This fantasy adventure from Hammer was based on H Rider Haggard’s classic novel.
The story, which begins in Jerusalem in 1918, concerns three men – Major Holly (Peter Cushing), explorer Leo Vincey (John Richardson) and the major’s batman, Job (Bernard Cribbins) – who, after an adventure of Leo’s with the beautiful Ustane (Rosenda Monteros), set out on a hazardous and mysterious journey across the desert.
They encounter the Amahagger, a desert tribe who live in fear of a white woman they call “She”. Their tribesmen wear a medallion that bears a curious likeness to Leo, and thus – associating him with She – they prepare to sacrifice him.
He is rescued by Billali (Christopher Lee), High Priest of She, who takes Leo and his companions to the lost city of Kuma and into the presence of Ayesha (Ursula Andress) – She who must be obeyed.
Ayesha believes Leo to be a reincarnation of an Egyptian called Killicrates, who she killed 2,000 years ago.
She takes him into a volcanic garden and shows him her secret of eternal youth – a mysterious flame shooting up from the earth.
Having had 2,000 years in which to repent the death of Killicrates, she now wants to keep Leo with her forever and asks him to enter the flame with her and inherit eternal life . . .
Swiss-born Ursula Andress – destined always to be remembered for her voluptuous performance in the first Bond movie, Dr No (1962) – acquits herself better here than you might expect. Indeed, she looks in great shape for a 2,000-year-old queen of a lost kingdom who is still yearning for the embrace of a lover she killed centuries ago.
The African backdrops are easily matched by Andress’s own brand of exotic beauty and while there’s plenty to criticise, there’s also much to enjoy.
Major Horace Holly