1958’s She Demons is a fine example of late 1950’s schlock horror. Those of you that have read other reviews of mine are familiar with my admonition not to take films such as these too seriously and appreciate them for what they are: Escapism and not-too-high quality fun.
Several persons are shipwrecked on an uncharted island a dozen years after World War Two’s end. Unbeknownst to them a group Nazis are conducting medical experiments on attractive young women in order to find a way to restore the appearance of the commander’s wife who was horribly disfigured in an accident. The shipwrecked survivors include the spoiled brat daughter (Irish McCalla) of the man who sponsored the trip; the others are males in his employ. While fighting the Nazis as they wait to be rescued, McCalla and male lead Tod Griffin fall in love as she overcomes her youthful callousness.
The very blonde and attractive, but not overly talented, McCalla should have had a more substantial career in B-films. I enjoyed her in this one very much.
But I am getting ahead of myself. The camp commander/head research doctor, played in a very over-the-top fashion by Rudolph Anders, develops a romantic interest in the leggy McCalla, which of course his wife finds out about and does not appreciate. Around this are exotic dances by curvy women with ugly (the She Demons!) faces, made so by the brutality of the doc, and torture sequences that, although obviously phony, are a bit much even by today’s standards.(Even the poorest quality films have poignant moments). The film ends when the Americans shoot up the island during target practice, conveniently allowing our heroes to escape.
She Demons works, but only because it is schlock horror. The film’s sets are laughable, the plot very thin and requires quite a bit of suspension of disbelief, even for a film such as this. The Nazis are portrayed in the cheesiest fashion I have ever seen, and I have seen many Nazis in film during the post war era.
Anders is a delight as the head Nazi. His affectations are so pronounced that one cannot possibly take this film seriously. But, now is a good time to remind that there was a time when this sort of film was taken more seriously than today’s more jaded and sophisticated viewers. I am certain that in 1958, some viewers were disturbed and frightened by this story as they sat in the theater or outdoor drive-in and munched popcorn.
Director Richard Cunya was responsible for another film such as this in 1958. Giant From the Unknown appears with She Demons on a Sinister Cinema Drive-In double feature I purchased from them several years ago.