Film Review: She Gods of Shark Reef (dir by Roger Corman)

Ah, Hawaii!

There is no state more beautiful than Hawaii and there are no people friendlier.  When I was 17 years old, my family spent a summer in Hawaii and it was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life.  I can’t swim to save my life and I have a morbid fear of drowning but, when I was in Hawaii, I happily walked into the ocean.  Not far into the ocean, of course.  But still, everyone in my family was amazed.  Of course, eventually I saw a jelly fish floating towards me and I screamed and ran back to the beach.  (After reaching the safety of the beach, I realized that the jelly fish was actually just seaweed but still, it was scary-looking!)  Hawaii is just the type of state that makes you appreciate life and take risks.

For instance, consider the two main characters in Roger Corman’s 1958 film, She Gods of Shark Reef.  Chris (Bill Cord) and Lee (Don Durant) are brothers who live in Hawaii.  Chris has blonde hair and a good attitude towards life.  Lee has dark hair and a criminal nature.  Chris loves the ocean.  Lee loves to run guns.  After Lee kills two men, he stows away on Chris’s boat.  When the boat then hits a storm, Chris and Lee wash up on the shores of an isolated beach.  It’s a beautiful island but all Lee can think about is how he can make money off of his current predicament.  Bad Lee, bad!

Anyway, it turns out that the island is inhabited by an all-female village of pearl divers.  Everyone is excited by the arrival of two handsome, shirtless men.  Everyone except for Queen Pua (Jeanne Gerson), who doesn’t trust either one of them and who doesn’t appear to want anyone in the world to be happy.  She’s especially upset when Chris interrupts a plan to sacrifice a villager to the shark gods of the sea.  Chris not only rescues but also falls in love with Mahia (Lisa Montell).

While Chris is busy falling in love, Lee is trying to figure out a way to escape from the island before a rescue boat arrives.  Lee, after all, is a wanted criminal and the last thing that he wants is to go from being shipwrecked to imprisoned.  Lee comes up with a plan for himself, his brother, and Mahia to escape the island.  However, Lee being Lee, he just can’t overcome his greedy nature.  As quickly becomes obvious, Karma is not only a bitch but it’s a shark as well.

She Gods of Shark Reef was directed by Roger Corman.  Though the film’s low budget is obvious in every frame, Corman wisely decided to concentrate on the island’s beauty as opposed to the movie’s somewhat haphazard story.  This is one of those films where the action stops for nearly five minutes so that Corman can film a hula dancer.  But you know what?  That’s okay!  The beauty of Hawaii and the surrounding ocean carry the film.  You don’t watch for the plot.  Instead, you watch for the blue water and the green grass and the vibrant skies.  This is a film that you watch for the island scenery and the sharks.  Both of them are quite nice.

Music Video Of The Day: Jump They Say by David Bowie (1993, directed by Mark Romanek)

Though this is one of David Bowie’s most popular videos and also features one of the best performances of his often underrated acting career, the story behind it is a sad one.  Bowie wrote the song from the point of view of Terry Burns, his schizophrenic half-brother who once attempted suicide by jumping out of a window.  Though that attempt failed, a few years later, Terry did succeed in escaping from the mental institution where he was being held.  After escaping, Terry was hit by a train and killed.  Much like Bowie’s previous song, All the Madmen, Jump They Say was inspired by Terry’s life and Bowie’s own attempts to understand the source of his brother’s mental illness.

This makes the video all the more poignant as Bowie plays a businessman who comes to suspect that his colleagues are plotting against him and, in order to escape from them, ends up throwing himself from the roof of an office building.  Mark Romanek directs in such a way that it’s never clear whether Bowie’s character is correct to be paranoid or if it’s all in his mind.  Romanek throws in visual references to other films that dealt with the themes of paranoia and conformity, including A Clockwork Orange, Alphaville, and The Trial.  Romanek has subsequently gone from being an in-demand music video director to directing films such as One Hour Photo and Never Let Me Go.

When this video was released, Bowie was going through something of a career slump.  Jump They Say was a bit of a comeback for him, reaching number 9 on the UK charts.