Originally released in 1966 under the titled of Revenge of the Blood Beast, She-Beast (Italian title: La Sorella di Satana, which translated means “The Sister of Satan”) stars the magnificent Barbara Steele in admittedly one of her lesser roles.
The story begins with a priest and his congregation deciding that they have been tormented enough by an evil witch (played by Joe “Flash” Riley) who lives in a cave. A young man interrupts the priest’s sermon to say that his brother has been slain by said witch, and this serves as a catalyst for the congregation to overcome the witch, who screams her displeasure. The congregation then stakes the witch in the chest with a long iron stick and then proceeds to use a dunking stool to drown her. Before she succumbs to the water, the witch curses the lot, saying that she will return.
An abrupt shift in plot takes place to the supposed present, where a couple—Veronica (Barbara Steele of Black Sunday) and Philip (Ian Ogilvy of Witchfinder General)—are having a honeymoon by visiting Transylvania. While securing a room at a rundown hotel, they meet Count Van Helsing, the great great grandson of the Van Helsing who supposedly killed Count Dracula. They also meet Groper (Mel Welles), a hideous, perverted sot who watches the couple as they make love that night.
The following morning, the couple elects to leave the hotel. As they head down the road, an unseen force (presumably the she-beast) takes control of their car, forcing it into the very lake where the she-beast was drowned more than 200 years previous. Philip survives, but Veronica is presumed dead, in her place in the car the remains of the she-beast. A passing truck driver fishes both out of the water and drives them back to the hotel, where Van Helsing attempts to convince Philip that he must join him in a fight to recover Veronica’s soul, which the she-beast will use to come back to life.
The remainder of the film rolls out the resurrection of the she-beast, with Van Helsing and Philip attempting to stop her from murdering the descendants of her judges and generally wreaking havoc in town. The coda has Veronica in the back seat of a Volkswagen, with Philip and Van Helsing working on a way to escape Communist Transylvania. It turns out that the she-beast has transferred her essence into Veronica—she will wait patiently until the time comes to reveal herself and wreak havoc again.
The feature film debut of writer-director Michael Reeves (who would go on to create films like Witchfinder General and The Sorcerers), She–Beast is long on the tooth with boredom. The centerpiece of the film—the she-beast—does nothing but scream nonstop the moment she hits the screen. The creature has supposedly lethal magical powers, and yet all she does is scream and strangle/scythe some of her victims. Acting is a little over the top, but that can be expected, given the mediocrity of the screenplay.
However, She-Beast does demonstrate the directorial prowess of Reeves, whose cinematography is solid and editing effective. Although the copy I viewed was much too dark or too light in some places, I attribute such qualities to the transfer itself. As always, Barbara Steele is a joy to behold here, although there so little for her to do. The same could be said of the other principal actors, who at times look confused or bemused by even their own actions.
I cannot wholeheartedly recommend She-Beast, although Steele compleatests and fans of B-grade horror will want to have at least one look at this film. It should also be of interest to fans of Michael Reeves, whose later films who make a significant splash in European and American cinema.
She-Beast can be purchased either as a standalone product or as part of a collection, such as Night of Horror Do Not Watch Alone.