Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, June 23, 2020


H. Rider Haggard's fantastic novel was first filmed in 1899 as a short, Haggard's She:  The Pillar of Fire.  Four years later the book was filmed once more as a short, The Mystical Flame.  Ayesha, She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed, returned in two more shorts, both titled She, in 1908 and 1911.  Over the years, seven more movies with the same title appeared, in 1916, 1917, 1925, 1935, 1965, 1984, and 2001, as well as being the title character in 1968's The Vengeance of She.  As a character and as a story, She has been very popular.  Lads from my age still remember fondly Ursula Andress' turn as the ageless sorceress in the 1965 version.

Perhaps the most faithful adaptation of the novel was the 1925 film, with titles written by Haggard himself.  The British-German flick was directed by Leander de Cedorva (with an uncredited assist from G. B. Samuelson) and was shot in a Zeppelin hanger in Berlin.

Leo Vincy (Carlyle Blackwell, Mr. Grex of Monte Carlo [1915], Bulldog Drummond [1922], der Hund von Baskerville [1929] learns from a dying uncle that an ancestor of his discovered a lost kingdom some 500 years before -- a kingdom that held the secret of immortality.  Vincy decides to find the lost city of Kor with his best friend Horace Holly (Heinrich George, a German actor with 79 credits on IMDb; he died in a Soviet Special Camp in Brandenburg Germany, in 1946).  They discover that Kor is ruled by Ayesha (Betty Blythe, The Queen of Sheba [1921], The Scarlet Letter [1934], The Spanish Cape Mystery [1935], an immortal queen who discovers that Vincy is the reincarnation of a former lover.

Sadly several reels from the original film are missing, making the resulting copy kind of herky-jerky.  Fear not, red-blooded American males, for this lack is made up for by another lack, this time of modesty.  Betty Blythe was one of the first matinee idols to appear nude on film.  In several films as a matter of fact.  She isn't nude in this one but she does wear a transparent cellophane bra that leaves nothing to the imagination.  So let's hear one for pre-Code movies.

Enjoy this early lost race fantasy.

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