She Beast – Italian title: Il lago di Satana (“The Lake of Satan”); aka The She Beast; The She-Beast and Revenge of the Blood Beast – is a 1966 Italian horror film directed [as Mike Reeves] and co-scripted by [Michael Byron] by Michael Reeves (The Sorcerers; Witchfinder General).
American writer Charles B. Griffith (Doctor Heckyl & Mr. Hype; A Bucket of Blood; The Little Shop of Horrors), a frequent collaborator with Roger Corman, was the 2nd unit director and provided some comedy scenes that were mostly deleted from the final edit.
The film stars Barbara Steele, John Karlsen, Reeves’ school chum Ian Ogilvy (also in The Sorcerers and Witchfinder General), Jay Riley, Richard Watson, Ed Randolph, Peter Grippe, and Lucrezia Love. American actor and director Mel Welles (Maneater of Hydra) has a cameo role as Vladisvar Groper, a voyeuristic landlord.
In Britain, this twenty-one-day quickie-shot horror homage was distributed by Miracle Films, specialists at circulating European-lensed horror and sexploitation titles but for US cinema release it went the rounds with Venice-set Italian mystery-thriller The Embalmer as She Beast.
A couple on their honeymoon in Transylvania crash their car into a lake. Her body is then possessed by the spirit of an 18th-century witch who was killed by local villagers and is bent on avenging herself on them. The witch takes over the wife’s body and it’s up to her husband and a descendant of Van Helsing to save her…
“Steele is best known for her role in Mario Bava’s Black Sunday, in which she was also the victim of a body switch perpetrated by a malevolent, immortal being. Blood Beast, though, has little of the classical grace of Bava’s breakout. Instead, it presents us with a large dose of exploitation. Naked women, violent sex and unlikely amounts of blood abound.” Battleship Pretension
“There’s a sizable amount of exposition to work through, but violence comes along periodically, keeping the witch a threat.” Blu-ray.com
“Most of the production values may be crude, but when the comical aspects aren’t dominant, there’s some brooding, striking imagery about, especially in the opening flashback sequence, as Vardella’s execution by the torch-carrying town folk and several other trademark Reeves bits conjure up what was soon to come in Witchfinder. For a film with such humorous overtones, there’s also a surprising amount of savagery and bloodshed…” DVD Drive-In
” …Ogilvy and Steele have an interesting chemistry together and share some rather clever dialogue as well, almost coming across like Steed and Mrs Peel from The Avengers with their constant back and forth. A few odd gore scenes help things out a bit, including a noteworthy one involving some blatant communist symbolism […] Reeve’s direction is strong and he keeps the movie clicking along at a very brisk pack…” DVD Talk
“This is pretty unforgettable as well although that might be at least in part from the fact that it hasn’t aged quite as gracefully as Reeves other efforts. Steele spends a lot fo the film being ogled or in a fright wig and mask shrieking and stabbing people. Trust me.” Screen Anarchy
“The comedy car chase shot by the second unit was very much against Reeves’ wishes but does add to the off-kilter tone even if it isn’t funny, so overall you could regard The She Beast as evidence of talent without it fully coming to fruition just yet.” The Spinning Image
“Genre queen Steele only appears in roughly 20 minutes of its running time, there’s just a tad too many moments of comic relief, and there’s an agonizingly long chase scene near the climax. Still, many of the weak points of She-Beast are redeemed by the screen presence of Vardella; her witch makeup is creepy, her shrieking cackles and lightning bolt movements make for an effective villainess here.” The Terror Trap
Although largely unseen for many years, renewed interest in Reeves’ short directorial career in the 1990s ensured that battered 16mm prints began to be circulated as VHS copies. These apparently public domain versions still pop up on the internet but their quality makes them unwatchable.
A restored widescreen version of the film was finally released on DVD in 2009 by Dark Sky Films with an audio commentary by producer Paul Maslansky (Race with the Devil) and stars Ogilvy and Steele.
On January 17, 2017, Italian company Raro Video release the film on Blu-ray.
Featurette by Nocturno (a documentary on the making of the Film)
A fully illustrated booklet | New HD transfer | New and improved English subtitle translation
Cast and characters:
Barbara Steele … Veronica
John Karlsen … Count Von Helsing
Ian Ogilvy … Philip
Mel Welles … Ladislav Groper
Joe ‘Flash’ Riley … Vardella the She-Beast (as Jay Riley)
Comrade Police Lieutenant
Edward B. Randolph … Man on Scooter / Man Wearing Red Sweater (as Ed Randolph)
Peter Grippe … Policeman
Lucretia Love … Groper’s Niece (as Lucrezia Love)
Ennio Antonelli … Truck Driver (as Tony Antonelli)
Kevin Welles … Boy in Flashback
Woody Welles … Boy at Cockfight
Charles B. Griffith … Policeman (uncredited)
F. Amos Powell … Man in Raincoat / Policeman (uncredited)
Buy Dark Sky Films DVD: Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com
Michael Reeves (British Film Directors) by Benjamin Halligan, Manchester University Press, 2003
Image credits: Cinema Arcana | The Scene of Screen 13