Hammer Films’ The Vengeance Of She (1968) picks up where their previous adaptation of H. Rider Haggard’s novel She left off. The film follows Carol (Olinka Berova aka Olga Schoberová) as she is telepathically led by the evil Men-Hari (Derek Godrey) to the lost city of Kuma to be Kallikrates’ (John Richardson) queen. Only the psychologist Phillip (Edward Judd) can stop the sacrament of immortality before the soul of Ayesha claims Carol’s body for her own.
In keeping with Haggard’s brand of Victorian orientalism and exoticism, Hammer’s The Vengeance Of She doesn’t shy away from jingoist portrayals of Middle Eastern cultures or customs. Unlike Hammer’s early film She (1965) there is an attempt to balance these antiquated notions with the thrills of the European jet set à la Ian Fleming. For this task Hammer contracted Peter O’Donnell to pen the screenplay for The Vengeance Of She. Best known for his Modesty Blaise comic strips and novels, O’Donnell excels at James Bond-esque adventures which leaves the film lopsided dramatically since O’Donnell writes the first half set on the Italian coast much better than the Arabian second half of the film. However the thing that’s most notably lacking from The Vengeance Of She is the female empowerment and agency of the Modesty Blaise books and comics.
A popular model and pin-up queen, Olinka Berova was cast when Hammer couldn’t afford to hire Ursula Andress to reprise her role of Ayesha from She (1965). Rather than simply re-cast the part, Hammer Films contrived to explain the change in actress almost reflexively within the narrative itself. This meant a significant departure from Haggard’s novels. In the end it is more accurate to describe the film The Vengeance Of She as being inspired by Haggard’s work rather than adapted from it.
Fans of Hammer’s original She will also be disappointed that neither Peter Cushing nor Christopher Lee appear in The Vengeance Of She. Cliff Owen, the director of The Vengeance Of She, was not one of Hammer Films’ regular filmmakers. By 1968 Hammer had aligned itself with Seven Arts and was struggling to stay afloat. It was these circumstances that prompted the famous studio to produce a sequel film to an early hit in an effort to change their luck at the box office. The Vengeance Of She is one of the last non-horror films that Hammer Films produced before moving exclusively into horror and later trying their hand at television in the seventies.