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Female Monster! They created an inhuman being who destroyed everything she touched!
For more about She Devil and the She Devil Blu-ray release, see She Devil Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on March 2, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Mari Blanchard, Jack Kelly, Albert Dekker, John Archer
Director: Kurt Neumann
» See full cast & crew
She Devil Blu-ray Review
Evidently blondes do have more fun.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, March 2, 2013
There's a certain cheese factor that must be taken into account when watching a certain class of low budget science fiction or horror fare. That seems especially true of films from the fifties, when a perhaps collective fear of nuclear holocaust tended to color a lot of the plot lines, at least tangentially. Some films, like The Incredible Shrinking Man, make a nuclear mushroom cloud part of their very plot, while a glut of other similar films allude to our then relatively newfound scientific "expertise" by positing plotlines where Man's investigations into natural phenomena leads to certain disaster. This of course has been an age old horror trope, as such iconic fare as Frankenstein easily prove. But many fifties outings took this basic idea and infused with a lot of quasi-scientific mumbo jumbo, while never shirking from that same central conceit that Mary Shelley herself had exploited more than a century previously, namely that Man should not be poking his nose around in territory that should rightfully be reserved for God. Playing out simultaneously with this phenomenon was another sort of mini-trend in the fifties, films about women who suddenly morphed into other versions of themselves. Probably the best remembered in this sub-genre is the delightful Allison Hayes outing Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, but there's another salient example in the Roger Corman opus The Wasp Woman starring Susan Cabot. Presaging both of those efforts is 1957's She Devil (not to be confused with the similarly titled She-Devil, which featured the decidedly odd couple starring duo of Meryl Streep and Roseanne Barr). This is yet another lo-fi outing that features well intended scientists who just can't help themselves from investigating things that are better left to God and/or Nature, though at least in this film, one of the scientists has the good sense to object, albeit only just a little and only in the film's opening sequences.
When one thinks of iconic fantasy and science fiction authors who were active in the first half or so of the twentieth century, two three-named authors spring instantly to mind, Edgar Rice Burroughs and H.G. Wells. Probably few other than true science fiction geeks have ever heard of Stanley Grauman Weinbaum, and yet this unassuming Wisconsian is credited by many authors (including Isaac Asimov and Lester del Rey) as having helped to invent the modern science fiction genre back in the 1930s. Weinbaum's nascent career was cut short by cancer when he was barely 33 years old, but he left a number of high profile works which have continued to influence fantasy writers ever since, the most notable of which is probably "A Martian Odyssey". Rather strangely, only one of Weinbaum's pieces has been adapted to various media, and even more strangely, it's been adapted a lot. Ironically this piece includes a form of "adapt" in its very title. "The Adaptive Ultimate" was published in November 1935, a mere month before Weinbaum's sad demise, but it went on to enjoy no fewer than three television versions, at least one radio enterprise, and the 1957 film She Devil.
Our two unwise scientists are Dr. Dan Scott (Jack Kelly), who has derived a serum from the supposed "most adaptive" species of all, the fruit fly, and his mentor, Dr. Richard Bach (Albert Dekker), an elderly man who is funding Scott's research. Scott has been trying his serum out on a menagerie of animals kept in his laboratory, seeing one putative miracle after another happen after he injects his subjects with the drug. A cat's broken spine miraculously heals, and a chimp's double pneumonia simply vanishes in a matter of moments. Scott wants to move on to human trials, but Bach is the temporary voice of caution, finally relenting only by agreeing that a human subject must be terminal and must agree to be the experimental test subject.
Of course an appropriate human subject quickly turns up, a tubercular woman named Kyra Zelas (Mari Blanchard) who is in her death throes. In a moment of perhaps unintended humor, Dr. Bach first tells Kyra she's going to be fine, despite the fact that he's just concluded she's about to die, and then a few minutes later he's asking her to sign a release form so that Dr. Scott can inject her with his miracle cure. Kyra of course agrees and the serum does its stuff remarkably well. Within a very short span of time, Kyra's lungs have cleared and she in fact tells both doctors that she's never felt better in her life. Worries start to intrude when Scott attempts to take a blood sample and can't get the needle into Kyra's arm. He finally succeeds, but both doctors are stunned to see the injection site disappear the moment the needle is withdrawn. Kyra's adaptive healing powers are obviously highly evolved.
It's at this point that She Devil actually becomes quite a bit of fun. Dr. Scott has more or less fallen in love with Kyra, but Kyra has other ideas. She sets off on a series of mad escapades that sees her willfully changing her hair color from brunette to blonde when she's being chased by the police to dispatching a husband with whom she's grown bored. Meanwhile the good doctors are only too aware that they have, to paraphrase a horror staple, created a monster and they need to figure out some way to get Kyra back to her old self (hopefully minus the tuberculosis).
The film has a certain off kilter quality that will either strike viewers as charming or maddening. Dr. Scott seems almost willfully ignorant of Kyra's crime spree, and is only too willing to forgive and forget. And as with many B-movies, there is a lot of portentous talking, including the requisite amount of scientific mumbo jumbo, in an obvious attempt to generate some feeling of "reality". But as far as these cheese-fests go, She Devil is actually surprisingly well made and well acted. The source short story is ripe for another (ahem) adaptation, one with a higher budget and better special effects, but She Devil remains quite a bit of fun if taken with the appropriate grain (and/or pillar) of salt.
She Devil Blu-ray, Video Quality
She Devil is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Olive Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1. This "Regalscope" feature offers a surprisingly sharp and well detailed image, though the elements do have perhaps a tad more than the average amount of specks and flecks which dot the surface. There are also persistent, albeit quite minor, scratches that recur throughout the presentation, notably one just a bit left of the center of the frame (look closely at the third screenshot accompanying this review) and another more prominent one that recurs on the far right side of the frame. Other than that, though, this is a very nice looking transfer that is only occasionally hobbled by slightly inconsistent contrast. Blacks, gray scale and whites are all nicely represented here and close-ups offer quite pleasing fine detail. As with most Olive releases, the transfer retains a naturally filmic appearance, with no obvious signs of digital sharpening or noise reduction.
She Devil Blu-ray, Audio Quality
She Devil features a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track which suffices quite well for the film's talky ambience. Dialogue and score, as well as the occasional nicely done sound effect, all are rendered with very good fidelity and some occasionally wide dynamic range. The track exhibits surprisingly little hiss or even overt boxiness, and sounds very good for its age.
She Devil Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
No supplements are offered on this Blu-ray.
She Devil Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
You either love these cheesy old science fiction – horror films, or you can't stand them. There really doesn't seem to be a huge middle ground for this genre, and so your reaction to She Devil will probably depend squarely on which side of this particular equation you come down on. The film is no great masterpiece, as should be abundantly clear, but on its own silly terms it's really rather enjoyable quite a bit of the time. The performances are okay in that hokey manner these films tend to exhibit more often than not, and the production moves along with an appealing pace. Based on the core foundation alone, it would seem that Weinbaum is an author whose oeuvre really could be better exploited by a new generation of filmmakers. As it stands, She Devil will have you thinking twice about smacking the living daylights out of a fruit fly the next time one buzzes by your ear. This Blu-ray offers nice video and audio and for lovers of this kind of film comes Recommended.
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