She (1935) – Irving Pichel

I return to the action genre in the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film. Having seen the main title, Raiders of the Lost Ark countless times, and of course, having written about it, I move now onto the recommendations following the title.

Irving Pichel directs this epic adventure, She, based on the H. Rider Haggard tale. Leo Vincey (Randolph Scott) sets out to find a secret land (for some reason transposed from Africa to the Arctic). With his friend Horace (Nigel Bruce) at his side, they set out to discover the hidden world, and to learn the secret of its inhabitants’ immortality.

Along the way they are joined by Tanya Dugmore (Helen Mack) and soon they discover the magical world, and the timeless ruler, known as She (Helen Gahagan) who believes Leo is actually his ancestor, and her lover, John Vincey.

Facing avalanches and untold menaces and discoveries, the heroes pull the audience along on a fairly enjoyable adventure.

The discovery of She contrasts with everything that the heroes encounter before hand. Most of her worshippers seem to live in an almost animalistic tribal state, but She has a gloriously appointed home, luxuriating in wealth.

Within her sheltered world she talks of the Flame of Life, the key to immortality, and hopes that Leo will join her, but I have to be honest, if this was where he would have to live, I would pass. It’s a wide, empty space that lacks any real emotion or human connection.

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She tries to convince Leo he is John Vincey, and he seems to be falling for it, and the lure of immortality, even as Tanya tries to remind him of what his humanity really is, contrasting it with She’s cruelty. Then Tanya confronts She, pleading for Leo’s life, because she has fallen in love with the young adventurer.

As the ritual (which is all about the spectacle apparently) for Leo’s immortality grows closer, what will happen? How will things pay out? And how did they create these giant sets? And what if She uses it as a chance to get rid of Tanya?

From there, it’s a big chase and escape through treacherous passages, but honestly, the action sequences take to long to occur, and are way to short.

The film has some big ideas, but I’m not completely sold on how it’s done.

I wasn’t as captivated by the film as I had hoped to be, but it wasn’t terrible, it is enjoyable, as mentioned, but it wasn’t all I wanted and ends with a little too much saccharine for me.

Still there are some interesting adventure titles coming up in the recommendations from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film and I’ve only covered a couple of them before. Stay tuned!

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