From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Maybe saving someone’s life might not be such a good idea! That’s one of the many questions that She Devil dares to tackle. It’s a pointedly feminist science fiction/exploitation hybrid: a perfect escape valve for 1950’s angst.
Dr. Bach (Albert Dekker) and acclaimed researcher Dr. Scott (Jack Kelly) come to the aid of Kyra Zelas (Mari Blanchard), a young woman who is about to die from tuberculosis. With nothing to lose, Kyra agrees to participate in a controversial experiment: the injection of a DNA changing serum derived from fruit flies. It’s worked well on lab animals—although a leopard changed its colors, but has never been tested on humans.
The serum does pull Kyra from the clutches of death, but it also makes her something of a monster: as one character puts it: “she’s a demon, a creature with a warped soul.” But maybe not. “From now on I’m going to do what I want, and only what I want,” a revived Kyra informs her besotted benefactors, and if that means she has to engage in deception and violence, so be it. Bashing someone over the head and stealing their money proves advantageous. So does executing an elaborate car-over-a-cliff automobile accident (a scene borrowed from 1952’s Angel Face), and strangling a female competitor so that she can marry the rich, grieving widower.
Director Kurt (The Fly) Neumann and cinematographer Karl Stuss present a carefully lit and creatively photographed world where screenwriters Neumann and Caroll Young’s anti-hero is someone who, perhaps not intended at the time, we root for. She has a problem with patriarchy and the limits placed on females by society—and so do we. At times it seems that Kyra is negotiating her place in the world by the only means available to her. And we admire her “masculine” penchant for cutting to the chase: “Never mind that scientific double-talk! I did what I wanted to do and I’m going to keep right on doing it. And I’d like to see you stop me!”
Part The Wasp Woman (1959) and Satan in High Heels (1962), She Devil is a must-see. B-movie favorite Mari Blanchard is wonderfully camp, but with a riveting core, and sassy, side-eye looking Hannah (Blossom Rock; Grandma on TV’s The Addam’s Family) is the voice and eyes of reason. Look for an (underdeveloped) nod to 1944’s Laura. Does that giant portrait of Kyra possess its own special powers?!
Josiah Howard is the author of four books including Blaxploitation Cinema: The Essential Reference Guide (now in a fourth printing). His writing credits include articles for the American Library of Congress, The New York Times and Readers Digest. A veteran of more than one hundred radio broadcasts, Howard also lectures on cinema and is a frequent guest on entertainment news television. Visit his Official Website.