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She Devil (Blu-ray Review)

25 Mar, 2013 By: Mike Clark

$24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray
Not rated.
Stars Mari Blanchard, Jack Kelly, Albert Dekker.

You could probably make a movie wilder-and-woollier than this black-and-white "Regalscope" release by rendering, in comical terms, the circus that would ensue when a biochemist mentor (Albert Dekker) and his younger protégé (Jack Kelly) get hauled before an ethics board over their fruit fly experiment gone amok — “amok” being defined as a homicide or two.

The team's research subject is a terminal but still buxom TB patient (Mari Blanchard) who is just alive enough to sign papers greenlighting her participation. Injected with a miracle serum that does her even more damage than cortisone does to James Mason in Nicholas Ray's Bigger Than Life, she is a) only superficially cured; b) suddenly blessed with the ability to change her natural hair color at will; and c) further equipped with the powers to heal any physical wound to herself in an instant. This comes in handy because Kelly likes to keep a panther in his lab, one that doesn't take to Blanchard taunts.

Seen here just a few months before he took on the brother Bart role in TV's “Maverick,” Kelly is almost instantly smitten, as men always are by she-devils. But a soon-to-be-dead Blanchard agitator doesn't err when she calls the transformed patient a trollop (always a good ’50s word). In the movie's funniest scene — I'm wondering if it’s taking place on the same set 20th Century-Fox used for I Can Get It for You Wholesale — Blanchard improvises a holdup in a woman’s dress shop by absconding with the wad of cash a fat-cat is flashing to buy fancy wrappings for a mistress about half-a-century his junior. With everyone in the store looking for a brunette, the assailant turns herself into a blonde while hiding in the changing room (always a good trick). Much later, Blanchard perpetrates domestic violence of the most extreme kind as passenger in a convertible driven by her new husband (John Archer, real-life father of actress Anne). Even the radio reports manage to blow the lid on what this now serial murderess just done, though in this 'B'-movie universe, the cops fail to pursue the obvious, freeing her up to scheme again. As another of those Jewish Indians in a Universal Western from the same decade might have said: Bad Medicine.

Regalscope is the moniker that Fox slapped on its black-and-white cheapies after studio policy dictated that the studio's CinemaScope releases all be filmed in color — a rigid policy that held until the release of Teenage Rebel and Three Brave Men at the end of 1956. Maybe this Blu-ray is a tip-off that Olive Films (which has been having fun with Republic's early John Wayne Westerns as of late) may be tip-toeing into the Regal holdings, which were mostly widescreen efforts in that very genre — low-budget affairs that are visually mangled to death when the Starz Western Channel shows them panned-and-scanned. Purely on its own, this cheapie halfway gets by as ludicrous diversion, which was filmed at the beginning of a rough big-screen period for miracle cures and desperate women. See also The Wasp Woman (Susan Cabot) or The Leech Woman (Colleen Gray), if not exactly for medicinal purposes.

About the Author: Mike Clark

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