She is a 1965 film made by Hammer Film Productions, based on the novel by H. Rider Haggard.It was directed by Robert Day and stars Ursula Andress, Peter Cushing, Bernard Cribbins, John Richardson, Rosenda Monteros and Christopher Lee. The film was an international success and led to a 1968 sequel, The Vengeance of She, with Olinka Berova in the title role.
After receiving their honorable discharges from the British Army in 1918 Palestine, an expedition is made by Professor Holly (Peter Cushing), young Leo Vincey (John Richardson) and their manservant Job (Bernard Cribbins), into a previously unexplored region of north-east Africa. This, in turn, leads them to the lost city of Kuma after Leo receives a mysterious map revealing the city’s whereabouts. This lost realm is ruled by Ayesha (Ursula Andress), who is also known as “She-who-must-be-Obeyed”. Ayesha is an immortal queen and former high priestess, who sees Leo as the identical reincarnation of her former lover, the priest Kallikrates (whom she herself killed when she found him in an intimate embrace with another woman about two thousand years before). Ayesha tries to convince Leo to walk into a bonfire after it has turned blue, which happens once certain astronomical conditions have occurred, which are not fully explained in the film. It will only remain in this condition for a short period and only happens on certain rare occasions. By entering the fire, Leo himself will become immortal.
As this is occurring, Ayesha’s army is attacked by her enslaved tribesmen, the Amahagger. Ayesha had oppressed the Amahagger for 2,000 years, but the uprising was triggered by the queen’s executing the beautiful Ustane (Rosenda Monteros). A humble young woman, Ustane had fallen in love with Leo. Ustane’s father Haumeid, (André Morell) a former captain of the palace guard who, like his daughter, had befriended Leo, Holly and Job, is naturally outraged; he leads the attack of the Amahagger. Ayesha’s army appears overwhelmed during the fierce battle against the badly equipped, but numerous barbarians.
Leo meanwhile, battles Bilali (Christopher Lee), Ayesha’s fanatical chief priest, who wants immortality for himself, believing it is his due after his years of selfless service. After battling Leo and giving him up for dead, Bilali attempts to enter the blue flames and become immortal when he is killed by Ayesha who spears him in the back.
Ayesha takes Leo’s hand and leads him into the fire, as Leo has been reluctant to embrace Ayesha’s promises of immortality and power. Upon entering the fire, Leo becomes immortal. However, the same fire destroys Ayesha’s immortality, and she dies as the centuries catch up with her and she ages millennia in a few seconds. The film ends with a despondent Leo stating that he doesn’t care when the fire will next burn blue (so he can enter and undo his immortality), but it will find him waiting.
Ursula Andress as Ayesha
Peter Cushing as Holly
Bernard Cribbins as Job
John Richardson as Leo
Rosenda Monteros as Ustane
Christopher Lee as Billali
André Morell as Haumeid
Princess Soraya as Soraya
The re-filming of the H. Rider Haggard novel – which had been filmed previously in 1908, 1911, 1916, 1917, 1925 and 1935– was the idea of Kenneth Hyman of Seven Arts Pictures, who had a long-running relationship with Hammer Film Productions. Anthony Hinds commissioned a script from John Temple-Smith, and the lead role was assigned to Ursula Andress – known at that time for her role in the James Bond film Dr. No– who signed a two picture deal with Seven Arts as a guarantee for her husband John Derek. She would thus become the first Hammer film to be built around a female star.
Hammer pitched the project to Universal, who turned it down. Hinds then arranged for Berkley Mather to write a script, but the project was turned down again by Universal, and then by Joseph E. Levine and American International Pictures. Hinds passed it over to Michael Carreras who got David T. Chantler to rewrite the script again. Carreras succeeded in getting the film financed through MGM, with triple the usual budget for a Hammer Film.
Principal photography commenced in southern Israel’s Negev Desert on 24 August 1964, with scenes also shot at MGM’s Elstree Studios in London when Hammer’s Bray Studios proved to be too small for the project. It was the most expensive film Hammer had made up until that time,but upon release it was a hit both in North America and in Europe.
Although the studio was pleased with the look of Ursula Andress in the film – as lit by Harry Waxman and costumed by Carl Toms and Roy Ashton – they found her Swiss German accent to be offputting, and had her entire part re-dubbed by actress Monica Van Der Syl, who maintained a slight accent so as not to throw the film’s audience, who would be familiar with the way Andress spoke from seeing her in Dr. No.