In the wake of John Milius’ Conan the Barbarian and George Miller’s The Road Warrior (a.k.a. Mad Max II), the 1980s were a rich period for craptastic sword & sorcery and post-apocalyptic movies. Occasionally someone would combine the two genres and we’d get a particularly stunning trash-cinema disaster like Avi Nesher’s She.
“Inspired by” the H. Rider Haggard book (but only so far as the word “She” goes), this movie is an unstoppable hard-driving, double-clutching festival of wrong-headedness that nevertheless provides some damn fine entertainment. Set in “Year 23: After the Cancellation” (of Firefly, perhaps?), She opens as studly blonde hero Tom crosses a river with his swarthy little pal Dick and Tom’s sister, Hari (genius on display from frame one!). They visit a post-apocalyptic compound called “Heaven’s Gate” where the production design is only slightly less believable than the average LARPing event. We learn that Kellogg’s products survived the Cancellation but come at a high price.
The compound is attacked by a group of “Norks,” led by Hector (Gordon Mitchell, recognizable from many an Italian actioner), who sports a futuristic rooster helmet. The Norks kick the crap out of Tom and Dick and make off with Hari.
Meanwhile, some sort of ritual is taking place somewhere, and a bunch of people are bowing and chanting “She… She… She…” while chained and oiled musclemen struggle unconvincingly to break their bonds. She (Sandahl Bergman, the superhot dancer who played Conan’s squeeze Valeria) enters, accompanied by her tough-chick aide, Shandra (Quin Kessler). Shandra looks like she could wrassle a smallish bear but speaks in an unfortunate whiny voice, like she’s mad because the Mac store is out of her shade of lip gloss. We see a quick flash of She atop some guy in bed and possibly stabbing him, but it goes by so fast I wasn’t sure.
Suddenly we find ourselves outside, where She is astride her horse. Tom runs at her, and She falls off the horse and is knocked unconscious. Tom steals the horse and he and Dick ride into a village where they wander around a marketplace until a saucy chick beckons to them. The fellows happily join the saucy chick in her house, where she drugs their food. Before they pass out, the chick asks them who their god is. “We don’t have a god — we do business,” one of them says.
Dick awakens chained up in the chick’s indoor pigpen, where he’s forced to peel onions. Tom winds up in She’s dungeon. She doesn’t like his haughty male attitude and tells Shandra to have him “walk the path.” This path turns out to be a gauntlet of sharpened sticks shoved into the ground, lined with sword-wielding lovelies. Tom makes it through but gets poked by a bunch of sticks along the way, not to mention cruelly taunted by the women.
Tom is left for dead but a British guy wearing nerd glasses finds him and takes him home to his science lab where beakers of colorful liquid bubble and smoke. Tom wants to know the way to Nork Valley so he can rescue his sister, and the British guy tells him that She is the only one who knows how to find the Norks. Tom returns to the saucy chick’s place and rescues Dick, and the two make their way to She’s temple, where they sit in on the ol’ greasy-muscleheads ritual. This scene, I might add, goes absolutely nowhere (like many others in She).
She cuts out of her own ritual and she and Shandra go to a cave. Shandra wishes she could enter with She, but She must go it alone. This is where the movie goes completely ape-crazy and never looks back: She enters the cave, which is full of junk left over from before the Cancellation, including several large wooden crates. One of the crates bursts open and a massive, helmeted warrior leaps out, attacking She. There’s an awkward swordfight, during which a second crate breaks apart, unleashing another swordsman.
She dispatches these two, and a third crate falls open to reveal three more warriors. She takes them out as well, but a pair of arms burst through another crate, grabbing her. This time she’s faced with Frankenstein’s monster, who proves to be a more formidable foe than the swordsmen. She bites one of the bolts off the monster’s neck and he sizzles and hisses for a few moments before his head explodes clean off his shoulders.
Continuing further into the cave, She meets an old woman who tells her she’s pure. This apparently means she’s now allowed to enjoy the hot tub, which means we get to enjoy a little Sandahl Bergman nudity. After the healing waters have done their thing, She returns home to find Tom tied up in her bed. She moves to stab him but Dick leaps out and the two men kidnap She, riding off into the wasteland. Keep in mind, She just defeated five sword-wielding thugs and Frankenstein, but Tom has no trouble restraining her with one hand while holding a horse’s reins with the other.
Tom, Dick and She stop for the night in some kind of power plant. Dick puts the make on She but she kicks at him and he chooses instead to snuggle with Tom. As they sleep, mummies armed with chainsaws creep from the bowels of the power plant and take the three prisoner. She has history with the lead mummy (these guys are apparently mutants but they all dress like mummies for some reason), and he’s happy to have her in his clutches so that he might exact vengeance.
Locking their captives in a small room, the mummies throw a switch and the walls start closing in on our heroes. Fortunately Shandra and a group of female warriors arrive and a battle ensues between the sword-wielding chicks in their underpants and the chainsaw-wielding mummies, but sadly, it doesn’t come anywhere close to delivering on the promise that sentence holds.
Tom and Dick continue on their way, with She and Shandra surreptitiously following. Tom and Dick stumble across a settlement populated by fruity goofs in togas. Dick says “What is this place — a funny farm?” A gap-toothed toga-clad chick comes on to Dick and the men are invited to join the toga people for the night. There’s a big feast, after which the toga people dance to an old doo-wop record. Dick gets all rapey with the gap-toothed girl but it’s all in good fun, apparently. “My friend is an asshole,” Tom says.
During the night, everyone sleeps in a big pile, and the fruity toga people transform into half-assed werewolves. As Tom and Dick fight for their lives, She and Shandra arrive, throwing down with the fruity toga werewolves.
After our heroes make their escape, She and Shandra decide to accompany them on their journey. Next stop: the monastery where the followers of Godan hang out. Godan looks like a cross between Eric Bogosian and Vincent D’Onofrio and has the ability to sling people and objects around by making his eyes glow green.
His high-school-rock-band logo features a G formed from the Soviet hammer and sickle. Our heroes are captured by the axe-wielding worshippers of Godan and She and Shandra are whipped and tortured in a sequence that looks like it was lifted from a bad Scorpions video.
If it’s possible to imagine, She actually gets weirder from there, as our little group of adventurers escape Godan and continue their journey to Nork Valley — which includes run-ins with a bearded fellow in a pink tutu, an incredibly annoying guy dressed in a leather-fringed sailor suit and doing a terrible Robin Williams impression, and the appearance of the Nork leader, a shimmering disco-robot-guy.
While the movie itself is atrociously entertaining, the godawful music kicks the crappiness quotient into high gear whenever it wails across the soundtrack — so you can imagine my surprise upon seeing the closing credits to find that the composer was Rick Wakeman, and the soundtrack included “original music by Motorhead.” In fact, I’m still stunned.
If you dig the cheesy 80s-era apocalypse movies, give She a look — it’s definitely worth your time.
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