Review: She Devil, 1957
Mari Blanchard is the "she devil" of the title, and in a bizarre reflection of Blanchard's own life history (she suffered from polio as a child, and various other health issues later. She died of cancer aged 47) the tale starts with the character Kyra Zelas bedridden and on the verge of death from tuberculosis. Two doctors (played by Albert Dekker and Jack Kelly) give her an experimental serum that not only snaps her out of her death spiral but gives her attenuated abilities to overcome injury and illnesses of any sort. In a scene in which the transformed Kyra rattles the cage of a panther, gets clawed on the arm, and then her "healing properties" completely erase the wound shortly thereafter (something that is nearly identical to the abilities of the later invented superhero Wolverine from Marvel Comics) the strangely changed Kyra has developed a personality that takes risks and exhibits a childlike sense of morality: if she sees something she wants, she simply takes it. This of course lands her into trouble, and she then changes her physical appearance, with her hair turning from black to blonde spontaneously so that she can escape identification (like a chameleon).
The ideas in She Devil are a lot more developed than the script itself, with some dialogue so perfunctory it sounds like the usual B-movie run-time filler, for example Albert Dekker saying "I'll go open the door" and then he goes and opens a door. Other bits of conversation between Kelly and Dekker are rather unnaturally documentary because what's really happening is this is how the script is filling the audience in on what isn't being shown efficiently on the screen or explained more naturally with the dialogue and performances of the cast.
Blanchard is fine as a dangerous woman who is too deadly for the rest of the male cast to handle (that is, until the end when a bit of basic biology helps the doctors find a way to overcome her powers).
On the other hand, as she is straightforward and honest about what she is doing and is willing to tell her two "benefactors" why she is doing it, giving the story the distorted child-like aspect of the reborn "Kyra" pursuing the riches and power that society puts forward as acceptable goals, and she simply shortens the route to get there by using her superpowers. This doesn't generate any sympathy (Kyra is ruthless and at best simply amoral) but it does add a kind of rough understanding to Kyra's plight, which in modern medicine might be explained that her "executive functions" of the front brain lobe is damaged, either by her illnesses or the rejuvenation drug itself, and she now is acting on impulse, however crazy.
John Archer plays another philandering husband like the roles he had in other films and TV Shows, but this time he's not only out-matched by his prey, but we know he's doomed from the moment he thinks he's claimed Kyra just like he's conquered an implied endless list of women before. When Kyra is ready to be rid of him, she just forces their car over a cliff knowing full well she can survive the wreck and there's no way he can (the footage of the tumbling automobile is more explicit than the usual car crash seen in TV shows and movies).
Blanchard's performance, which isn't really femme fatale in any usual cinematic sense, isn't backed up fully by the script, and that's a pity because Kyra is a unique invention, and is an odd little study in ethics (including the medical ethics of the two doctors who conveniently look the other way when homicide occurs, and one of the doctors keeps nursing a crush that makes his decision-making powers completely suspect).
Blanchard often played "bad girls" in a variety of films, but this Kyra is only superficially similar and it's too bad the production of She Devil didn't take this Frankenstein-ish tale further and get a more polished script.
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Original Page June 2023