The She-Beast Michael Reeves

The She-Beast is an obscure and forgotten British/Italian horror movie from the '60s that will probably always remain that way. For one thing it's saddled with an unfortunate misogynistic title that pretty well eliminates the possibility of a revival — the original title, Revenge Of The Bloodbeast, is also exploitative and off-putting to non-horror fans but at least it can be said in public without any dirty looks. While the movie has plenty of problems it does contain a handful of memorable sequences and stands as one of the few completed films by underrated director Michael Reeves (the man behind the brilliant The Witchfinder General), who committed suicide at the age of 25 with only three movies to his name. The She-Beast tells the tale of an uptight British couple played by cult icon Barbara Steele and Iran Ogilvy, whose idyllic summer trip to Transylvania falls apart when they meet a descendent of the famous vampire killer Von Helsing. The couple are warned of the curse of a vicious witch who was killed by the townspeople many moons ago and demands revenge. Surprise, surprise, Barbara Steele is possessed by the witch and goes on a killing spree throughout the town. Michael Reeves was only 23 when he directed She-Beast and it shows. The ultra low-budget production was clearly a mini-film school for Reeves and he learned many lessons from it — mainly to keep boring plot exposition from overwhelming all other aspects of a film. The movie is filled with excellent sequences involving the witch that show off Reeves's clear skill with the camera — one flashback sequence plays like The Witchfinder General with a monster on the cross. His She-Beast is also an excellent horror creation, coming off like one of Sam Raimi's unrelenting demons from Evil Dead, made years before that guy ever picked up a camera. Though shoddy acting and effects make it clear that this was a tossed off, no-budget production there's a restless energy and sense of fun to the best scenes in The She-Beast lacking in many horror films from the time. It will never be considered a genre classic but horror fans should take a look at The She-Beast, if only to further appreciate the vastly underrated work of Michael Reeves. The Dark Sky DVD release contains a lively commentary from a few of the surviving stars of the production, including Steele, and a nice widescreen transfer, but nothing else. (Dark Sky)