The She Beast (May 2, 1966)
Released on May 2, 1966: When Veronica's car goes into the lake, Veronica is possessed by the spirit of a murdering evil witch that was drowned there many years ago.
Directed by Michael Reeves
Written by F. Amos Powell and Michael Reeves (listed as 'Michael Byron' in the credits.
The Actors: Barbara Steele (Veronica), John Karlsen (Count von Helsing), Ian Ogilvy (Philip), Mel Welles (Ladislav Groper), Joe 'Flash' Riley (the She-Beast Witch), Richard Watson (Comrade Police Lieutenant), Edward B. Randolph (man on scooter), Peter Grippe (policeman), Lucretia Love (Grooper's niece), Ennio Antonelli (truck driver), Kevin Welles (boy in flashback), Woody Welles (boy at cockfight), F. Amos Powell (man in raincoat and policeman).
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The 1960's were the decade of sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll. I'm guessing that because of all the drugs, people were frightened more easily than today? If this 'horror thriller' frightens anyone over the age of ten, I'll eat my hat. Nonetheless, it is a really good movie to illustrate what people of the 1960's were watching and experiencing.
This is an Italian movie, filmed in Italy and Yugoslavia, about a witch that was killed 200 years previous in the small but famous town of Transylvania. It seems that the Helsing Counts have protected the town for many generations from the evil that surrounds Transylvania, but one day the town killed a witch without waiting for the Count to be there and do the job properly, Thus the spirit of the witch was able to put a curse on the town that would occur sometime in the future. Now today, we have a young couple staying in the only open hotel in Transylvania that happens to be operated by a peeping-Tom sex maniac. Count Helsing is also a local resident, still carrying on the family traditions of exorcising evil from the town.
On the way out of town the next morning, the young couple have an accident, and their car falls into the lake that holds the spirit of the long dead witch. The husband emerges from the lake before falling unconcious, but his wife drowns in the car. The body that they believe to be his wife is brought from the lake, and they are both taken back to the town and laid out on the kitchen table at the inn. When they lift the covering over the wife, they see not her dead body, but the witch. The Count and the husband take the witch to the Count's place, and the Count grabs a thin totem and chants over the dead witch, and the witch comes to life and chokes the Count into unconciousness before going out to terrorize the town. A lot more silly stuff happens until the witch is thought to be dead, and in the back of a police van, which the Count and the husband steal, followed by the dumb cops in the Count's yellow car in a Benny Hill style chase scene.
The Count and the husband finally return the witch to the lake, and put her once again into the dunking chair that was used to kill her many years ago. After several good dunks, the witch disappears, and moments later the young wife floats to the surface and is quickly brought back to life.
Now the good part . . . The Count, the husband and the wife are in the Count's old yellow car, heading for the border. The Count decides to leave town now that the beast has been properly exorcised, and on the way out, they remark that there is no reason to ever return to Transylvania now. But the lady looks into the camera and gives a spooky Arnold-like 'I'll be back' . . . . . wait a minute, Arnold won't say that for many years yet . . . maybe he copied it from here?
More: This was made in 1966, during the 'Cold War' years, and it is set in what is at that time was Communist Checkozlovakia, where the town of Transylvania is, and there are several 'digs' at the communist way of life vs. the freedom of the rest of the world.In fact, if you look closely, the witch kills the peeping-tom inn owner with a sickle, then drops it to the floor where it lands on top of a hammer, forming the communist symbol.
Also, Barbara Steele was a well-known sexy actress of the 1960's and was the only 'big' star in this movie; the rest of the cast were unknowns. Rumor has it that they filmed all of her shots in one terribly long day, then sent her on her way so she wouldn't be so expensive. She was so upset at this that she had bad feelings for the producer and director for years after.