Director Richard E Cunha
Producer Arthur A Jacobs
Associate Producer Marc Frederic
Story & Screenplay Richard E Cunha & H E Barrie

Jerrie Turner Irish McCalla
Fred Maklin Todd Griffin
Sammy Ching Victor Sen Yung
Colonel Karl Osler Rudolph Anders
Igor Gene Roth
Mona Osler Leni Tana
Kris Kamana Charles Opunui
Storm Trooper/Stunts Bill Koontz
Storm Trooper/Stunts Billy Dix
Storm Trooper Larry Gelbman
The She Demons The Diane Nellis Dancers
Uncredited Wendy Wilde

Irish McCalla was 29-years-old by the time she made her next film and her lasting fame as Sheena was sufficient for her to still be a desirable property.  She had become hopelessly typecast, however, and her barely sufficient acting skills meant that she was only offered roles in B-grade films churned out as fillers for double bills.

The director of She Demons was Richard E Cunha.  In 1957 Cunha was partners with Arthur A Jacobs in a venture called Screencraft Enterprises, who began producing commercials for General Mills, Texaco and others.  Cunha and Jacobs launched their low-budget feature film career with Giant from the Unknown (1958), about a centuries-old Conquistador rising from the grave to terrorise 1950s California.  Vargas the Giant in that film was played by ex-prizefighter, Buddy Baer, who played Bull Kendall in Queen of the Jungle (1956).  When Cunha and Jacobs offered the film to Astor Pictures they agreed to take it on the condition that they also get a second film to release it with on the double-bill circuit.  Cunha collaborated on a script with "H E Barrie", an NBC-TV soap opera writer using a pseudonym, whose real name has been lost.  The film was shot quickly in just over a week for $65,000.  The location footage was shot at Paradise Cove, cave scenes and additional jungle scenes were filmed in and around Bronson Canyon in Griffith Park, the indoor scenes where filmed at the Astor studios, and the scene with the python was shot at Fernwood, in the city.

Cunha approached Irish McCalla, still widely known from her Sheena role, to play the lead role of role Jerrie Turner, a spoiled socialite ("They wanted a name for their heroine - even though I'd been typecast as Sheena - and they paid me 15,000 'big' dollars to play that.")  Cunha wanted to produce a more risqué version of the film for the foreign market, but Irish, a good Catholic, resisted his demands.  Cunha later said, "We just had a terrible time!  It was like she was doing porno or something!  Everybody had to hide, we had to get the guys off the set - we had pasties on her and everything else." (Image Entertainment DVD)  Reluctantly, Irish agreed to do the scene but only if she was filmed exclusively from the back ("They wouldn't see everything, but it just wasn't right.  It's one thing to do it for Alberto Vargas [see the full story on Page 6: Nudity in the Modelling section] and another to do it in front of a crew and people on the film.")  Irish's pride was offended when she read in a magazine that Cunha had said that she was reluctant to do the topless scene because she had recently had a child.  Feisty Irish wrote to the magazine and said, "Well for his information, I have two children and my bust looks very good."  She also mailed the magazine some recent pictures of herself from magazines to push her point even further. ("I thought Cunha's quote was tacky.") (Scarlet Street)

Irish's costar on the film was Todd Griffin, at the time a 39-year-old second-string actor with no memorable roles to his credit (second from right above).  He was a bomber pilot in World War II and went into the dramatic arts when he was unsuccessful at becoming an airline pilot after the war. He attended New York's Theater School of Dramatic Arts for a couple of years and eventually found work in television on both coasts, plus a few feature films.  He made numerous guest appearances on television programs like, Maverick (1957-62), Bronco (1958-62), Lassie (1954-74), and Cheyenne (1955-63).  His total film and television career spanned only eight years, from 1953 to 1961, before quitting to work in industrial real estate.  He retired in 1983 and died in 2002. (IMDb)

Victor Sen Yung, the film's comic-relief sidekick, was a minor legend around Hollywood (far right above).  He began appearing in films in the late 1930s but later found fame as Charlie Chan's Number Two Son in the series of films based on Earl De Badgers' novels about an Oriental detective on the Honolulu police force.  In the 1960s he found further fame on television as the Cartwright's humorous and personable cook, Hop Sing, in Bonanza.

Leni Tana played the head-bandaged Mona Osler.  However, in the film's big special-effects moment, where Mono reveals the extent of the injuries inflicted on her by her husband's experiments, a stand-in was used.  Cunha's own wife, Kathyrn, better known as "Peaches", wore a combination of She Demons mask and make-up provided by Carlie Taylor (left).

Rudolph Anders, the actor who played Colonel Karl Osler, the Nazi mad scientist, was born in Germany in 1895 but had been working in Hollywood since the early 1930s.  He was a regular in B-pictures, specialising in roles as "ethnic" types.  His most memorable roles were in Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939), with Edward G Robinson and George Sanders; Ernst Lubitsch's hilarious To Be or Not To Be (1942), with Jack Benny and Carole Lombard; Douglas Sirk's romantic melodrama, Magnificent Obsession (1954); with Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman; and Jungle Gents (1954), a Bowery Boys comedy (Laurette Luez, who auditioned for the role of Sheena in 1953, played Tarzana, a jungle-girl in leopard-skins.  See the full story on Page 3: The Audition Process in the Audition section).  In the 1960s Anders also made numerous television appearances, including Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-62 ); 77 Sunset Strip (1958-64); and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964-68).  He died in 1987, aged 91.

Irish said that the two stunt guys were great guys and one of them immediately developed a crush on Flo, Irish's younger sister, when she visited the set (see photo on Childhood page). They were filming a scene where the stuntman had to fall from the top of the stairs during the volcanic explosion at the end of the film. ("He was yelling, 'Hey Flo!  Look at me.  I'm going to do a fall.' It was so funny.") (Femme Fatales)  The stuntman was so distracted he jumped too soon but they left it in the final film, in true low-budget style.  Florence McCalla found her way into the film industry as a result of She Demons.  The wife of Todd Griffin, the actor who played the brawny but dull male lead, was coordinating talent for several TV shows (It Could Be You & Truth Or Consequences ) and needed a reliable secretary to "take care of the stars in the green room."  Irish told her that Flo needed a job and she was hired. ("And she stayed in the business for years, working on the other side of the camera.")

She Demons has become a full-blown cult classic.  Richard Cunha has packed a lot of schlock into his 76 minutes of low-budget mayhem - laughable dialogue, Nazis who flog girls, a mad scientist called "The Butcher", a hurricane, ugly female monsters wearing cheap rubber masks, island castaways, a volcanic eruption, a henchman named Igor (played by Gene Roth, one time Three Stooges villain), stock footage from One Million BC, bombs, female sex serum, stereotypical racist gags, campy dancing by cute native girls, a not-too-hunky hero who just happens to be a scientist, and Irish McCalla in a cocktail gown (some would say this is worth the price of admission alone).  (I'm just amazed at the number of She Demons fans I meet.").  It has a lot to recommend it.

PLOT - Note: Spoiler warning
A cruise party, that includes the heroic, but dull, Fred Maklin and and a beautiful, and badly spoiled, rich socialite named Jerrie Turner, are blown off course in a storm and end up stranded on a tropical island. They are accompanied by a good-natured and slightly goony Chinese assistant.  The island has a threatening volcano and some remnant Nazis who round up the local scantily-clad go-go dancers for some S&M horseplay.  When the goons have finished with them a mad scientist, Colonel Osler, who has discovered a perpetual motion machine by using geothermal power, extracts their feminine beauty in his lab.  He is attempting to restore beauty to Lola, his disfigured wife, who was injured by a mishap during an earlier experiment.  Unfortunately, he hasn't quite mastered the technique and the side effects of his procedure have created some grotesque gals who are kept in a cage.  Occasionally these (wait for it!) "she demons" escape and wander around the island to the strains of creepy music. When the scientist gets a load of the abundant charms of Jerrie he forgets all about Lola and makes a play for her.  Jerrie rejects his advances so he decides to strap her to his operating table and siphon off her beauty (photo left).  However, Lola has overheard her husband trying to sweet-talk Jerrie so she throws in her lot with the castaways.  Fred gets to wrestle some of the Nazis and has a fist fight with the mad doctor's portly henchman, but the tall hero and the henchman change shape and hair colour while fighting.  The volcano decides it has had enough of this silliness and decides to explode but every time it does the film stock changes.  The hero rescues the damsel in distress, Lola tells them how to get off the exploding island, Lola and Osler are killed by the volcano, and the good guys row into the big wide ocean in a tiny little boat so they can continue to spend their lives making patronising remarks about their Chinese assistant.

Click on the image below to see the trailer for this film:
Click on the image below to see the dance by the Diane Nellis Dancers:

Click on the image below to see a complete set of lobby cards for this film:

• Richard Cunha's comments are from the essay on the jacket of the DVD of this film, Image Entertainment, 2001
Femme Fatales magazine, Jan 99
Scarlet Street magazine No. 23, 1996

• The photo of Rudolph Anders, Irish McCalla, Todd Griffin and Victor Sen Yung and the photo of Irish McCalla, Rudolph Anders and Leni Tana as Mona, were donated by Frank Bonilla
• The photo of Irish McCalla, Todd Griffin and Victor Sen Yung beside the She Demons cage is from my personal collection
• The photo of Peaches Cunha in makeup is a screenshot from the Image Entertainment DVD, 2001

• Both the video of trailer and the video of the dance by the Diane Nellis Dancers were uploaded to Youtube by me
• Read the Internet Movie Database entry for She Demons
• Read a detailed review of this film at Monster Hunter

• You can bag yourself a nice-quality print of this film on DVD from or from eBay

SHEENA © is the property of Sony Pictures Corporation
This independent, fan-based analysis of the Sheena material is copyright © 2005-2008 Paul Wickham
This page was updated June 2008