Thursday, September 13, 2012

Horrific Nazi Experiments Gone Awry!

She Demons(1958)
Director: Richard E. Cunha
Cast: Irish McCalla, Tod Griffin, Rudolph Anders

Richard Cunha is probably responsible for some of the most ludicrously awful horror films of the 1950s. He never achieved the popularity of Ed Wood, but his films are just as fascinatingly bad, at least for the most part. Of his four cult films, the other three being Giant from the Unknown(1958), Missile To The Moon(1958) and Frankenstein's Daughter(1958), She Demons is probably the worst.
With access to Nazi uniforms and a tropical location, the filmmakers decided to concoct a story about Nazis who had escaped the war and are still operating on an island in hopes of creating the master race. In an effort to more closely resemble an issue of Men's Adventures, they even throw in scantly clad women and some gung-ho heroics, and just a dash of racism. The result is an warped journey into 50s drive-in cinema.

The film begins with a shipwreck, as we see four survivors on shore of a desolate island. They include a spoiled blonde bimbo played by Irish McCalla, before she was known as "Sheena,Queen of the Jungle," and she does a bad job of moping about and saying incredibly bitchy lines, using revolving around her limited wardrobe(though unfortunately, she's pretty clad herself for most of the running time.)
There's also the annoying know-it-all hero played by Tod Griffin, who seems to be an expert in any and everything and not-too likable. "Number-Two Son", Victor Sen Yung does what he can with a hopelessly shoddily written part, steeped in racist stereotypes of(fortunately) the most passive and harmless variety.
One more man is in this party, but he's an older, out of shape lug, and it was inevitable that he would meet his end pretty quickly...and he does, as you can see below.

They discover that the fourth man was killed by what the hero describes as a "she demon," which they find the corpse of further up the beach. She appears like a normal native girl(at least by Hollywood standards) except that her face looks like a cheap rubber mask with fangs and ping-pong ball eyes. Well, after losing the nameless one and the radio, the intrepid three decide to venture inland and the boys in the audience are treated to a gratuitous dance number involving a bunch of shapely, bikini clad babes who dance around a fire, much to our amusement. Sadly, a couple of Nazis(!) come in and ruin all the fun, as the girls are rounded up and taken back to their cages for experimentation. You see, the Nazis had escaped the wrath of Allied Forces during the War and are still trying to perfect the master race on this island. The outrageous Rudolph Anders portrays the lead Nazi scientist, and he's a real hoot, overacting a storm, complete with wild gesticulations and horrid dialogue that you would not believe. There's an interesting subplot there with his efforts to try and restore the scarred face of his once-a-babe wife, but it's handled with as much sensitivity as a hammer to the cranium.
He's also using the local babes for experimentation by infusing both his wife's disfigured cells and that of animals(!) to turn them into ravenous she demons(which sounds more tempting than it looks), though it's only temporary, you see. And get a load of these she demons! Somehow, despite the terrible complexions and big ol' fangs and claws they receive from the treatment, they still retain those perfect bikini bodies.
Amen to that!

So, the three are captured by the SS and taken into the Nazi compound, which is miraculously powered by the heat from lava, an amazing invention, which would surely make this an incredible scientific achievement, but Nazis care little about such things. The two men are tied up and Rudolph goes to work on the curvaceous Irish, even having her don a tight black dress. Unfortunately, for him his wife overhears his pleas to her to live with him on the island, so the wife aids the girl in escaping, though that doesn't work as planned and Irish is prepared to be used in an experiment. However, the U.S. Air Force has the island marked for bombing and begins an assault and this causes the volcano to erupt(because there's an active volcano under the island) and everything blows up, with the three heroically escaping, even though the innocent native babes perish in the blaze, because this is supposed to be a happy ending and doesn't that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy to imagine those honeys getting roasted alive midst lava and burnt Nazis?
Yeah, it sort of bummed me out, too. Though, we do get to see the same recycled stock footage from One Million B.C.(1940) that cropped up in every other movie in the 50s and the hero even gets off an amazing(okay, unbelievable) shot at a Nazi on a mountain. Somehow, the hero is able to shoot a Nazi in the head with a Walther P-38(a handgun) from over 200 yards at a Stormtrooper armed with a rifle! And to think that's not the most unbelievable thing in this movie!

There are some meager highlights in this deranged oddity from the fabulous 50s. We get a nice shot or Irish McCalla undressing behind a towel, which is one thing. The awesome(and pointless) ritual dance is certainly worth something, as are the butterface demons who run about, but never get involved in the dreamed of Nazi massacre at the end, because the greedy volcano had to ruin all the fun. What the hell was the point of the she demons anyway? They never offer much menace, and besides one corpulent Nazi, they don't even get a chance to shed any blood or(clothing, for you kinky monster fans), and the normal girls don't even survive the conclusion(did the screenwriters just forget about them?) and come to think of it, since the effects of the operation was only temporary, a lot of innocent girls just died. Ugh.
What else is there to "reccommend?" The makeups are pretty horrendous/hilarious and they should amuse, though the final shock cut of the wife's skull-like features, was genuinely impressive and her demise was kind of disturbing, as she retreats into the burning laboratory to die with her husband, who just got consumed by lava moments before. For an escapist picture, this sure was not a pleasant trip.
Little of the atmosphere(or professionalism,however meager) that Cunha displayed in Giant from the Unknown, is on display here. The film is erratically paced, with a far too talky script and not as much action as is required for this type of junk. It's never as much fun as it seems like it wants to be, even if McCalla gets undressed and native girls dance and Yen Sung makes references to Chop Suey, it's just not that enjoyable. Bad movie fans will probably get a slight kick out of it, as I did, for the marginal bits of entertainment and the goofy makeups and plot, plus the incredibly bad(but good) performance of Rudolph Anders, who makes for one of the most over the top mad scientists of all-time. His performance is overripe, and you can see how a clever screenwriter could take this and mould it into a fun, tongue-in-cheek screenplay, but sadly, this film is not so clever and not so fun, and with that, lets' move on to better trash, good or otherwise.

Pictures of Irish McCalla in happier times:

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