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.
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.
- “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