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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

She -- H. Rider Haggard

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Englishman Henry Rider Haggard's (1856-1925) novel She: A History of Adventure, was serialized in The Graphic magazine from October, 1886 to January, 1887. Set in the Victorian era, when much of the planet still held tightly to its mysterious, unmapped lands, it is one of the first of what would come to be known as the "lost world" tale, a popular type of romantic adventure which would subsequently be emulated by many others. This journey into unknown territory follows intrepid adventurers on an expedition (inspired from a cryptic manuscript left by the deceased father of one of the explorers) as they sail from England all the way south of the island of Zanzibar, there to finally hit land on the Dark Continent, where they discover a small, lost civilization in the remote interior. They soon enough run into quite a bit of trouble, beginning with the discovery of ancient stone carvings, underground crypts, mummified bodies, cannibals, a curse, and the hidden domain of an immortal goddess/queen, who has enslaved a tribe of natives, who nevertheless worship her. The natives have given their immortal goddess the name Ayesha (who will figure in later Haggard novels), which is a translation from the Arabic for "She who must be obeyed."

The goddess-queen She offers the explorers (one in particular) immortality (and the one she has chosen, the promise of her love), if only they will follow her into the forbidding abyss deep in the mountainous cavern wherein resides the Flame of Life. Will our stalwart troupe find it within themselves to resist the womanly charms and gentle seductions of the goddess, or will they succumb and allow the Flame of Life to imbue them with immortality, whereupon the one she has chosen will rule at her side forever? Are her motives sincere? Will an ancient prophecy be fulfilled? "She" aired on one of old time radio's most respected dramatic shows, Escape (1947-1954), on July 11, 1948, and while heavily condensed, manages to capture the exotic atmosphere, the thrill and dread of the dark and mysterious nature of the book quite well, despite what I felt to be a too-quick--albeit dramatic--finale.

As of 1965, Haggard's novel She had sold 83 million copies in countless editions worldwide. It was also made into a 1965 Hammer film, the most lavishly produced of the Hammer films to that time. It starred the voluptuous Ursula Andress (pictured at right, who was the first of many "Bond" girls, from 1962's Dr. No), Peter Cushing, and Christopher Lee. While details of Hammer's She escape me, it deserves another viewing if for no other reason than a second look at the charms of the alluring, Swiss-born, 1960's film sex-goddess, Ursula Andress. (As an anecdotal aside, Ms. Andress won a Golden Globe Award in 1964 as New Star of the Year for her role in Dr. No. For trivia buffs, her famous white bikini from that film sold for 35,000 pounds at auction in 2001. Born in 1936 and now 73, she retired from acting in 2005. Along the way, however, she was married to film actor/director John Derek from 1957 to 1966, dated the likes of Marlon Brando and James Dean, and had a child by actor Harry Hamlin, with whom she co-starred in the film Clash of the Titans [with thanks to Wikipedia for the anecdotal material which I stumbled upon, found interesting, and decided to toss in].)

Without further ado, enjoy Escape's well-produced dramatization of H. Rider Haggard's She.

Play Time : 29:31