She (1984)

I find myself imagining the writers conference for this film as I write this.  It must have involved ideas scribbled on cards, stuck to a dart, then thrown randomly at a bulletin board and tied together into a vague semblance of order.

Thrown by monkeys, that is.

Forget the novel by H.Rider Haggard.  It doesn’t exactly have nothing to do with this film, but it comes uncomfortably close.  We have the woman, She, who is the god of a small enclave, which appears to be the only bit actually taken from the book.  Apparently, this is a fairly common arrangement as every little community seems to have its own personal god.  As in the book, She is apparently immortal, as long as she bathes in a mystic hot tub (I guess they couldn’t afford a mystic flame), but other than being “eternally” young, there really isn’t anything else divine about her.

Mind you, as it’s only been 23 years since whatever it was that destroyed civilization happened, She must have done some pretty fast work to have achieved godhood in such a short time without any obvious divine powers.  After all, one of her rival false gods can at least actually shoot beams out of his eyes and cause things to fly about the room just by willing it.

We never learn what this Apocalyptic event was, or what it did, or why everyone has his own neighborhood deity, or why the bad guys dress in a hodgepodge of leftover sports uniforms.

In many respects this one seems closer to fantasy or sword and sorcery despite its post-Apocalyptic setting.  She fights knights in armor, a robot Frankenstein monster, a huge bearded guy in a pink tutu, and an army of bandage-wrapped mutants, whose leader’s arms fall off easily.

And, of course, we all know that an arrogant female warrior “god” surrounded by followers chanting her name, who regularly murders (sacrifices?) good looking guys in her bed, is going to risk her life to help a wandering pair of strangers trying to get their sister back…

The best (and weirdest) part, by far, is the wacky performance of David Traylor as Xenon, a non-stop, non-sequitur barrage of comic impressions reminiscent of Robin Williams in Aladdin, punctuated by something even more remarkable and unexpected.  Traylor is best remembered for his stint as a clown on Italian TV, and is definitely putting his skills to good use here, even if its only claim to fitting in this film is that it doesn’t fit.

One time strongman actor, Gordon Mitchell (of The Giant of Metropolis fame) shows up as the villain, almost unrecognizable behind all the wrinkles.

Sandahl Bergman, who stars, was obviously cashing in on her Conan the Barbarian role, and one can, if one squints hard enough, see this as some absurd sort of an attempt to combine The Road Warrior and Conan.

It’s all strange, though, and some of the bits are quite funny, even if the whole never amounts to as much as the sum of its parts.  It never quite overcomes the “blah” quality so many of these goofy Italian films have, and never quite achieves the  delirious weirdness that would have turned this into a “cult classic.”

And if you’re looking for a film version of the novel, try the impressive 1935 version produced by Meriam C. Cooper.

Or even the Hammer version with Ursula Andress.

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