Palestine in 1918, and three friends, Major Holly (Peter Cushing), Leo (John Richardson) and Job (Bernard Cribbins), have just been discharged from the army. All are relieved that the war is now over, but at a loss for something to do with themselves and so spend this evening in a nightclub complete with flowing alcohol and dancing girls. They notice an attractive young woman enter and sit on her own, so Leo takes it upon himself to go over and chat her up; her name is Ustane (Rosenda Monteros) but she's unwilling to give much else away, and suggests they leave together. As Holly and Job have just started a brawl, Leo is happy to agree, and soon they are walking through the backstreets until Ustane turns to him and tells him to get away as fast as he can. Leo is confused, yet has no time to argue as a shadowy figure knocks him out, and when he awakes, he's in the presence of She Who Must Be Obeyed (Ursula Andress)...
H. Rider Haggard's celebrated adventure novel was filmed once more, this time by Britain's Hammer, in 1965, and the studio brought some of their familiar actors to play out a somewhat disappointing rendition. At least, unlike the version of thirty years before, it retained the desert locations, and there is a range of striking scenery to be seen as our three heroes make their way to the fabled lost city. In this script by David T. Chandler there is a noticeable lack of logic for the first half, as what happens to Leo when he wakes from unconsciousness is that he is presented to the mysterious She who informs him, to his great surprise, that he is the reincarnation of her lover - who died two thousand years ago. How could this be?
It could be because She, or Ayesha as she is also known, has attained immortality thanks to a flame that grants this gift when it burns cold, and she would know Leo if she saw him. Which she has. Leo is unconvinced yet intrigued, and before Ayesha and her entourage, including high priest Billali (Christopher Lee), head off home, Ayesha gives Leo a map to find the lost city where she resides. Now, at this point it may well strike you that if she was so enthusiastic to see him again, why not take this supposed reincarnate home with her? And as Leo persuades Holly and Job, acting as manservant, to accompany him on the journey to the middle of the desert, they find themselves challenged by Ayesha's henchmen who pull such tricks as slashing their water bags and stealing their camels. You'd be forgiven for thinking Ayesha wasn't keen on the idea of Leo coming to visit after all.
Anyway, they do finally reach the city, after being joined by Ustane who doesn't wish to see them harmed after she has hastily fallen in love with Leo, creating a painfully clichéd love triangle. After a brush with African natives who in a stereotyped manner consider nothing more than superstitiously offering a human sacrifice, i.e. a dazed Leo, to their gods, the trio of explorers eventually meet Ayesha and realise just how cruel she really is. If I'm making this sound action-packed, it's not, in fact despite all the derring do not much actually happens of any importance until the mayhem of the climactic revolt. Andress certainly looks glamorous enough, but she has no personality worth speaking of, Richardson is equally character-free and Cribbins' Job is the most colourful one there. Job is the comic relief and offers a dose of chirpy British cynicism at every opportunity: he doesn't quite come out and say, "Wotta loada rubbish!", but such sentiments wouldn't be entirely out of place. This She is serviceable enough, but most concerned are patently going through the motions. Music by James Bernard.