Publisher: The Copyright Group Ltd.
Date: May 2017
Duration: 2 hours 22 minutes
From the moment the dying man, Vincey, bursts into his friend Holly's Cambridge rooms with his dramatic announcement, increasing mystery and tension mark She as Henry Rider Haggard's greatest novel. At the centre of the story is young Leo, Vincey's son, who becomes Holly's ward. After discovering his fateful heritage, Leo travels to Africa to avenge a wrong committed over 2,000 years ago. There he comes under the power of Ayesha, an immortal queen of incredible beauty. Also awaiting Leo and Holly on their adventure is an ordeal to test their moral and physical courage, from which they will not return unchanged.
1. Momentous Meeting. The narrator reminisces over an encounter with two men ? the younger resembling a Greek god, the older as ugly as the younger is beautiful. Five years later he receives a letter and a manuscript from Ludwig Horace Holly, the older man. In the manuscript Holly relates how, years before, he was visited in his rooms by Vincey, a friend at Cambridge University. Vincey, clearly ill, left an iron box with Holly and asked him to be guardian to his young son. Leo. Vincey revealed his ancient lineage and Holly accepted the guardianship. Next day, Vincey was found dead.
2. Into Africa. On Leo's 25th birthday, the iron box is opened as decreed. Amongst the contents is a potsherd with Greek inscriptions and a letter from Vincey. A translation of the inscription tells how Amenartas, the Pharaoh's daughter, fled with her lover Kallikrates to Africa. There they encountered a beautiful, immortal white queen who showed them the magical Pillar of Life. When Kallikrates rejected her advances, she killed him. Amenartas urged her descendants to take revenge on the Queen. Holly is sceptical about the legend but Leo is determined to investigate, so they set out for Africa with Job, their servant. As they sail along the east African coast, a storm blows up. When the boat is swamped, they clamber into a passing ship with their guide Mahomed.
3. Taken Captive. The party sails upriver. Several days later, while they are sleeping, they are captured by Amahagger tribesmen, who take them inland. Holly is interrogated by Billali. their leader, who says that his queen, Ayesha, or 'She-who-must-be-obeyed', as the Amahagger call her, mysteriously knows of their arrival. On the journey, they meet an African girl, Ustane, who kisses Leo and, according to local custom, thereby chooses him as her husband. When Billali leaves the group to consult with 'She', the tribe hold a feast. The English captives are invited to the celebrations but, when Holly realizes that Mahomed is intended as meat, he starts shooting and the guide is accidentally killed. They try to escape but are pursued and attacked. Only Billali's timely arrival saves them.
4. Ayesha's Palace. Leo is wounded and feverish, but they continue their journey, for Billali says that they must go on. Later, Billali is nearly drowned when his litter falls into a swamp. Holly saves him as the tribesmen look on. The group finally reach a mountain, and the palace of Ayesha. Holly is summoned by 'She', but grows nervous when he observes Billali's reverence for her and when Ayesha greets them veiled from head to toe. Billali prostrates himself in front of her but Holly remains standing. Ayesha interrogates Billali angrily about the attack on her 'guests'.
5. A Terrible Beauty. When Ayesha questions Holly about Egypt, he is shocked to realize that she is talking of events 2,000 years ago. At his request, she unveils, displaying a dazzling, evil beauty. She is shaken to see a scarab ring on Holly's finger, which came from Leo's father's strongbox. Holly visits Leo and finds him dying. Ayesha shows Holly her palace, with its pit full of skeletons, then they go to see Leo. She staggers at seeing Leo's face because she recognizes him as her dead lover Kallikrates. She restores Leo with a magic potion and while he is still unconscious, Ayesha summons her rival Ustane. She banishes her and when Ustane refuses to go, she strikes her and terrifies her into leaving.
6. Lovers Reunited. As Leo recovers, Ayesha shows him her palace, but she is evasive about Ustane's whereabouts. She hosts a macabre dance, at which fiery mummified corpses are used as torches and dancers cavort dressed as animals. Leo and Holly are approached by Ustane disguised as a leopard. She urges them to flee but Ayesha discovers them. Unveiling, she kills the defiant Ustane with a single look. Leo is sickened until 'She' turns her eyes on him. His resistance falters and they embrace over Ustane's corpse. 'She' reveals the preserved corpse of Kallikrates before dramatically destroying it.
7. Pillar of Fire. 'She' and the three Englishmen enter a volcano, seeking immortality from the Pillar of Fire. They make a difficult journey which leads to a spur of rock over a chasm, then wait until the setting sun lights up a chosen stone. Using a plank brought with them, Ayesha runs lightly across the void. Job almost falls to his doom, as the plank tumbles away. Ayesha shows them a cave where a hermit once lived who revealed the Fire of Immortality to her. They enter the chamber which is filled with an intoxicating glow. Ayesha urges Leo, whom she calls Kallikrates, to enter the fire. When he hesitates, she offers to go first.
8. A Hideous Ending. Ayesha throws off her clothes and enters the flames. For a moment she is wonderfully beautiful, then a change overcomes her. 'She' grows unspeakably old before their eyes, shrivelling into a crone. Calling on Kallikrates to remember her, 'She' collapses and dies. Watching this scene, Job dies of shock and Leo's hair turns white. Utterly shaken, Leo and Holly leave and Billali helps them return to England.