, but anyone who loves the classics will find this appealing with plenty of good scenes and grisly visuals — eye gouging, impalement… witches beware! A truly enjoyable experience.

Barbara Steele Away

“In the 18th Century, a terrible witch is punished by the townspeople she terrorized by being drowned in a lake. Two hundred years later, a newlywed couple is driving near the lake when their car crashes into the water. The husband comes to the surface unharmed but his young bride emerges from the water possessed by the spirit of the witch, looking for revenge upon the descendants of the townspeople who had killed her,” according to the DVD sleeve’s synopsis.

Writer/director Michael Reeves’s “The Sister of Satan” is an exasperating feature. After showing great promise with “Witchfinder General” (1968), Mr. Reeves died of a drug overdose. Although this film (aka “The She Beast”) should not be considered representative, the opening and a few other scenes are nicely done. The idea to bring the story into the “Dracula universe” was a good one – but, the comic aspects do not fit. Worst of all, the sizzling pairing of Ian Ogilvy (as Philip) and Barbara Steele (as Veronica) is given short shrift.

***** The Sister of Satan (1966) Michael Reeves ~ Ian Ogilvy, Barbara Steele, John Karlsen

SHE BEAST (Michael Reeves, 1966) **

Michael Reeves’ official directorial debut – after his stint as an assistant director on CASTLE OF THE LIVING DEAD (1964; his modest contribution here is, erroneously, sometimes exaggerated by his cultists) – is, likewise, an Italian production of the Horror variety. Filmed under the title of REVENGE OF THE BLOOD BEAST and officially released in Italy as SISTER OF Satan (although, LAKE OF Satan, is apparently yet another name attributed to it over there!), the film’s best-known moniker is SHE BEAST – which is how it has been released on DVD, first by the budget outfit Alpha and, more recently, by the more respectable label Dark Sky Films.

Even though Reeves’ entire cinematic output consists of merely four titles, he managed the enviable feat of working with one genre icon apiece: Christopher Lee in CASTLE OF THE LIVING DEAD, Barbara Steele in SHE BEAST, Boris Karloff in THE SORCERERS (1967) and Vincent Price in WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968), his last (and, undoubtedly, best) work. Actually, the contribution of Barbara Steele – the then-reigning ‘Scream Queen’ of Italian horror movies, ever since her breakthrough dual roles in (yet another legendary genre director) Mario Bava’s BLACK Sunday (1960) – to the film under review amounted to just one 22-hour day of the 18-day shooting schedule; her agent at the time, David Niven Jr., only alerted her of this clause on the day before she came on the set and, although she was a trouper, Steele had a major falling-out with producer Paul Maslansky…although, judging by the cordial and lively Audio Commentary on the Dark Sky DVD, any animosity between the two has long since faded away! Joined in this discussion is the film’s nominal lead and veritable Michael Reeves mascot, Ian Ogilvy; they had been schoolmates in their teenage years and Ogilvy would go on to star in all of Reeves’ directorial output.

The film opens with a witch-hunting sequence that anticipates the more notorious ones in WITCHFINDER GENERAL; the victim of the ‘trial by water’ (or, more exactly, stake through the heart!) has to be one of the ugliest female monsters to appear on celluloid and, in fact, was actually portrayed by a colored dancer sporting heavy – and highly effective – make-up…with hideous tooth-work and shriek-laden voice to match! Incidentally, one of the actor’s winding down activities on the set (according to Ogilvy) was trying to hitch rides from passing cars in full “She Beast” get-up…obviously, to the stopping drivers’ eternal chagrin! The cast also includes three other moderately familiar names of the period: John Karlsen (as the modern-day eccentric witch-hunter Count Von Helsing {sic}!), Mel Welles (as a boozing lecher of an inn-keeper) and Lucretia Love (appearing – in one of two surprisingly racy scenes in the film – as an innocent villager assaulted by Welles, just before he gets his own comeuppance from the rampaging titular creature); curiously enough, the other brief spot of nudity is provided by La Steele herself, during a night-time lovemaking scene with husband Ogilvy, that is witnessed by ‘peeping tom’ Welles – who is subsequently beaten up within an inch of his life by the understandably incensed guest!

Apart from Welles, the American side of the production is represented by producer Maslansky and second-unit director/uncredited co-screenwriter Charles B. Griffith; film connoisseurs will immediately associate the first with the POLICE ACADEMY franchise and the second (like Welles himself) with the earlier days of the Roger Corman stable. Despite both Maslansky and Griffith having worked on some intriguing fantasy stuff (CASTLE OF THE LIVING DEAD itself, 1972’s DEATH LINE, 1975’s RACE WITH THE DEVIL and 1977’s DAMNATION ALLEY, as well as two 1957 Corman productions, NOT OF THIS EARTH and THE UNDEAD respectively), unfortunately, it is their comedic vein which comes to the fore here in a truly misjudged and overstretched climactic “Keystone Kops”-type slapstick car chase (seemingly needed to pad out the running time to feature-length)! This not only involves an uncredited Maslansky himself – as one of three bumbling local cops, anticipating the similarly inept pursuing duo in Wes Craven’s LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972)! – in a couple of mildly amusing pratfalls, but also the faintly surrealistic and completely illogical presence of an unknown motorcyclist that insistently reappears throughout this sequence!