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The Making of She
(archived piece)

The following text was penned in early 2001 as the main feature for the second issue of Lee Sergeant (and the now defunct Hammer Films Society website's) fanzine, Hammered.
For the most part the article is in the style of one of my own Archive pieces which I then wrote regularly for this Hammer site; it examines the storyline and something of the production history of the film, as well as giving a personal appraisal. At the time the film was just shy of debuting on Region 2 dvd. I hope to post an amended version of the text (complete with illustrations) elsewhere on this website in the near future.
In the interests of archival interest, the original text is being represented in its entirety.

RJES 30/07/02 (updated 22/08/06)


SHE (an article published in "Hammered" - November 2001)


She sits rather awkwardly in the history of Hammer films. In the midst of the second gothic horror cycle, Michael Carreras flexed his muscles, and attempted to bring a wider diversity of product to the company.

Whilst undoubtedly keeping a certain "horrific" aspect, the story itself is a fantasy, an area it could be argued, more suitable to rival company Amicus.

She is not a film I have great affection for either, so sitting down to the video again recently I found myself asking just why do so many Hammer fans hold it in high esteem?




The setting is Palestine 1918. The end of the Great War, and Englishmen, Major Holly (Peter Cushing), his valet Job (Bernard Cribbins) and colleague Leo Vincey (John Richardson), are short of money, and eager to stay in the Middle East rather than return to Cambridge. Leo is lured by local girl Ustane (Rosenda Monteros) to a luxurious house where he comes face to face with Ayesha (Ursula Andress) and is immediately enchanted by her, and her gift of a ring and map.
Encouraged to find her, he drags Holly and Job back to the house which has now been abandoned. Convinced that the ring is in fact from the fabled civilisation of Kuna, and the map will lead them there, they set out across the desert to find it.
Leo seems to know the way instinctively, and the time it will take them to reach the city. They are attacked by Arabs, but met by Ustane who has been following them. She takes them to her own small village and is greeted by her father Haumeid (Andre Morell). There it is revealled to the group that Ayesha rules the village as a tyrant, and that she is interested in Leo because he is the very image of her former lover Killikrates.

Once inside the city Ayesha is revealed to have lived for 2,000 years, waiting for Killikrates return, having killed him in a fit of jealousy before. Bewitched by Ayesha, Leo is promised power and everlasting life with her, obtainable through the sacred blue flame, the secret of which Ayesha holds.

Billali (Christopher Lee) who had been the high priest, and had brought Leo to Ayesha, has eyes on the power himself. As Ayesha and Leo prepare for the flame, Billali tries to enter himself, fighting with Leo before Ayesha stabs Billali in the back, he dies grasping for the flame.

As Leo and Ayesha enter, they are rejuvenated before suddenly Ayesha begins to age and crumble. Holly suggests that if one enters the flame a second time it takes away the gift it gives. Leo is now in torment, living forever, but before he can enter the flame again, it turns bright orange again.

As the flames burn, he vows to be waiting for it when the flame turns cold again...




H.(Henry) Rider Haggard was born in Norfolk, England in 1856, the son of a barrister, and trained for the foreign office, ending up in South Africa during the Zulu wars.

On his eventual return to England he took up writing, and produced the phenomenally successful King Soloman’s Mines in 1885 drawing inspiration from his time in Africa. On the back of that he would write Allan Quatermain (not published until 1887).

She continued his African inspired novels, and drew heavily upon the successes of King Solomon’s Mines. She was itself written in a mere six weeks in 1886, and published the following year to rousing success (whilst oddly enough, the author holidayed in Egypt).

Over the next twenty years Haggard would return to the area many times for inspiration in his novels, whose popularity went into decline. Haggard would also return to the fabled Ayesha twice more in Ayesha - The Return Of She (1905) and She And Allan (1921). Haggard died in 1925.


Haggard’s novels had retained a large appeal with readers, particularly King Solomon’s Mines and She. And both had been the subject of film adaptations previously (She was filmed by RKO in 1935). She would first officially become a Hammer project in 1962, when Anthony Hinds commissioned a script from John Temple-Smith, with a view to selling the film to Universal.
Temple-Smith’s script dwelled on a series of incidents of "physical danger and violence which are box office today". The picture painted, is very much the usual Hammer sensationalism, and yet the usual blend of violence and scares for the younger members of the audience, and a healthy blend of sex for the adults (which survives in form in the final cut).

James Carreras spun the web in 1963: "It will be the biggest picture we’ve ever made - it will have spectacle, colour, ‘scope, and one of the most horrifically exciting climaxes since the disintegration of Dracula became a world talking point five years ago."

The script itself would go through a number of rewrites, and reworkings. Initially abandoned, Berkely Mather (who had also written Dr No’s screenplay) reworked the story during the summer of 1963, and was again reworked by Cash On Demand co-scribe David T Chantler, giving new stress to action, and repacing the story, eliminating dramatic drawls.


It was Seven Arts who brought on Ursula Andress to the project. The actress was still contracted to the company, through a deal which had been made with her husband at the time, John Derek. Andress herself had garnered a gathering reputation with her starring role in the James Bond film, Dr. No.
Michael Carreras claimed Hammer’s was the decision to cast Andress, not Seven Arts (though a collaboration seems likely), "Casting the title role was of course, our biggest problem. As soon as we saw Ursula Andress walk out of the sea in Dr. No we knew there was only one woman to play Haggard’s Queen. We had to wait two years before she was free of other commitments, but it was worth it."

Following the success of She, Andress would command too large a salary for Hammer to use again, despite original hopes that she could be reunited with John Richardson in One Million Years BC.

Seven Arts helped to raise the initial budget of £225,000, though there were still problems in getting a distributor assigned to the project. Universal Pictures, whom Hammer had originally hoped on selling to, remained doubtful throughout, and further negotiations with American independent companies including AIP fell by the wayside as well. MGM would eventual commit, meaning the project could finally go into shooting in the summer of 1964.


Whilst Anthony Hinds had been assigned to the film from the start, it would be Michael Carreras (something of a prodigal son at this stage in Hammer’s development), who would carry the project through as producer, relishing in his chance to make a big budget spectacular - a direction he firmly believed the company should move into.

Direction duties were taken by Robert Day, a Hammer newcomer, who had a track record with MGM including adventure subjects. The production team included a number of familiar faces, with special effects being taken care of by Les Bowie’s Bowie Films Ltd, with Aida Young as associate producer, James Needs taking on the job of supervising editor, and James Bernard creating the score for the film.

Bernard’s score permeates the film, and was said to be one of his favourite pieces. It blended perfectly horror and adventure and romance, all encompassed in the enthralling theme music. Bernard’s work on She would also be the beginning of a long association with musical supervisor, Philip Martell.
Lyrics were said to have been written for the theme, but never recorded, and Bernard also composed a religious chant with star Christopher Lee, which owing to constraints of schedule was never recorded either.

Lee himself was beset with personal problems (according to his autobiography). Possibly this influences his rather morbid and macabre performance in the film.


As Hammer’s biggest production to date, they could be afforded the luxury of exotic location filming in and around southern Israel, in Eilat and the Negev Desert. Peter Cushing recounted the political difficulties of the time, and the potential dangers "While we were in the Danago desert, the Arab sector was quite near. They just sat there with their machine guns in their laps. In the meantime we were popping off our prop guns hoping we would not be attacked. We were lucky, they seemed to enjoy watching us."


The location shoot was beset with other problems, probably not helped by the working conditions in the unbearable heat, meaning filming was impossible in the afternoons, with days starting at 4am.

The shoot began in Israel on 24th August 1964, and was briefly held up when John Richardson contracted dysentery. In the short break afforded to the cast, Cribbens, Cushing and wife all made use of the local kibbutz, and spent time snorkelling around the coral. The special effects caused other more serious problems...
Bernard Cribbins was hospitalised following an accident during the filming of the Arab attack scenes. A large number of explosives were being used and the scene had to be shot several times; unfortunately during one of the takes, Cribbins landed on one of the explosives which exploded close to his anus. He shrugged off the incident the following day as he insisted on returning to work "If I’d been t’other way down I might have been blinded."
One critic commented on his performance in the film as trying unsuccessfully to get laughs by adopting a silly walk. Though, if truth be told, I completely miss this little foible, every time I watch it!!

One of the special effects men, was also struck by one of the charges variously reported as having lost either a finger or his entire right hand in the accident.
On a lighter note, Cushing had continual problems with his camel, Daisy, "a mode of transport I do not recommend to the uninitiated, especially when that capricious quadruped takes it into its mulish head to sit down and/or up, which was all too often in my experience."


Back in the studio matters continued to be dogged. Aside from Lee’s private problems (which resulted him running off set in one instance), Andress proved to be rather tough to work with. The actress had had relatively little experience, and evidently there was a certain degree of doubt about her talent.

The schedule rapidly fell behind causing a number of scenes to be dropped. The film evidently had many problems, and Hammer make-up man Roy Ashton was brought on board at the eleventh hour (probably by Carreras) to do the transformation scene at the end.
This upset the make-up artist Ashton, to have been ignored the opportunity to do all the make-up for the film, but nonetheless he proceeded with his usual flair to produce a fantastic finale.

Shooting eventually wrapped on 17th October.


In post production during November Andress was dubbed once again (as in Dr. No) by Monica Van der Syl, the result being a somewhat odd concoction. Monica seems a little high and childish for Andress, though in the end, is probably exactly what the character of Ayesha needs.
Inexplicably though, English stalwart Andre Morell, was also dubbed throughout the film by Hammer regular George Pastell. An undignifying action, and surely hardly needed. Morell was a well-known and respected actor, as was Pastell.

The film finally wrapped at a grand cost of £323,778.


She was submitted to the BBFC gaining an "U" certificate on 22nd February 1965 (with some minor unrecorded cuts), and running time of 104 minutes 28 seconds (9324 feet).


Its release on 18th April 1965 in the UK, and 1st September in the US, was well received. Hammer had managed to pull off a success with a big-budget fantasy film, carving a possible niche in an alternative to horror.
The film sold itself on Andress’ reputation, as "THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN IN THE WORLD", a rather large boast. The press book material was as indulgent, claiming "people talk about [her] as though she invented sex."
But as always Hammer was too quick to jump onto a potential success without properly thinking the product through. Whilst One Million Years BC was a success, and in a slightly similar vein, other dinosaur films, the historical Viking Queen, and the piss-poor sequel to She, The Vengeance of She all failed to keep the flame alive.

Vengeance of She finally saw the light of day in 1968. With only the loosest ties to Haggard, Leo returns in his new guise of Killikrates waiting for the return of Ayesha (in the form of beauty, Olinka Berova), in the late 20th century. Its a sorry affair, and an ill-chosen variation. Needless to say, it did not perform terribly well at the box-office.

Roy Ashton sketch for the aging make-up of Ursula Andress in She. Image (c) Elizabeth Ashton / Tomahawk Press, used by permission(To the left is one of Roy Ashton’s original make-up sketches for the aging scenes of Ursula Andress, courtesy of Tomahawk Press / Elizabeth Ashton)

She itself is actually fairly stunning in many respects, with much made of the exotic Israeli location filming. The arid deserts and weary trek, are well composed and genuinely beautiful to watch.

Once one gets inside the city, much of the adventure for me is over, and one is overindulged in Ayesha’s childish squabbling.
The opening of the film is rather enticing and haunting aided by clever editing of scenes from later in the film, over which the titles are scrolled and James Bernard’s eclectic melody sings out. The juxtaposition of sheer beauty and horror are themes carried for the duration, never more so than in the climax, as Richardson and Andress are bathed in the cool light of the blue flame, in a pseudo-sexual torrent, only to be repelled at the true sight of the aged Ayesha, crumbling to dust before his eyes.

Andress gives a pleasing appearance, though any real judge of her acting ability is impossible with the dubbed voice. As mentioned previously though, the dubbing makes her out rather as a child. As we learn of her childish jealousy, which not only caused her to kill Killikrates in the past, but which tempts her again, certainly to kill Ustane (the delightfully horrific scene which follows her off-camera death, when Ustane’s ashes are returned to her father). Ayesha has had so much power, she is essentially a spoilt brat, and one can’t help but feel Leo is a fool for falling for her.

She is very much a love story too, but a false love story. Whilst Leo is supposed to fall for Ayesha, because he is Killikrates reborn, he gives his affection too easily, not only to Ayesha (whom he is willing to follow across the continent without any knowledge of who she is or he is supposed to be), but also to the timid Ustane.
Ustane too falls for Leo instantly, and refers to him as "My Leo" within mere hours of their first meeting. Holly warns Leo about his desires on a number of occasions, and it is only at the end that the foolish nature of Leo’s impetuousness is revealed.

Cushing is on top form, given a fresh role to play, and sporting a fitting beard. Cribbens and Cushing would team up again the following year in Amicus production Daleks Invasion Earth : 2150 AD. They work well together, and their scenes in the tavern, with the dancers are rather fun.
Richardson comes across as falsely as Andress at times. Handsome, but appearing to be dubbed throughout. Leo at least is false, credit due to Richardson for that portrayal.

Of the supporting cast, Christopher Lee appears rather too briefly as Billali, and is not given sufficient screen time to establish his motive. Monteros as Ustane is suitably played, and only the dubbing of Morell incenses the viewer. Giving two spliced performances and robbing the audience the chance of enjoying either Pastell of Morell to the full.

Bernard Robinson’s sets are as fantastic and beautiful as ever. Similar in feel to Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (the entire film in fact, with ageless loves, killings fuelled by jealousy and revenge, taverns, desert, eternal life, priests, and archaeological elements), but with a broader vaster appeal. There is much to be found in the sets which bristle with detail and affection.
Costumes are appropriate for the most, though one doubts Ayesha’s choice of flimsy white shroud or bizarre plumage at times (I find the plumage rather off-putting). The tavern scenes at the start feature some typically revealing girls, and the guards are a little too like Roman soldiers with their great red outfits and shields.

Bernard’s score is beautiful, though lacking enough variation. It perfectly compliments the subject matter and manner of presentation.

Direction is well-paced, with the opening titles, tavern scene, Arab attack and the final reel coming in for special attention. The choreographed presentations in the throne room are very effective, and Day contrasts beauty and horror throughout. Whilst one recoils in the horrific actions caused by Ayesha’s rule, one is enchanted by her beauty and the elegance of the gift she can provide.
Photography is good, with some notable use of filters to create the flash-back. In fact She does come across rather well to a modern audience (its imminent DVD release in the UK, will no doubt arouse a returned interest). Wonderfully sensual, with a slight Mills & Boon edge (the instant love affair, somewhat doomed). Certainly intelligent, and refreshing amidst the mundane suckings of the undead, which was Hammer’s mainstay.
Haggard fans have often been critical, viewing Hammer’s adaptation as rather loose, aiming particular criticism at the omission of the book’s Cambridge openings.

But straight adaptation isn’t always good drama, and Hammer do well to spin the tale in the way they do. Viewed in its widescreen version (shot in Hammerscope, a near enough 2.35:1 ratio), it comes across as a beautiful film, something missing in the fullscreen format.

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text is (c) copyright RJE Simpson 2001
first published in Issue 2 of Hammered fanzine, summer 2001.
Introductory text is (c) RJE Simpson 2002
Roy Ashton sketch of Ayesha is (c) Elizabeth Ashton
Not to be reused without permission of the author. Email to
This page posted 30th July 2002.
Reformatted and reposted 22nd August 2006.


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Site launched Sunday 8th August 1999