Wednesday, March 22, 2006

AndressFest (Part 3)

The final movie of AndresssFest '06 was 'She', a 1965 Hammer production based on a novel by H. Rider Haggard. You'd be hard pressed to find a film more choc-full of rich, kitschy goodness.

The year: 1918. The place: Palestine. British soldiers Horace Holly and Leo Vincey, along with their manservant Job, are relaxing in a tavern over a few refreshing bellydancers. Despite the allure of the rather mesmerising flesh being jiggled at him, Leo is entranced by a solitary young woman in black.

AF'06: You know, I'm not an Islamic scholar, but I'm pretty sure that a burqua isn't meant to be sheer. Or split to the navel.

Leo goes over and befriends her, and, when a fight breaks out (and in Palestine! Who'd have thought?), the mysterious young woman, whose name is Ustane, spirits Leo away to a dark alley.

But there he's thumped over the head and rendered unconscious. This is never good on a first date.

When he awakes, he finds himself in a luxurious townhouse. It is here that he meets Ursula Andress, playing Ayesha. Despite being as blonde and pale-skinned as one of the von Trapp children, Ayesha is apparently the immortal queen of a lost North African city. She believes that our Leo is the reincarnation of her lover Killikrates, whom she stabbed in a jealous rage two thousand years earlier. But she's now prepared to forgive and forget, and she urges Leo to come to the lost city of Kuma to be her consort. He is given a map and bidden to depart at once.

Ayesha: Will you come to me again, across the Desert of Lost Souls, through the Mountains of the Moon...

AF'06: Then it's straight up the I-55 and you're there. You can't miss it.

Why couldn't she just take him with her, you ask? Well, first he has to survive several trials, to prove that he really is the reincarnation of Killikrates. So off he goes into the desert with Holly and Job, who are more interested in finding the fabled riches of Kuma than some really old blonde chick.

And thus the trials begin. First, their waterbags are slashed in the night. Then they're attacked by unpleasant Arab sorts who steal their camels and the rest of their supplies. All seems lost until Ustane turns up with spares. It seems she's taken a shine to Leo, a fact that will not sit well with Ayesha. Ustane urges Leo to turn back and not go to Kuma.

Ustane: There is nothing there but evil, and death.

AF'06: Great! They have a McDonalds!

But Leo is firmly under Ayesha's spell. He leads the others on to Kuma, and is reunited with the lascivious queen. Leo may be smitten, but Holly suspects that Ayesha is not as charming as she appears. First he meets Ustane's father, who tells him Ayesha's other title.

Haumeid: Ayesha is "She Who Must Be Obeyed."

AF'06: That's Rumpole of the Bailey's wife? Man, she's hot!


Then he stumbles across her high priest, Billali, praying to his predecessors, whose twisted, desiccated, skeletal remains stand in alcoves along the wall of the temple.

AF'06: So, Billali...I see your religion worships the Olsen twins.

He also tries to get some answers about the socio-political realities of life in Kuma.

Holly: Will you tell me something? This women Ayesha, why do you all do her bidding without question?

Billali: It has always been so.

Holly: Yes, but why? She's only a woman and alone. You are men and many.

Billali: And like all men we are born, live a span and we die. But she has been here forever. She is like the mountains, like the desert. Changeless, ageless, deathless.

AF'06: Mind you, she tears through the Botox like you wouldn't believe.

Sensing that Leo and his companions still may not quite appreciate who they're dealing with, Ayesha demonstrates her power with the aid of her guards, some rebellious slaves, and the remarkably handy lava pool in the centre of her throne room.

Ayesha: I am She Who Must Be Obeyed. There is only one penalty for those who do not choose to obey; a lesson in obedience. Teach them!

AF'06: Throw them in the Fondue Pit, and bring hither the long sticks with bits of bread on the end!

Leo and the others aren't impressed.

Leo: Was that barbaric execution necessary?

Ayesha: It was necessary.

Holly: Why?

Ayesha: As a demonstration of my absolute power. How else could I hold my soldiers and these pathetic creatures as my subjects? How else but by instilling fear and terror into their very souls?

AF'06: Have you considered a frequent flyer points program?


But Ayesha manages to convince Leo that she's not all that bad... using only her diaphanous negligee and her mysterious powers of pashing. Then she offers him a proposition:

Ayesha: Come, I will show you what no other living mortal has seen...

AF'06: Woo-hoo!

Ayesha: ...the Flame of Eternal Life.

AF'06: Oh.

The Flame, burning like an out-of-control barbecue pit in the inner temple, is what gave Ayesha her immortality, and when it is touched by the light of the new moon, Leo can have it too.

All is going well, as long as one doesn't count Ustane being killed by a vengeful Ayesha, and a small slave uprising. Leo is about to enter the Flame of Eternal Life when Billali bursts in and tries to kill him. It seems he wants to be immortal too, at least until Ayesha stabs him in the back, just like she did with Killikrates. She's really got to stop doing that.

With Billali out of the way, Ayesha and Leo enter the Flame together. But it appears that the Flame only works once on any given person. Leo is rendered immortal, but suddenly Ayesha starts to look more like Ursula le Guin than Ursula Andress. Staggering out of the Flame, she dries up into a skeletal husk.

AF'06: Hey! She was Paris Hilton all along!

Still, Leo figures that if Ayesha can wait two thousand years for him to be reincarnated, the least he can do is return the favour. He vows to stay by the flame until Ayesha returns.

And return she did, in 'The Vengeance of She' in 1968. Unfortunately in the intervening three years she'd transmogrified from Ursula Andress into Olinka Berova, and even by the subterranean standards of kitschy low-budget horror the movie was pretty bad. Ursula, on the other hand, went on to even bigger and better things.

How much bigger and better? Try 'What's New Pussycat' with Woody Allen. Try 'Clash of the Titans' with Harry Hamlin. Try more Italian Splatter Horror than you could poke a bloodied machete at!

Like I said a few posts ago, I think AndressFest '06 was a big success. We enjoyed Ursula's fine body... of work, we toasted her birthday with champagne at midnight, and there is NO WAY IN HELL that we are not gathering together in a year's time for AndressFest '07. With titles like 'The Loves and Times of Scaramouche', 'Tigers in Lipstick' and 'The Secrets of a Sensuous Nurse' available, how could we not?


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