Blu-ray Review: She (Special Edition) | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Friday, August 14th, 2020  

She (Special Edition)

Studio: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

Jan 15, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

She is an underrated, oft-forgotten post-nuke gem from the early ‘80s: it’s impossibly weird, and metal as hell.

Very loosely inspired by the 19th century novel by H. Rider Haggard, She is set 23 years after “The Cancellation,” a catastrophic but never-detailed event apocalyptic which left humanity living in nomadic, warring tribes, or transformed into powerful mutants. When heroic brothers Tom and Dick and their sister Harri (yep) arrive in a traders’ camp, the whole group is accosted by a dangerous mob of Norks, who are essentially Nazis that leftover football helmets and clown suits. The boys are left for dead while the sister is taken away to the Nork palace, setting off the movie-length rescue mission.

Tom and Dick eventually happen into the kingdom of She (Conan the Barbarian’s Sandahl Bergman), an Amazonian ruler who is worshipped as a living goddess by her people. After briefly kidnapping her, She begrudgingly agrees to assist the two men, bringing along her tough-as-nails female bodyguard to round out their rescue party.

Their encounters along the way are where the movie is at its bonkers best. The first sign the movie is taking itself less-than-seriously comes when She puts herself through some type of test, journeying into a cave where she battles a series of colorful creatures, from a trio of samurai and a roman gladiator, to a robo-Frankenstein monster, who literally burst from shipping crates. (You have to wonder how long they were waiting in those boxes for her arrival.) When she finally defeats the Franken-bot, its neck releases some steam before its head explodes, and the body continues to lurch around in comical slow motion.

Along their journey north, our heroes have a run-in with a cadre of decadent vampires, a behemoth in a tutu who works for a mad scientist who dresses like George Washington, a cult leader with telekinetic abilities, and an immortal bridgekeeper who multiplies each time he’s cut apart by a sword. This last character may be the film’s craziest: it’s like they found somebody who could do a passable impression of Robin Williams’ stand-up act, dressed him in a sailor suit, and let him improv for several minutes straight. Each time one of our heroes gets frustrated enough to lop off one of his limbs, another copy of this guy sprouts up from the severed part. It’s just as grating on the audience as it is for the heroes – but, the filmmakers seem to know that. This is where I was finally convinced they weren’t making just another cheap apocalyptic film or post-nuke parody, but art.

If not art, at least, then something for the stoner crowd. The production value manages to look both very cheap but also fantastic for this sort of film; the movie opens with some cheap illustration that looks like something put together by Ralph Bakshi’s interns, but it’s perfect for setting the movie’s tone. The film was shot in Italy, and so the castle sets are real, as are the bombed-out buildings used for the Nork kingdom. The costumes are bright, varied, and memorable – even when we’re not sure whether they were actually planned, or the extras were just asked to put together whatever silly costumes they could from pieces left over from other movies. (There are lots of hybrid gladiator and toga outfits in the film – unsurprising, given then number of peplum shot nearby.) The movie’s original score is provided by none other than Rick Wakeman, keyboardist for the prog rock act Yes; additional, heavy metal music cues are supplied by Motorhead, who composed original instrumentals for the movie’s action scenes.  

Weirder than is possible to put into words, She is absolutely worth seeking out for any fan of cheesy movies or post-apocalyptic ‘80s films. It’s a bizarre gem worthy of a larger cult following.

On Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray release, She looks far better than it has any business looking. Colors are bright, and details are perhaps a little too sharp—the vampires’ teeth never looked this hilariously fake on VHS—but overall it’s an amazing presentation. The sound, too, is more than solid; there are moments when characters in the distance are faint, but that’s more likely due to the actors not being properly mic’d during the shoot, rather than the disc’s production. Extras include a handful of other KLSC trailers,  as well as a fifteen-minute interview with director Avi Nesher, who admits to not having much of a plan for the movie until shooting was already happening, and recounts a tale of discussing the movie with Federico Fellini over lunch.



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