Combustible Celluloid
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With: Randolph Scott, Helen Mack, Nigel Bruce, Helen Gahagan, Gustav von Seyffertitz, Samuel S. Hinds
Written by: Ruth Rose, Dudley Nichols, based on a novel by H. Rider Haggard
Directed by: Lansing C. Holden, Irving Pichel
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 103
Date: 07/12/1935

She (1935)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Sleeper of the Flame

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Based on a novel by H. Rider Haggard (King Solomon's Mines), She starts out as a rousing adventure to the frozen north, but winds up as a bizarre love triangle. Strapping hero Leo Vincey (Randolph Scott) teams up with scientist Horace Holly (Nigel Bruce) to find the "Flame of Life," which promises immortality. At a remote way station, Tanya (Helen Mack) joins them. They reach a mysterious castle ruled by the seemingly ageless "She" (Helen Gahagan), who believes that Leo is her long-lost lover finally returned to her. Pauline Kael called the movie "hilarious, terrible, essential," and she was right. The adventure comes to an abrupt halt when the travelers reach their destination, and turns into a ludicrous melodrama (co-written by Dudley Nichols). The entire mood also changes from rugged exteriors to exquisitely designed art deco interiors and fabulous costumes. Gahagan's stiff, chilly performance doesn't exactly help. Producer Merian C. Cooper hoped to follow up his hit King Kong (1933) with something even more impressive, although at best She is only a camp classic. However, composer Max Steiner -- who also worked on Kong -- provides another impressive musical score. Ray "Crash" Corrigan reportedly appears as a guard.

DVD Details: Kino Video originally released the film on DVD in 2003, but their new 2007 edition is a double-disc spectacular that features the new colorized version supervised by no less than Ray Harryhausen (he insists that Cooper originally wanted the film in color but couldn't afford it). The black-and-white version is also here for purists, but only the color version has chapter stops and a commentary track by Harryhausen and Cooper biographer Mark Cotta Vaz. The many bonus features include interviews, trailers, stills and comparisons to two other film versions of She, released in 1911 and 1925.

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