RKO's Version Of SHE Still Impressive.
Chip Kaufmann | Asheville, N.C. United States | 04/18/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Having reviewed the 1965 Hammer version with Ursula Andress, it's only fair to weigh in on the 1935 RKO version. Both films have their strengths and weaknesses but both are worthy in their own way (see my other review). There is much of KING KONG in this production from the use of redecorated sets (the giant doors that Kong breaks), a screenplay by Ruth Rose complete with choice dialogue, and a throbbing Max Steiner score (some of it recycled). This movie also marks the culmination of producer Merian C. Cooper's forays into the exotic that he began with his silent documentaries GRASS and CHANG (though without his creative partner director Ernest B. Schoedsack). It was also his most expensive production to date and was a box office failure which seems strange today. Though out of circulation for many years thanks to Raymond Rohauer (a film collector and preservationist), it can now be seen here restored (as much as possible) by Ray Harryhausen including a colorized version.
The title role was enacted by Helen Gahagen, a stage actress married to Melvyn Douglas, who brings a regal bearing to "She Who Must Be Obeyed". She has a marvelous voice and with her hair down, was quite lovely to see but the failure of the film ended her Hollywwood career. Years later she would oppose Richard Nixon in California but that's another story. Nigel Bruce is at his best as Holly, far removed from his later Doctor Watson. This was also RKO contract player Helen Mack's finest hour. Topping it off is legendary silent actor Gustav von Seyfertitz in a rare speaking role as the High Priest. Randolph Scott is Randolph Scott. Though slow in places, it has some extraordinary set pieces such as the avalanche and the temple ceremony which show 1930s special effects at their height. The story strays more from Haggard than the 1965 version but for fans of old Hollywood style exotic adventure, it's hard to beat. Also available in a less expensive version from Legend Films."