Eye For Film >> Movies >> She Gods Of Shark Reef (1958) Film Review
She Gods Of Shark Reef
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
One of the earliest entries in the sharksploitation genre, Roger Corman's low budget horror/romance shows the master's touch even though it isn't very strong in its own right. It's a shame the budget didn't stretch to colour as it would have been interesting to see the trademark vivid palette of films like The House Of Usher and The Pit And The Pendulum applied to blood in the water, but Corman successfully creates a sense of threat using only real shark footage, without recourse to the kind of special effects later contributors to the genre would enjoy. As a consequence, the film is low on gore, so the focus is shifted to a rather bland romance, but the presence of the sharks is still keens felt.
The bulk of the film is set on a Pacific island (actually Kaua'i, its natural beauty underused), where criminals Chris (Bill Cord) and Lee (Don Durant) have washed up after being shipwrecked when fleeing the authorities. It's an island inhabited only by women, which raises all kinds of sinister possibilities that are never explored. Pua (Jeanne Gerson), the local matriarch, offers them the run of the island - they have, after all, got nowhere to go - but warns then that the police will arrive for them in ten days. This gives the men time to explore the culture of the island (dancing, a curiously Eloi-like relationship with food, and worship of a mysterious shark god), and gives Chris tie to fall for local girl Mahia (Lisa Montell, the go-to 'exotic' beauty of the era, who is replaced by a blonde on the poster). Unfortunately this relationship is not approved of by the other women, leading to Mahia becoming an outcast and a potential human sacrifice to the denizens of the deep.
Most of the other exciting plot elements associated with this film are in fact just marketing hype. There aren't even any she-gods. Despite Corman's reputation, the women remain fairly well covered throughout, but those who enjoy watching scantily clad, muscular men will at least find some satisfaction in the film. It's a bit more of a disappointment for fans of things like plot, well written dialogue or strong acting. Cord conducts himself adequately in the lead, but without much charisma, and Montell, like so many actresses of her time, is reduced to little more than a prop, Mahia clinging angstfully to her man as if he's somehow more sharkproof than she is.
An interesting curiosity that's not quite as awful as its reputation may suggest, She Gods Of Shark Reef is worth checking out for genre fans interested in how things worked before movie animatronics or CGI.Reviewed on: 23 Oct 2014