Roger Corman shot She Gods of Shark Reef back to back with Naked Paradise in two short weeks. He has said this was his most enjoyable movie-making experience to date. It’s nice that someone managed to reap some enjoyment out of She Gods of Shark Reef.
SHE GODS OF SHARK REEF
USA, 1958, Roger Corman
Their escape doesn’t go to plan. There’s a storm, and they wind up shipwrecked. The brothers survive, but Jim’s accomplice dies. Not all is lost though, turns out the island they’re marooned on is inhabited solely by scantily clad, flirtatious female pearl divers. (I should point out: these island-dwellers are an absurd hodge-podge of ethnicities, and speak in varying degrees of Tarzan-esque dialogue. It’s pretty funny.) Rather than cause a stirring in his loins, for Jim the only excitement in this revelation is the opportunity to steal pearls. Chris, on the other hand, is smitten with his rescuer – pearl diving beauty, Mahia (Lisa Montell).
So, Jim steals a bunch of pearls, and Chris lives happily ever after with his island lady, right? No. Unfortunately for the hunk-brothers, Queen Pua (Jeanne Gerson) – leader of the natives – cock-blocks Chris’s attempts to shack up with Mahia and won’t give up her pearls without a fight. Pua sets an ominous tone with her constant threats that the brothers have angered the island’s gods. Instead of being sensible and leaving on a passing ship, Jim complicates matters by crowbarring a woman in face and stealing a bunch of pearls.
Corman shoots She Gods with as much enthusiasm as a film student filming a friend’s wedding. The film almost entirely consists of static two shots of Jim and Chris, our two topless hunks, who, by the way, at no point put a shirt on. I struggled to write a synopsis for this, because it is, in fact, almost entirely plotless, lacking any sort of conflict. Despite his murderous actions, Jim only really appears as the antagonist in the film’s final moments.
Following b-movie codes and traditions, the lurid advertising of She Gods is a big, fat lie. The sharks of the film’s title have minimal (and I mean minimal) screen time. It doesn’t help that they’re tiny and, in most shots, dead or unconscious. Corman deserves some kudos. His camera crew captures some decent underwater photography – which, rather surprisingly, features the big statue featured in the film’s poster as the backdrop – of the definitely-not-man-eating sharks. I’ll throw She Gods one shark for the underwater efforts.
Weirdly enough, I enjoyed She Gods of Shark Reef. It’s like watching someone’s holiday video. It only truly entertains those directly involved, but there’s a flicker of a strange sensation of being privy to something almost private; something that should’ve never seen the light of day. Its slow and plodding pace also lends the film a soothing aura of comfort and nostalgia. This is not a film to watch with a pack of rowdy pals. It’s a film to watch when sporting a gnarly hangover, alone and sad, on a rainy weekend afternoon. This won’t give shark fans their fix either, but fans of shirtless 50s hunks will be in fucking heaven.
As you might have noticed, the screenshots used in this review are black and white, even though She Gods is actually a colour film. I found the colour print used for the mega-cheap DVD versions available borderline unwatchable. About twenty minutes into the film, I switched it off and downloaded a public domain black and white print from archive.org. This version allowed me to discern actors from palm trees.