“The She-Creature” (1956)

HYPNOTIZED!

Reincarnated as a Monster from Hell!

IT CAN AND DID HAPPEN!
Based on authentic facts you’ve been reading about …

So says the adver­tise­ments for “The She-Crea­ture”, a 1956 film from Amer­i­can Inter­na­tion­al Pic­tures, a low-bud­get pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny that takes shame­less advan­tage of the Bridey Mur­phy phe­nom­e­non and the increased inter­est in the sub­ject of rein­car­na­tion in the Amer­i­can pub­lic in pro­duc­ing this movie.

[http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050957/]

Descrip­tion: Sideshow stage hyp­no­tist Dr. Car­lo Lom­bar­di (Chester Mor­ris) becomes well known for the on-stage past-life regres­sion of and evo­ca­tion of ecto­plasm from Andrea, his assis­tant (Mar­la Eng­lish). The book he writes of her regres­sion, “The Sto­ry of Eliz­a­beth Weath­er­by”, becomes a nation­al best­seller. He takes her on tour, per­form­ing in the­aters and for din­ner par­ties, where he begins to pre­dict hor­ri­fy­ing murders.

In real­i­ty, Dr. Lom­bar­di is regress­ing Andrea into a pre­his­toric life and evok­ing the ecto­plas­mic form of that incar­na­tion from her, then order­ing the form to com­mit a series of mur­ders for unclear motives, prob­a­bly revenge. One such demon­stra­tion is at a soci­ety par­ty host­ed by Mrs. Chap­pel (Cathy Downs): there, Lom­bar­di puts Andrea through a series of hyp­not­ic acts, to demon­strate his con­trol for the observ­ing Dr. Erick­son (Lance Fuller).

Dr. Lom­bar­di final­ly meets jus­tice when Erick­son helps Andrea devel­op the will to resist him. Lom­bar­di orders Andrea to mur­der Erick­son, but she is unable to com­ply, which turns the ecto­plas­mic form against Dr. Lom­bar­di with fatal results. As Lom­bar­di dies, he releas­es Andrea from his pow­er and the She-Crea­ture dis­ap­pears, wad­ing into the ocean, nev­er to return.

His­to­ry: “The She-Crea­ture” was pro­duced by Amer­i­can Inter­na­tion­al Pic­tures, famous for pro­duc­ing a long series of low-bud­get movies, includ­ing teen-ori­ent­ed, rock&roll movies and hor­ror movies. They were also known for pro­duc­ing Roger Cor­man’s adap­ta­tions of Edgar Allan Poe.

Com­men­tary: “The She-Crea­ture” owes its ori­gin and pop­u­lar­i­ty to the Bridey Mur­phy phe­nom­e­non. “The Search for Bridey Mur­phy” was pub­lished by Den­ver busi­ness­man Morey Bern­stein, whose curios­i­ty about hyp­no­sis led him to prac­tice on friends and neigh­bors, one of whom man­i­fest­ed a past-life regres­sion about her life in Ire­land as Bridey Mur­phy. The phe­nom­e­non was so wide spread and includ­ed songs, books and even rein­car­na­tion par­ties, which were even report­ed with an arti­cle in Life Magazine.

And it should be not­ed that, despite the adver­tise­ments, the movie does not involve rein­car­na­tion direct­ly except as the con­nec­tion between Andrea and the She-Crea­ture. The actu­al man­i­fes­ta­tion of the She-Crea­ture is pro­duced by Dr. Lom­bar­di using Andrea as a spir­it medium.

Triv­ia: What is sur­pris­ing to dis­cov­er that many of the roles were orig­i­nal­ly going to be played by oth­ers. The role of Lom­bar­di was orig­i­nal­ly going to be played by Peter Lor­rie! Lor­rie’s agent had com­mit­ted the actor to the role, but then Lor­rie read the script and did­n’t want any­thing to do with the movie. He even fired his agent over the con­flict. Actor Edward Arnold, who had played unscrupu­lous busi­ness­men in the past, was also to play the part of Chap­pel, but he died before film­ing began, and was replaced by Tom Con­way. Actor “Touch” Con­nors (lat­er Mike Con­nors of “Man­nix”) was a con­tract play­er at AIP and was orig­i­nal­ly to be the love inter­est, but the role was lat­er giv­en to Lance Fuller.

Direc­tor Edward L. Cahn nick­named “50 movies a year” and was known for gen­er­at­ing a num­ber of low-bud­get movies. He would direct 125 in his 30 year career, many of them short subjects.

Chester Mor­ris was also a pro­fes­sion­al stage magi­cian, tour­ing dur­ing WW II with his wife Lili for USO. He is also known for play­ing the char­ac­ter Bostom Black­ie in a series of low-bud­get movies. It was report­ed in Vari­ety that Mor­ris’s Bryl­creem expens­es exceed­ed any oth­er item in the film’s budget.

Sul­try Mar­la Eng­lish had a short act­ing career from 1954–1957 in a num­ber of low bud­get movies from AIP. Intest­ing­ly enough, she would even­tu­al­ly work with Mike Con­nors, anoth­er AIP con­tract play­er, in at least one movie. In 1956, she retired upon becom­ing engaged to a San Diego busi­ness­man: she was only 21 at the time.

The She-Crea­ture cos­tume was cre­at­ed by mas­ter crea­ture-cre­ator Paul Blais­dell. who also wore the suit for the movie. After Blais­dell had fin­ished the cos­tume, the stu­dio exec­u­tives had him mod­i­fy it to include breasts: breasts, on a pre­his­toric lizard crea­ture. Also, at one point, Blais­dell was required to walk out into the surf to shoot a scene. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the suit was make of foam rub­ber and it absorbed so much water that it was extreme­ly heavy (heav­ier) and dif­fi­cult to walk in. Plus, the scene shot was not used in the movie. Blais­dell would even­tu­al­ly become dis­en­chant­ed with work­ing in the movies and left the busi­ness, although he would col­lab­o­rate with fel­low hor­ror movie fan Bob Burns in a short-lived mag­a­zine enti­tled “Fan­tas­tic Mon­sters of the Films”.

The art­work for the movie, show­ing the men­ac­ing fig­ure of the She-Crea­ture and Andrea in her diapho­nous white robes (which she did wear in the movie) was paint­ed by artist Albert Kallis, who super­vised AIP’s poster pro­duc­tion from 1955–1973. He was hand-picked by Roger Cor­man for the posi­tion of art direc­tor at AIP. Kallis is also one of the founders of the Inter­na­tion­al House of Pan­cakes chain. He has also worked as exec­u­tive pro­duc­er for a wide vari­ety of non-prof­it documentaries.

“The She-Crea­ture” was not the only movie to take advan­tage of the phe­nom­e­non: there were two oth­er movies of the same time peri­od direct­ly relat­ed to the sub­ject of rein­car­na­tion, “The Search For Bridey Mur­phry”, a dra­ma­tized ver­sion of the book, and “The Undead”, a Roger Cor­man quick­ie pro­duced to also take afvan­tage of the phenonemon.

The movie also appeared on Mys­tery Sci­ence The­ater 3000, episode 808.

Note: Do not con­fuse this movie with the 2002 movie of the same name, also known as “The Mer­maid Chron­i­cles”, pro­duced by Roger Cor­man for the HBO cable net­work. The movie involves a mer­maid with a dead­ly side, car­ry­ing over the aquat­ic theme, but does not involve hyp­no­sis or reincarnation.

Ref­er­ences:

  • “Film­fax” mag­a­zine, issue #4, October/November 1986
  • “Famous Mon­sters of Film­land” mag­a­zine, Issue #230, March/April 2001
  • Movie review at Excla­ma­tion Mark blog
  • “The She-Crea­ture” at TV Tropes
  • Albert Kallis movie posters at Mean Sheets blog

 

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