Some films are so bad they are good. Think Plan 9 From Outer Space. Other films are so bad they are really bad. Think any film directed by Steven Spielberg. Others are bad, but weird, in a way that makes them difficult to classify, and virtually critic-proof. Case in point is B film legend Roger Corman’s 1958 color classic, She Gods Of Shark Reef. Ok, classic may be too strong a word for the 62 minute film. For the title? Yes. But the film? Eh. What’s bizarre is that this film, to be found in the 50 DVD pack from Treeline Films, is listed as a Sci Fi Classic. Ok? Except it’s not science fiction. It’s not even fantasy. It’s not even a thriller, so to speak. The tale is that the film was made as the second film to be shot while Corman was on vacation in the then Territory Of Hawaii, and filming a crime film called Naked Paradise. As a budget saving move, Corman, whenever he went on location, made sure to shoot scenes for at least one or more other films or film ideas he was planning. So, what sort of film is it? Ok, maybe you can decide.
Here is the tale: the film opens when two men (one white, young, brunet, and buff; the other old and Indian looking- wearing a swami hat) swim up to a dock guarded by two men with guns. What they are seeking is unknown. They kill one of the men and make off with….well, something that must be of value, although the viewer is left clueless. Then, we get some badly mixed and matched stock footage of a map of the Western Pacific Ocean, a stormy sea (water does not scale), and then we see the same buff white guy who killed the guard and a second buff white guy (blond) washed up on a tropical beach. The brunet guy (Don Durant) calls himself Lee Johnston, and is apparently wanted for the murder and other crimes. The blond guy is his brother Chris (Bill Cord). He will be the good brother to Lee’s bad brother; as if the hair color were not enough of a giveaway. They sailed away, with Chris trying to help Lee reach a safe haven from the authorities. The island is filled with women- most are young and pretty. It is owned by The Company- apparently an outfit devoted to pearl harvesting. The matron is named Pua (Jeanne Gerson- a Russian actress playing a Filipina). She does not take to the brothers, especially. Especially when Chris falls for the shapeliest gal of all- Mahia (Lisa Montell).
Now, the brothers cannot wait the ten days before the company ship returns to the island. Why? Because someone may recognize Lee? Makes no sense. Of course, why the island is female only, and how this is explained by the ownership of The Company is….well, it’s not explained. Pua and the others worship a shark god named Tangaroa. As punishment for falling in love with Chris, Mahia is sentenced to be fed to the god. Two other babes are tied up with her, then tossed into the sea. What these babes did is never explained. Chris, though, finds a handy surfboard, paddles out to rescue Mahia and…well. let’s just say the god chowed down on the other two babes Chris didn’t care for. Meanwhile, Lee has repaired an old outrigger canoe, and plans to steal the pearls when he and Chris escape the island, He doesn’t count on Mahia coming along with them, but now Chris won’t leave without them. He whacks a fatter. Older woman to steal the pearls when he leaves Mahia and Chris on the reef they have escaped to, along the way tying up old Pua. But, she escapes, and Chris and Lee duke it out when the good brother finds out that his bad brother wants to steal from the babes. Well, c’mon, I mean, your brother is a murderer, do you think that a little larceny will be deemed taboo?
Of course, it should be mentioned that, by this point in the film, nothing really exciting has happened. The violence exhibited is rather lame, and the love story between Mahia and Chris is, well, let’s say West Side Story has nothing to fear in that department. Anyway, after their brawl, with Lee winning, he takes of, ready to strand his brother and Mahia on the reef. Then, for no reason, save to bring the film to an end, Lee falls overboard in a very unconvincing fashion, and gets his leg stuck in some rope. Chris tries to save his brother as a shark and Pua and her girls close in. Mahia also starts off to protect Chris. The shark attacks and guts Lee, Chris and Mahia take off in the outrigger, and Pua steams as the film comes to an end.
Nothing really makes sense in this film, but then, as it was an obvious B film B film (i.e.- made as a double feature filler for an B film that was top billed (or an A B film?)). But, in such a film, can anything really be expected? I mean, the buff guys are bland, the babes are bland. Even the sharks are bland. On the plus side, the sharks used in this film are much more realistic than the mechanical shark used in Spielberg’s Jaws, made nearly 20 years later. Some reviewers have claimed the sharks were real, but dead, yet, even in scenes of the attacks on humans one can see movements of the head that are not done with cords or anything guiding them. So, kudos on this one small point for Corman and company. Of course, given the film’s release on a public domain DVD package, there is no quality in the print used. The colors in the film are faded and almost sepia. A cheesy opening ballad plays over the opening credits. Then the music gets worse. The acting is wooden, the screenplay abysmal, and there isn’t even much fun exhibited in this atrocity. Yet, I must say I love shit like this.
Thankfully, there is not a pretentious moment in this film. Hell, we never even get to know why the hell Lee and the swami guy killed the guy on the dock in the opening scene. Of course, stuff like this always happens in films like this. A few years later, in Coleman Francis’s abysmal The Beast Of Yucca Flats, a similar murder opens that film, and goes its length similarly unexplained. Well, on second thought, I guess it’s not really unexplained for, as Mahia philosophizes when she pleads, at film’s end, to Chris, they must leave the evil on the island behind. So, that’s it- Lee was just evil. After all, he made a smart aleck remark to his brother implying he wanted to bring Mahia back with them so he could pimp her. Or was it Pua that was evil? Or both? Well, Lee’s dead, so it must be….oh, hell.
She Gods Of Shark Reef is a film that is good for one reason- killing time when one is too lazy or wired to do anything else. On that level, it succeeds as well as….drooling. Ah, but what drools are made of….or something poetic sounding like that.