She Devil (1957) (DVD film review).

I came across a reference to this 1957 film ‘She Devil’, a while back as it was based off the story ‘The Adaptive Ultimate’ by Stanley Weinbaum under his pseudonym of John Jessel and added to my bucket list, never dreaming my luck when I came across it recently as being available at long last. Although I’ve never read the book, I have now watched the film produced, directed and co-written by Kurt Neumann, an luminary of SF ‘B’ movies back in the 1950s whom I’ve reviewed before.

Kyra Zelas (actress Mari Blanchard) is dying of tuberculosis and her only hope is an experimental drug of Doctor Daniel Scott (actor Jack Kelly) after Doctor Richard Bach (actor Albert Dekker), head of the medical facility decides it’s her only option. The drug works extremely well and in a matter of hours is restored to health. They convince her to stay at their house, with housekeeper Hannah (actress Blossom Rock, the same lady who played Grandmama in TV’s ‘The Addams Family’ – she is named as this not as Marie Blake according to IMdB) supposedly her chaperone.

On the way there, Kyra visits an expensive clothes store, not having any money, assaults a man and steals his money in front of everyone. Escaping into a changing room, she changes her hair from brunette to blonde by willing it and with a change of clothes neatly escapes. It’s only later, the two doctors discover what went on. More aggressively, Kyra doesn’t really deny anything, having stayed blonde and an attempt to sedate her fails. She also warns them that they are accessories to her actions and won’t hesitate to tell the police if they are called. Her ability to adapt to anything makes them wonder how they can stop her. These doctors are clearly in over their heads and their inaction is mostly because they don’t know what to do as well as how to help their patient. Even in the 1950s, they would have a lot of explaining to the medical council of unauthorised experimenting on people. Things aren’t helped by Scott having the hots for her but agrees with Bach to find an antidote and get her back to normal.

Later, they have a house party and Kyra attracts one of the wealthiest men there, not helped when his wife interferes in the garden and slaps her. Returning to her room, Kyra changes to brunette and kills the wife leaving a hair sample in her hand and reverts to blonde, creating her own alibi. She later leaves and marries the wealthy man but after a couple months is bored and picks a fight with him. He shoots her and Kyra feigns injury but has healed almost at once but lets him drive her to the hospital. Along the way, she causes a car crash, killing him but uninjured herself.

After the funeral, the two doctors persuade her back to their house, figuring carbon dioxide will render her unconscious for the operation and…well, you’ve got most of the plot. A cross between ‘Frankenstein’ and a touch of ‘Pygmalion’, although thoughts in the direction aren’t as well developed. I do wonder if Neumann had a bigger budget would he have developed the story more along those lines.

Fifty-eight years old, the plot of this film is very much low key and certainly not big budget. With modern day eyes, it’s obvious that these two doctors are way over their heads and caught between the dilemma of their own complicity and finding a cure for Kyra. However, what do you against someone who can’t be stopped? I suspect if such a story was filmed today, Kyra’s invulnerability would be demonstrated more frequently but this was filmed in the days of the ‘B’ movie with limited budget. I couldn’t help but have a wry smile that she effectively had the same ability as a certain mutant with adamantium claws.

‘She Devil’ is an odd curio but at least I can say I’ve seen it and its unlikely that it’ll appear on a TV near you any time soon so pick up the DVD if you can. If you’re in the UK, don’t forget, this is Region 1. Now, ma’am, can I help you with that coat?

GF Willmetts

October 2015

(region 1 DVD: pub: Olive Films. 77 minute black and white film. Price: about £10.00 (UK) if you know where to look. ASIN: OF5655)

cast: Mari Blanchard, Jack Kelly, Albert Dekker and Blossom Rock

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