The lovely Barbara Steele is the main reason to watch “The She-Beast,” a 1966 oddity from cult director Michael Reeves, best known for the Vincent Price vehicle “Witchfinder General,” after which the young helmer promptly OD’d on pills.
You might require a stimulant (we suggest caffeine) to make it through all of “She-Beast.” It has a terrific opening, a good ending and a semi-turgid everything in between.
Steele and Ian Ogilvy star as Veronica and Philip, newlyweds who chose to honeymoon in Transylvania, of all places. It’s the kind of town where they have to put up with a Peeping Tom, not to mention a pushy truck that forces their VW Bug into the lake. Philip emerges just fine, but Veronica vanishes. In her place? One ugly-ass witch, whom the townspeople drowned two centuries ago!
Philip acquires the help of the bumbling Count von Helsing (John Karlsen), a descendant of vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing, to exchange this blister-faced hag for his bosomy new wife.
Reeves gets points for a film whose look belies its low budget, bringing it a bit of class. Steele’ s unique good looks go a long way in that department, too. But for a supernatural thriller, there’s very little witch action. It’s all front- and end-loaded, with too much conversation filling the hour.
Dark Sky Films’ DVD reunites Steele and Ogilvy for a commentary track, along with producer Paul Maslansky, who later committed more serious cinematic crimes with those wretched “Police Academy” sequels.