She Devil

Tagged: Film

Film (1957). Regal Pictures/20th Century Fox Film Corporation. Produced and directed by Kurt Neumann. Written by Neumann and Carroll Young from "The Adaptive Ultimate" (November 1935 Astounding) by Stanley G Weinbaum, writing as and here credited as John Jessel. Cast includes John Archer, Fay Baker, Mari Blanchard, Albert Dekker and Jack Kelly. 77 minutes. Black and white.

Biochemist Dr Dan Scott (Kelly) has developed a serum from fruit flies which can heal animals to heal from any illness or wound. His friend Dr Richard Bach (Dekker) reluctantly agrees to locate a human test subject who, he insists, must be both willing and beyond any other help. Soon Kyra Zelas (Blanchard), terminally ill with tuberculosis, turns up at Bach's medical clinic. The serum not only cures her illness but gives her amazing recuperative powers and greatly enhanced beauty. Unfortunately she is also aggressive and devoid of conscience. Kyra nearly kills a man in a robbery, but escapes the police by changing her hair colour to platinum blonde. Remaining under observation by Bach, she admits the crime when confronted with it a day later. Now extremely ambitious, Kyra soon meets wealthy businessman Barton Kendall (Archer) and decides to marry him for his money. His wife Evelyn (Baker) surprises them becoming overly friendly, and slaps Kyra, who turns her hair black and strangles Mrs Kendall to death – a crime which she also confesses to the doctors. They cannot invoke the law without incriminating themselves, and try to develop an antidote for the serum; Kyra quickly stops Dr Scott from doing so by intensifying his romantic feelings for her. Eventually she marries Barton but soon tires of him and murders him by arranging a car accident, in which she too is injured but heals almost immediately. Next she plans to win Scott after inheriting Barton's fortune; but the doctors use carbon dioxide to knock her out as she sleeps. An operation on her pineal gland reverses the serum's effects, and she dies from the original tuberculosis. Bach tells Scott that this was meant to be, and that they had interfered with her preordained death.

She Devil is relatively faithful to the Stanley G Weinbaum story, previously adapted under various titles for the Television series Studio One (1948-1958), Tales of Tomorrow (1951-1953), and Science Fiction Theatre (1955-1957). Kyra's death, a departure from the story, may have been a concession to the production code in effect at the time. The film exemplifies a certain US Paranoia about women which followed World War Two and manifested by showcasing them as Monsters and/or femmes fatales. [GFi]

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