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  She Demons Island Of Death
Year: 1958
Director: Richard E. Cunha
Stars: Irish McCalla, Tod Griffin, Victor Sen Yung, Rudolph Anders, Gene Roth, Leni Tana, Charles Opunui, Whitey Hughes, Bill Coontz, Billy Dix, Larry Gelbman, Maureen Janzen, Grace Mathews, Michael Stoycoff
Genre: Horror, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Hurricane! There has been a terrible storm in the Caribbean that has destroyed property and been a peril to ships, and now it is over, a lot of people are picking up the pieces. On a small island, four survivors of a pleasure cruise boat wreck wake up on the shore and get their bearings, with one passenger, Jerrie Turner (Irish McCalla), expecting the three men with her to be at her beck and call. As she tries to find the rest of her clothes, the skipper, Fred Maklin (Tod Griffin) puts her in her place when she starts ordering them around, but the fact remains: they are stranded and it looks like nobody is coming to rescue them...

B-movie lovers would do well to check out She Demons, one of the oeuvre of low budget auteur Richard E. Cunha who did his best to make inroads in the Hollywood of the nineteen-fifties, but largely found the appreciation of trash fans. This is certainly one of his most entertaining efforts, though do not mistake that for being an ingenious use of limited resources with its reliance on stock footage and villains that had been, and remained, a stock menace for many decades after the Second World War. It was the sole starring role in the movies for pin-up Irish McCalla, however, before she retired to become a painter.

That's an artistic painter, rather than a painter and decorator, but she made her name as the lead in the distaff Tarzan television series Sheena, Queen of the Jungle where she became the fantasy figure of a generation of boys too young to understand why. Recognising her not exactly deep well of talent as far as thespianism went, she was happier as a painter, but maybe she was doing herself down, it's not as if she was asked to perform anything testing here, and she actually gave a decent enough account of herself as a heroine who gets to do more than be saved by the good guy (though admittedly she did that as well); she even enjoyed a character arc.

There were a few very big laughs here, earning it points for chutzpah alone, especially in its reveal of its villains (if you were not expecting them, it was even funnier). Once the cook (Charles Opunui) is speared to death for no good reason (black guys in horror flicks were suffering even this far back), Fred, Jerrie and assistant Sammy Ching (Victor Sen Yung, Charlie Chan's Number 2 Son) deduce all is not well, and after a jungle excursion follow the sound of drums to see a female dance troupe strutting their funky stuff to tom-toms and an invisible orchestra. These are the She Demons, pre-demonisation, but the trio twig they are the before phase of the monstrous female dead body they previously found on the beach.

If this revelation was not hilarious enough, who should gatecrash the ladies' get-together but the Gestapo? Wait, what? Yes, it transpires this is the island refuge of Colonel Carl Osler (Rudolph Anders, professional German for hire in productions like this) who is wanted for Nazi war crimes, landing us somewhere in the territory of The Whip Hand and They Saved Hitler's Brain. Or indeed The Boys from Brazil, if you wanted a bigger budget example of this kind of absurdity. Spending an inordinate amount of time either explaining himself or trying to seduce Jerrie, it seems the mad Colonel is conducting experiments on the dance troupe (where did they come from, anyway?!) to restore his bandaged wife's lost beauty, however that works. Did I mention the island was on top of a volcano? That may be important. The sort of movie where the more preposterous it grew, the more the characters just went with it, it wasn't good, or polished, but if its goal was to entertain, they succeeded as far as that goes. Music by Nicholas Carras.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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