Stock footage of waves, with the credits and a song. The print isn't terribly great here. Floyd Crosby was the cameraman, and he has a good reputation. Directed by Roger Corman, but no Charles Griffith in the writing crew. The “Territory of Hawaii” is thanked, so I'm guessing this was made before Hawaii became a state.
Next, we see some fish in an aquarium. No, you can't see the aquarium, but it's pretty obvious. Finally, we see a couple of guys surface beneath a wharf. One of them has a knife in his teeth, and we watch them approach the shore.
On the shore, there's one guy guarding a bunch of rusted corrogated shacks. It's a living, I guess. Under the wharf, the two guys look at each other while they listen to the guard stomp slowly back and forth. I have this feeling that no-good is going to be gotten up to here, probably shortly.
Sure enough, the guard stops stomping and looks away from the water, allowing the two guys all the time they need to quietly get to shore. The guy without the knife nods to the guy with, and he begins sneaking up on the guard.
Oh wait—it turns out there are two guards. And the guy without a knife is sneaking up on the second, who appears to be on a docked boat. Luckily, the guy without a knife finds a convenient length of cord just hanging there, and he sneaks up behind the boat guard. He strangles him, and knife guy runs up and stabs him. Now, they run over to the shacks, and...wait a minute, were there two guards or not? Where's stomping guard? He was just there (on the soundtrack, anyway) and now he's not (on the soundtrack). Maybe there was only one guard, and not two?
If there were two guards, these other two guys don't seem overly concerned with stomping guard. But I could have sworn there was a shot of boat guard leaning, followed by a shot of stomping guard on the wharf, then back to boat guard.
Hell, I don't know. I'll let you know if another guard appears. In the meantime, the two guys run into one of the storage areas among the shacks and quickly find the box they want. Inside are a bunch of rifles.
And sure enough, stomping guard comes back. Whew! I'm glad that's solved. I was worried for my very sanity, there! Glad to see it's still gone. Anyway, stomping guard pokes his head into the storage area but sees nothing, but finds boat guard dead. Guy with a knife jumps into the water and swims away, while Strangling Guy sort of looks lost. Guard spots knife guy and blows his whistle, but then Strangling Guy jumps him and they struggle for a bit. Strangling Guy wins and jumps into the water, and stomping guard shoots after him. Since both he and knife guy were swimming pretty unencumbered, I'm guessing the rifles are still where they were. Commission of a crime, and therefore evidence of a crime, is nil.
Fade to a map, and a guy (I'm assuming Strangling Guy) starts narrating how he made his way to the other side of the island (a hand helpfully enters the frame and points out the spot) where his brother has a boat. He says he and his brother slipped away and made for the island of Rara Tu, where he has friends (the finger traces the route for us). But 300 miles from Rara Tu, a hurrican struck them, and they foundered on a reef. (The finger taps at this tragic spot.)
Stock footage of the boat in a storm, then two guys underwater in a kelp forest, seemingly unconcerned about being underwater and all (to judge by their lack of haste). Long boats on top of the water, followed by footage of women in print dresses (what was it Dorothy Lamour was famous for wearing?) swimming underwater. Oh, I guess the men were tangled in the kelp, we now see the women rescuing them. And hey, a stock footage shark. More boat footage. More underwater women. Another shark. And it looks like the woman killed the shark. More rescue footage, and the same aquarium footage we saw earlier. A dogfish, more rescuing, more boats.
A troupe of women assemble on shore to see the two men the boating party has dragged up. One of the boaters says something that sounds like “These men don't work!” (I rewound several times) but it's probably something more like “These men are hurt!”
A leader-type of the women asks, “What happened, are you all right?”
The blonde guy (who has a US Navy tattoo—that's all it says, U.S. NAVY—which probably means something) explains that they ran aground on the reef, their radio and compass went out, etc.
The leader explains how the Gods are angry, “We have had great winds for a month! You were foolish to put out in so small a boat. Much was destroyed here, last night, too.”
Blonde guy looks around and says “Jim!” There's a shot of the reef, and lead Rescue Gal indicates that Jim is dead. The other guy, who apparently isn't Jim, starts to come around. I think this is Strangling Guy, but it's hard to tell. The strangling stuff was shot fairly dark, and the print used for this DVD is kind of muddy. Still, 60 cents and all, what do you want? I mean, that you're expecting you're going to get, I mean.
Anyway, Strangling Guy coughs and asks, “Where are we?”
“You are on the island of Annakae [spelling this phonetically],” Leader responds. “It is property of the Island Company, visitors are not allowed.”
“We don't want to be here any more than you want us here,” says Blonde. He asks how they can get outta here, and Leader responds that a Company launch will land in ten days, and Strangling Guy says they can't wait that long. Leader says that time passes quickly in Annakae. With that, they all leave and return to the village, which is made up of modern A-frames (they even have glass windows). Leader tells the men this is where they will stay, and there's no need to pay as the Company provides everything.
Inside, it looks more like Pier One Imports. They set Strangling Guy down on a bed, and Leader examines his head, telling him that his case is not too serious. They have things like this happen when divers go down too often--
“--or stay down too long,” interrupts Blonde.
“There is that, of course,” Leader says rather curtly, like Oh-so-you-know-everything-huh. She sends some of the women to salvage what they can from the boat, and to bring the guys some clothes. “Lava, lava” is the order she gives, though which order that is remains uncertain, like so much in this world of ours.
Leader asks the guys for their names, and Blonde says he is Christy Johnson, and Strangling Guy is his brother, Lee. The story is that they're freelancers, out collecting specimens of marine life and shipping them to museums and such. This pays enough to keep them going, Blonde says.
The girls show up with some clothes for the guys, and it turns out there aren't any trousers anywhere on the island, so they'll have to wear skirts. Much giggling ensues, until Leader orders the women out, and on to their tasks. Blonde wants to pay the girl who rescued them, but Leader says, no need, that the Company (“a world-famous concern”) supplies everything they need or want.
“Canneries?” asks Blonde, and Rescue Gal opens a small bag and drops a small, milky sphere into his hand.
“Pearls,” says Leader.
Cut to one of the women walking through some tall grasses. I'm going to point out here, that the entire population of the island is female. That's why they didn't have any available trousers, you see.
Anyway, it turns out that this woman is the Leader (I told you the print was muddy) and she goes to a tree and raises a flag, all the while glancing around. This is probably a flag that means “Help, there are men here, and we're suspicious” though I admit my knowledge of flags and semaphores is very, very weak.
Anyway, Blonde and Strangling Guy see this, and think Leader is sending up a flag talking about them (points for me!). Strangling Guy says he can't wait ten days, every island around will know he's a wanted man, blah blah blah. Blonde basically there's not much to be done. He also mentions how Strangling Guy is always getting into trouble, and Strangling Guy says “Don't give me any of your lectures!” and such, and we're fairly certain we have the Good Brother, Trying to Get his Errant Sibling Back on the Straight and Narrow, and the Bad Brother, who is Deep In Debt and Needs Resources to Escape His Inevitable Fate.
Fine, fine, fine. So, where are the she-gods? Yeah, I know the title of a Roger Corman film means nothing, but still, I hold on to hope. She-gods, hello?
Strangling Guy retires to the house. Blonde meets Leader, asks if the message she was sending (via flag) was about them, she says yes, there's more obvious talking. Nothing we haven't figured out.
Then, Blonde says that, as they were drowning, he thought he saw something, and we see an underwater shot of a metallic, coffin-shaped object. “That's Kangaroa, our shark god,” says Leader. She mentions some other stuff, and then says that the shark-god has been angry for a long time, now. “Bring many bad storms, much bad fortune,” she says, and Blonde agrees about he and his brother's fate being part of that whole “bad fortune” bit.
“Anything we can do to get him in a better humor?” asks Blonde.
“Kangaroa—hungry,” says Leader.
Cut to women on the beach, as a boating party returns. Blonde and Strangling Guy are on a raft, diving for something, helping out the villagers. They argue a bit about how Strangling Guy thinks Blonde thinks this is all his (Strangling Guy's) fault. Blonde just wants to help. Then, back to the village. There's gonna be a ritual with music and all, the recorder music tells us what we need to know. As Blonde and Strangling Guy approach the village, Rescue Gal looks up at them and smiles, then, aware of Leader's disapproving glower, blushes and looks away.
Leader meets the guys as they enter their hut, asks them about their day, they say it was cool, no, cool, man, where's the, like, food, man? Leader says you go “there” when you want food (and she points, you dirty-minded guys. Honestly!). Anyway, she mentions some forbidden places, and calls for some of the women to feed the guys. They go off to eat.
Later, Blonde and Strangling Guy are standing around outside looking at the women, who are occupied doing island women stuff (I guess, they're just sitting around, but all together, and being very quiet and industrious...as much as this bad print is letting me see, I mean). Anyway, Strangling Guy tells Blonde to go talk to Rescue Gal, as she knows the place and can help them get away. Blonde does as he's told.
They exchange names, and he invites her to brunch or lunch or something. “Say, looks like good chow,” observes Strangling Guy when they sit down. Rescue Gal is going to eat a fruit or something, but wouldn't you just know it, Leader chooses just that moment to walk by and scowl or something, and Rescue Gal sees this, and so she offers the fruit to Blonde while looking all Oh,-I'm-in-trouble-now.
Fade, and we get choir practice. Some Hawaiian dancing. Cos there's no reason to make a movie in the Territory of Hawaii and not feature some Hawaiian stuff. It'd be like going to some fantastic foreign place famous for its yawing vistas and frowning statues, and just shooting scenes with your actors in a big cardboard box or something.
Rescue Gal interprets the song, it seems to be all about Blonde and Strangling Guy's ill-fated run-in with that old reef. They seem flattered, and everyone applauds at the end.
Of course, even though this movie has your basic island populated only by young women and a disapproving Leader, you still have to have the fat, unattractive woman come out and do her dance, and that's just what happens. She's not a bad dancer at all but I think it's mean to make fun of fat people. Eveyone smiles broadly. And then there's another dance, a sort of hula-fan dance number with another young beautiful lady. This one lasts about 20 seconds.
Now, Rescue Gal and Blonde get up to dance to the ukelele. I heard on the radio once that “ukelele” is Hawaiian for “jumping up and down all happy” or something like that. That's pretty cool for an instrument to be so yclept. (No “banjo” jokes please.)
Anyway, Rescue Gal and Blonde are dancing along, and she puts a lei on him, and being a kind of awkward klutz he puts his hands through it and busts it. Just busts it. And there's a huge gasp from everyone, including Leader and Rescue Gal and everything comes to a grinding halt. Everyone runs away from Blonde in a giant panic like he's radioactive or something. “What happens now?” asks Strangling Guy as the scene fades to the guest house.
Blonde watches some of the gals run down to the boats, holding these (I'm guessing) fishing nets which look a lot like brooms, and yes, I'll admit I'm unenlightened enough so that a part of my mind laughed and said, Ha ha, they're going to sweep the sand off the beach! But I quickly stifled that you'll be pleased to know.
Anyway, Strangling Guy and Blonde discuss all this “taboo” stuff, Blonde is pretty shaken by the whole “stay away from those guys” thing, while Strangling Guy is insistant that they find someone who “knows the ropes” (hey, YOU know them, Strangling Guy, ha-ha!) so they can get off the island. He's pretty insistant about it, but then he turns around and tells Blonde to lighten up, “life's just beginning!” Geeze, Strangling Guy, make up your mind, eh? Eh? Eh?
Blonde goes down to where the boats are and helps push one out into the water. (The women let him help—how taboo was breaking that lei supposed to be?) Other boats are already out there. Strangling Guy is scouting around the island. He finds a wrecked boat, but based on how excited he is, it's probably not THAT wrecked.
Back to Blonde on the beach, he sees one of the gals swimming off the shore so he leaps in and swims toward her, but she dives under and playfully surfaces behind his back and stuff. And yes, it's Rescue Gal. Next we see them running along the beach—there's a sudden second or so of darkness, like someone forgot to synch up the next reel—and they chatter like folks who are, you know, in love and all. I'm jumping the gun here, but just a bit, we all know where this is going, right?
Anyway, Rescue Gal explains something along the lines of, when there's a shipwreck, the shark gods are supposed to get to feed, but Rescue Gal rescued the guys, which made the shark gods angrier than usual, and when Blonde broke the lei, he, um, made things worse, some how. Leader has forbidden Rescue Gal to see Blonde, but you knew she was going to defy that particular order, right? Well, I did.
Blonde asks why Leader is so afraid, and Rescue Gal lists all the taboos and angry gods and such like that she ahem already did, and Blonde points out that if the gods wanted him to die, they would not have sent Rescue Gal out there with a knife to cut him out of that kelp. Rescue Gal thinks this is reasonable. Blonde asks her how old she is, and she says eighteen.
I'm supposing that an explanation will eventually be forthcoming, but I'd like to know why this island is populated entirely by beautiful young women (not counting Leader and the Fat Chick—hey, that could be a band name!). Are there no men at all, not to mention children and old people? OK, if there are no men, there'd be no children, but what about those old people? What happens when these women become old, or have we just not seen any old people because they're all driving Flintstone cars elsewhere, hogging the left lane as usual, and they're not interested in going to the beach? Or are these women brought here from some other island, to, uh, to, um, to be a pearl-diving force of young women, an especially attractive feature for the corporation's “Be A Pearl-Diver” brochures? And when they get old, they're taken back to where they came from?
Also, why the heck was this movie called “She Gods of Shark Reef”? Where are the “she gods”? You're not going to tell me that Leader constitutes a “she god” I hope. Besides, there's only one of her, so it can't be plural. Yes, we DO have a “shark god,” thanks for pointing that out, no really. But this movie is NOT called “Shark Gods of She Reef” which would make more sense in context but probably makes a lousy poster.
My final (for now) puzzlement comes from the fact that this apparently an isolated place (visitors are not only rare, Leader said visitors were forbidden, and though she was very polite and never said anything, it was pretty clear she didn't want these guys around), yet there's some Pearl Corporation that knows all about it, and supplies the women with modern houses and food and such so that they really don't have to do anything, other than dive for pearls and rescue brothers.
I know that Roger Corman has been known to pick a title and an advertising campaign before the script is even begun, but I'm still hoping these questions won't remain unanswered. If they do, I'll...eat some pretzels.
Anyway, back to Rescue Gal and Blonde on the beach and their whole discussing everything scene. Blonde asks why there are no men on the island, and Rescue Gal...just shakes her head. Damn, was that supposed to answer stuff, woman? Argh. Blonde notes that Rescue Gal knows “nothing about us” and gives her a kiss. She says, “Don't!” but she doesn't object when he does it again. In fact, she kisses him back pretty hard.
Cut to Leader, walking along the tall grass again. She pauses, and we see Blonde and Rescue Gal walking nearby (I'm guessing based on the scenery) and they start kissing again, and you know that's not going to set well with Leader. Sure enough, she gets her rock-prune face all set and looks away, as if mourning the coming death of Paradise...*cough*
Back to the guest cottage, Strangling Guy runs excitedly out the front door and calls to Blonde, who is returning alone. Strangling Guy tells about the boat, and he takes Blonde to see it. Yep, it's still there. I think this movie was shot using location sound, because it's very hard to hear what the guys are saying over the sound of the surf. Strangling Guy says they can use this get anywhere they want (oh yeah, even the Moon?), and Blonde notes that the mast is broken and will need to be replaced.
Just then, Leader shows up and demands that Blonde leave Rescue Gal alone. There's this repetitive discussion about how the two guys have brought a hatful of bad luck, she wants them gone when the ship shows up, etc and etc. She's pretty adamant that they stay away from everyone and leave on that company boat when it gets here in a week. Strangling Guy and Blonde are both kind of, Whaddaya mean? Wha? Like they already knew all that. Because they did. And so did we. I suppose this scene helped the people who saw this in theatres and had to get another soda and thus missed things, or who had fallen asleep in front of the TV, awakening to a frightening blaze of static and white noise, or something.
Leader says that now, other women are thinking that Rescue Gal may be bad luck. Rescue Gal's life is here, on the island, not with some Blonde guy. I'll summarize:
“Stay away from Rescue Gal!”
“Stay away, or there'll be trouble!”
Leader stalks off, and Strangling Guy and Blonde turn to the boat to begin their repairs.
Fade to hands beating on a big drum. Cut to the guy's guest house, the drum wakes up Blonde. He goes out on the porch. Turns out it was Fat Chick drumming. And now all the gals are singing another song which sounds kind of sad or something, plus they're all looking downcast.
Leader stands up with some leaves, and asks for a sign, and throws the leaves into the fire which reponds with a grateful WHOOSH. Leader calls to the gods to “take our trouble away” and there's a significant glance at Rescue Gal. Leader then asks for another sign (what, now?) and throws in the last leaf, and there's no WHOOSH. Everyone reacts to this as if this was the ultimate bad mojo.
Me, I'd like a sign that this film might move a bit faster. We're only at the 33 minute mark! No movie ever made was just thirty...five minutes. A quick glance at the IMDB shows that this is sixty-seven. Could be worse: imagine if this film was made today. It'd probably clock in at two and a quarter hours. Our primitive ancestors did some things right.
Anyway, Leader goes into haughty-raised-profile and claims that the gods aren't satisfied. No dum-dum-DUM music but we all get the idea, right?
“Tomorrow morning, we make the ceremony,” Leader says, “Tomorrow morning—we make the purification!” And she leaves to the sound of drums. Then, everyone leaves, except Rescue Gal, who goes off in a direction different from the others. She meets Blonde.
Well, I guess I should have paid more attention to these native names, because in answer to his question about “Huh? What?”, she says that “Itu” is really angry, and he (or she) is in charge of the dead, and he (or she) is really hungry. Tomorrow, “we go there” and Blonde has to ask “Where's that?” and she names a location, I'm sure it's been named a lot in the course of this movie (cough), and Blonde says, something akin to “But you said you didn't go there! There are lots of sharks!” and Rescue Gal says that the shark IS the god.
So, just for those of you keeping track, assuming you haven't gone into your BookMarks for some place more interesting: there is a Shark-God on Shark Reef, but so far no She Gods. Unless the shark is a female...but Rescue Gal refers to this shark-god as “he.” As MeatWad once said, “Damn it!”
Anyway, Blonde draws the needed conclusion that this will result in Rescue Gal's death, and Rescue Gal says that's the plan, that her “bad luck” and such like has brought bad luck and such like onto the tribe, so she's gotta do what she's gotta do, you know. She runs off, and Blonde is like, man, what the heck? Where do reason, and civilized behavior, and stuff like that apply to this, um, primitive society, which is funded by a global pearl corporation, er, and is therefor totally isolated from any kind of advanced social mores, and...uh...my head hurts. He looks really determined, though.
...how about a smack-down between the she-gods and the shark-gods? I'd pay actual, real money for that. In fact, I smell pay-per-view. The heck with that, I smell X-Box. Sorry, just spewing thought...
And, now we have more footage of the gals setting out into the sea in their boats, with Blonde and Strangling Guy looking all, That Ain't Right while this goes on. And out on the open water, we see that coffin-shaped metallic face again, then back to the beach where Blonde gets in a boat and hauls ass to stop this nonsense, then back to the boat where Leader is basically “Here's the infidel! Here you go!” and Rescue Gal jumps overboard, right into the aforesaid coffin-shaped metal face. (Those of you who have read Philip K. Dick's “The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch” may feel a chill at this point. Go ahead and suppress it, you wusses.)
Um, hold on. Rescue Gal didn't jump into the water. Uh, okay, that was some other gal who jumped in to, um, make sure the Shark-God was awake. Yeah, that's it. So, NOW, honestly, really, Rescue Gal jumps in (her wrists tied, too). She falls in front of said coffin-thing while a shark swims around. Blonde is cruising to get her, he throws a spear which—you jerk!--imaples whatever innocent dogfish was seeing whazzup around his shark-god stele. Blonde rescues Rescue Gal and gets her to shore, Leader looks mightily ticked off about this, everyone beaches then, Leader follows behind warning how this is pretty damned bad, but Blonde brushes everyone off and Strangling Guy gets some water for Rescue Gal, and Rescue Gal is all right! Whew!
But just then! Leader is going through those same tall grasses she's been through already many times, and much as I am a fan of tall grasses, my gut reaction is, this is probably not good. She goes to a tree and unties a flag or something, and raises another one which probably means “We are completely screwed here, can we have some plot advancement please?” She then takes the flag down, realizing it was a bit damn obvious though I suppose her excuse will be that it got the plot moving, didn't it? Away with you all, and your fines and regulations!
Back to Blonde and Rescue Gal, comforting each other (no, not like that, you pervs!). Rescue Gal and Blonde and Strangling Guy decide that if they can go, they're gonna go. Blonde leaves her, to ask Strangling Guy when the boat will be ready. He says, “Anytime,” and Blonde's pretty happy about that. They go to check the boat, but of course, Leader is watching them and the music turns all ominous and stuff. We see a lot of Blonde and Strangling Guy readying the boat, and Leader looking pretty peeved at all this. Yes, trouble is brewing. I feel pretty safe in predicting this, I don't think Leader is following Blonde and Strangling Guy because she thinks they need souvenir t-shirts (Polo shirts are even better, you can wear them at work). Hey, imagine a t-shirt that said, “I was going to be sacrified at Shark Reef, instead I was given this t-shirt which, personally, I think was made with poor workmanship; being a lowly peasant I fear to be certain.”
Digression From the Real World: What is it with cats? Sometimes, in fact, most of the time, they're the most independent pets on earth. Other times, their neediness just crashes out and bleeds through, and they become...Oh man. I was going to write “more pathetic than dogs [NB: I love dogs] in their need for affection” and Striker just stopped licking my arm and LOOKED at me, just before I was going to type. I am officially freaked out. I wonder who first coined the word “pets” because he was either a) a genius for the ages, or b) a madman who would like to see us all humbled. Either way, man, I need to save his life or something so I get a bit of a break.
[Antidote spray] Huh? Wha? Where the hell am I?
Oh yeah, She Gods of Shark Reef. Sigh. Here we go--
Strangling Guy and Blonde are getting the boat ready, Leader is sneaking around. Back at the guest hut, Leader—what the hell?--wakes up sleeping Rescue Gal, tells her that everything is futile and those guys are dead anyway, and she (Rescue Gal) really needs to get it up for this whole sacrifice thing. Rescue Gal protests that she doesn't believe Leader's “facts” but Leader is stronger than she looks and forces Rescue Gal out of the hut. Of course, Rescue Gal is our heroine so she fights the whole way. In fact, there's a fight the WHOLE way, only broken up because Rescue Gal shouts out for “Chris! Chris!” (Blonde) and he comes and cleans Leader's clock.
Which stinks. Honestly, it stinks! Come on, Rescue Gal was able to rescue both Strangling Guy and Blonde from Stangling Kelp Strands, in SPITE OF the fact that the, uh, Shark Gods forbade this sort of thing (I'm guessing). Rescue Gal is the most competant person in this entire stupid movie, and has shown herself to be fully capable of non-groupthink talk, and defiance of the superstitious beliefs of her people. But she still has to have men rescue her!
I suppose in 1958, it was expected, but here in the technical vastness of the future, such gender models are out-dated and make you 20th century hominids seem even more primitive than the Mooninites had told us!
Whatever, whatever, I hate these interjections more than you do—believe me! The brothers overpower Leader, Rescue Gal shouts about how she's innocent, and they all go back to the Male Guest Quarters. (Didn't see how agreeing to THAT nomenclature would harm your case, did you, Leader?)
Well, back at the MOVIE, Blonde asks Rescue Gal (while they tie up and gag Leader) how to get out of here, and Rescue Gal is pretty dumbfounded by this (“Chris leave TONIGHT?”). Blonde explains how it's the only way, etc, but my (BeckoningChasm's) brain hurts, a lot. Also my back, since I lifted those boxes. And Strangling Guy is like, woah, I'm totally amoral, I'm only for the plan that saves my skin! (Do you see where this is going? Yeah...yeah...yeah, sounds like a scenario to me! Thank you for suggesting it, so I can be (seen as) less of a fool for once. Because my guess would be, Strangling Guy takes Blonde's place...um.) Anyway, Strangling Guy decks Blonde for being moral (near as I can tell) and there's some more fisticuffs, because Strangling Guy knows whazzup and Blonde is all Innocent in the Ways of the World...I hope it's not a surprise how this turns out, because...it's sure leading that way. Strangling Guy asks Blonde if there's a map, Rescue Gal says there is, Strangling Guy is going off to get it, the others will sit tight waiting for the all clear...which, if this was made in the last 20 years would be the signal that Strangling Guy is going to his death. Redemptive death, of course. They all go off to the boat, taking Leader with them who is not terribly happy. Did any of that paragraph make sense? Oh, good.
Now we're outside and some woman is carrying some large sticks someplace. Have I mentioned how crappy this print is? She dumps the wood into the fire place. Strangling Guy goes to the “office” to see about getting the map and whatever else he can find that will be useful. Fat chick walks in on him, and goes off yelling to the authorities and he's soon chased by a gaggle of women. The brothers, Rescue Gal and reluctant (tied-up) Leader make the boat and push off, the other women in hot pursuit, manning the boats and stiking the water...but then in the next shot we see the boat all alone on the ocean! Since Blonde is doing all the paddling, I guess this makes him the most manly of men. They spot the reef they wrecked on at the start of this film, and Rescue Gal calls out, and they wonder what to do with Leader. Blonde's all, well, I didn't want to bring her anyway! Very helpful, Blonde. Why not complain about the food too?
Anyway, the take off Leader's gag, and she tells Rescue Gal that Strangling Guy stole the pearls from the office. She heard the pursuing gals yell it out; Rescue Gal didn't hear because she was “too scared” to listen to the actual contents of the shouts, just the sheer noise of it all terrified her. She asks Strangling Guy if this is true but he's completely motionless—man, he's like a still photograph. Blonde asks him if that's true, and he says, no way, man, all I took was “this” which is a huge collection of papers, one of which is the map (which is a little tiny thing about the size of a greeting card). Strangling Guy explains that beyond the reef are the islands where there's a boat waiting for them.
Weighing their options, they decide to land the boat on the reef. Now, I'm certainly no boat guy, but that seems kind of unsafe. Are they going to drag the boat across the reef, like Fitzcarraldo?
Well, they pilot the boat between these two parts of the reef...seems that part went fairly easily. And now their parallelling the bigger rock, and Strangling Guy jumps over board to guide the boat. Everyone clambers onto the rock, including Leader who (I guess) tries to escape by casually walking away. Strangling Guy is having none of that, though, and she's quickly brought back and tied up. When the two men return to finish tying up the boat, Leader says to Rescue Gal, “I saved your life! I bring you here as little girl! I feed you! And this is what you do to me!”
Back to the guys, they've finished securing the boat, and I think the plan is that they'll be safer at high tide or something, as Strangling Guy says “After tonight, that'll be the end of it![their adventure]”
“Will it?” offers Blonde doubtfully.
Back on the rock, we see a very nice wide shot of the four of them standing on it. A nicely composed shot, as well. The whole place looks beautiful—as much as the print allows out, I harp repeatedly.
Anyway, Blonde notes that it'll be another four hours before they can leave (so I guess it is a tide thing. I mentioned earlier about the location sound problem. It lends verisimilitude, but it also makes it hard to understand people when the roar o' the mighty ocean is all around, like a carpet of bees.)
Strangling Guy says he's going somewhere (couldn't quite make it out, but I think he's looking for boats). Blonde offers to come with, but Strangling Guy wants him to watch Leader to make sure that a tied up old lady doesn't create trouble with a capital T. There definitely does seem to be something “significant” and such about Strangling Guy's mission, like he's going to check on his secret cache of stolen pearls that he didn't steal. Or something of that ilk. He dives out into the water and swims off. Blonde goes to chat with Rescue Gal, who's down in the dumps. Blonde asks why.
“Why you run from Police?” she answers. “Why you afraid of them?”
Blonde explains that that is a long story, and Rescue Gal asks if he did something wrong? No, he answers, it's Lee (Strangling Guy). He was smuggling guns, and he hit a man and that man died. And he once shot a man for snoring. (I added that last bit, it's from an old Time-Life commercial...about Beethoven.) He says that Strangling Guy came to him for help, that the boat that was wrecked on the reef was his (Blonde's) boat. Once they get to Strangling Guy's friends, he'll be OK.
Rescue Gal points out that Strangling Guy is Blonde's brother, but “he is not like you.” Lady, I gave you credit for brains about a thousand paragraphs ago, start using them! Unless...she can't think straight because...could it be...love?
“I've got to help him,” Blonde cliches.
And we're back with Strangling Guy, swimming along nicely. And good heavens, he has apparently swum all the way back to the island! I guess that magical word “pearls” got his brain all riled up, and his swimming muscles too. He's sneaking off to the office again, trying to remain out of sight. Only the wiley women have locked it on him! Fortunately, there's a crow-bar just sitting right there. He goes in, but here comes Fat chick again. Man, is she a magnet for trouble or what? Strangling Guy decks her, I guess with the crowbar. He grabs the pearls and runs back through the jungle.
Meanwhile, Fat chick recovers and staggers out of the office.
Back on the rock, everyone's just sitting around, except Leader who has severed her bonds using the rock she's propped against. She jumps into the ocean and I'm guessing swims back...cut to everyone finding the collapsed Fat chick, and sure enough, next shot has Leader wading back out onto the shore. How the heck far away is this reef, anyway? Strangling Guy swam the distance and didn't even seem winded, and he was paddling a boat. Leader is an old woman, and she swam the whole way. So, when the boat was escaping, why didn't the island women, who swim these waters every day, just follow them out to the rock and blast Blonde and Strangling Guy with their death rays? Aside from not having death rays, I mean.
Leader returns to the office and spills the beans about the pearls...man, is that irony or is that irony? She'd accused Strangling Guy of taking the pearls when he didn't have them (and near as we can tell, had no intention of going after them) and just by the passage of time, her story is now correct! Post-modernism in action, friends, it just doesn't get any better than this. Well, no, it does. Many times. Just not in this movie. Sorry.
Strangling Guy gets back to the reef and runs along the rocky shore, and in the single funniest image in this whole stupid movie, almost runs into Rescue Gal and Blonde, who are apparently sleeping in each other's arms. He comes up short, like, “Whoah! Almost stepped on them and woke them up and crashed my dastardly plan onto these very rocks!” But the whole reef thing is pretty flat, with a few rocky bits jutting up here and there. So Strangling Guy should have seen Rescue Gal and Blonde in plenty of time to avoid a collision.
Anyway, he goes behind them and discovers the old woman gone. He wakes up Blonde and yells at him, saying they have to leave now, no matter the police boat, blah blah blah. Blonde sees the bag of pearls. The accusations fly, Strangling Guy points out that they have no money, now they're set for a long time, and there's a lot of discussion of “Nobody saw you?” “Nobody.” “Nobody?” “Nobody.” Rescue Gal says that there's always somebody guarding the office. Strangling Guy admits, oh yeah, there was a guard. “And she didn't try to stop you?” Strangling Guy grins and says, “She won't be stopping anybody for a long time.”
“It always ends up like this, doesn't it, Lee?” Blonde says.
“What was I supposed to do? Surrender to some old woman? Let's take these pearls and get out of here.”
“We can't go on running forever, Lee!” Blonde says. “I can,” Strangling Guy says, grinning pretty damn evily, and then he gives Blonde this tiny little smack on the chin, which sends Blonde reeling to the rocks. They start fighting, and I have to say, for a guy who swam to the island and back, Strangling Guy's holding up his end really well, while Blonde, who was resting, is a pretty duff sparrer. Maybe he needed his morning caffeine or something, I know how I am way early in the morning.
Anyway, Strangling Guy and Blonde end up in the water, fighting and such, til finally Strangling Guy whacks him with the bag of pearls (this is probably more irony). Strangling Guy gets in the boat and pushes off, while Rescue Gal consoles Blonde.
Out on the water, Strangling Guy seems to be having trouble with this whole “boat” thing, as he's messing about with the sail and stuff (I guess he is worn out, he doesn't want to paddle). We see the women in their boats in the distance, and elsewhere a solitary fin breaks the surface. Strangling Guy, messing with the sail, manages to fall overboard while the shark gets closer. Blonde and Rescue Gal stand stand up in alarm. Blonde dives in to go rescue his brother, while Strangling Guy is...man, I think I mentioned I don't know boats from hats, but he's in the water with the sail, and he's doing something with the ropes...man, what the hell is he doing? It's like he's trying to wind the rope around the end of the sail. Strangling Guy, is this really the time or place for that?
And now Rescue Gal jumps in the water too. Blonde reaches Strangling Guy, and I think I get it now—Strangling Guy was all tangled up in the rope. The shark dives, intercut with Rescue Gal, and I'm hoping we're not going to see another pointless shark death. Yeah, we do. Damn it. I think it's the same footage from the beginning of the film. The effort of knifing the shark has apparently exhausted Rescue Gal, so now Blonde rescues her (turnabout being fair play and all). Somehow, Strangling Guy, while trying to get back in the boat, grabs the bag of pearls and opens it. There's a really nice shot (underwater) of him looking pretty upset as they rain around him.
Another shark appears. Blonde, having secured Rescue Gal in the boat, goes to save Strangling Guy again, but the shark swims into his (Strangling Guy's) stomach, and there's a big cloud of blood in the water. The funny thing is, the shark is really small, maybe two feet long or so. Blonde, underwater, sees this and his expression is all, Oh well, that's how it goes, eh.
He surfaces, pushing that damn sail back into the boat (glad that plot thread got wrapped up) and they start paddling. Behind them, Leader stands in one of the other boats and shouts out for Rescue Gal.
Rescue Gal looks back a bit longingly, then says, “Let us go, Chris. The tide is high, the wind is strong...we'll leave evil behind us.” They sail out of shot, we see a final shot of Leader calling out, at first determined and then resigned, and the boat with Blonde and Rescue Gal sails off and the words THE END appear. And I'm making another guess that Strangling Guy's death at the hands (er...) of the shark have lifted the curse on the island, so they'll have good luck and so forth. So, in a way, Strangling Guy did take the place of the designated sacrifice. There just wasn't anything noble about him doing it. The cliché has come full circle, and anyway, the damn movie is over.
Man, never was the curse of “competancy” so apparent. Handled better, this could have been an exciting film; handled worse, it could have been a laugh riot. Instead, Roger Corman and crew shot the movie and moved on. Some of Corman's movies have become classics, like Little Shop of Horrors and the “Poe” cycle with Vincent Price. A lot of his 50's science fiction films like Attack of the Crab Monsters, The Wasp Woman, The Day the World Ended and so on are a lot of fun and have some interesting themes and ideas in them. People still watch (and learn from) them today, and when they appear on late night TV folks get all excited-like.
This one? It didn't even have any she-gods, for crying out loud. Unless that “she” was a shortened version of “sheesh.” Mostly, this was uninteresting, though too competantly made to be really dull. It might have made an interesting half-hour on some television drama (“Chris Blonde: Island Adventurer”), but sixty-odd minutes was really stretching it.
The thing is, the island society depicted here did raise some interesting questions, none of which were really answered by the film. Who are these women? Why are there no men at all? Leader mentions that the Corporation supplies all their needs, in return for pearls. What was this “corporation” and how were they able to maintain a female-only island paradise? (Kind of sounds against international law or something, to my tiny brain.) How did the women get here? Were they orphans, or rescued homeless children, or did their parents sell them to the Corporation? Since the women were pretty much all in the same age range, what happened to them when they got older? I was keeping a lookout for some kind of “origin story” and one never appeared.
So, the film-makers decided mystery and such weren't what they wanted. Well, aside from the warehouse assault at the beginning, there wasn't really much exciting action, and I'm calling that bit exciting just to be charitable. Characters? Rescue Gal was the most interesting person in the film, but she wasn't really developed beyond her exoticness. Leader was also interesting, but she remained a mystery through the whole movie. Blonde might as well have been called Bland. He was there as the Love Interest, and as such needed in the movie, but other than that, man, what a waste of space. Strangling Guy was also pretty dull. He was rather half-hearted in his villainy (until the end); in fact, I wasn't really convinced that he WAS a villain until he went back for the pearls (“Just going for a stroll, see ya soon!”). Sure, we saw him at the beginning, but we had no background on what was happening—was he smuggling guns for a good cause? Dunno, he was just smuggling guns. Smuggle smuggle smuggle. Without a context, it's hard to know whether we should “root” for him and his brother.
Speaking of Blonde, we also don't know (at first) if he's a bad guy or not. Well, he's a forthright and decent blonde-haired guy in a movie, yes, that's a good indication, but that's also the only indication. How do we know he wasn't up to his elbows in all Strangling Guy's smuggling stuff?
Look, I know that during the time when this film was made, Corman just wanted to crank 'em out to fill out double features for drive-ins. “She-Gods of Shark Reef” was probably a title chosen before there was a script or anything. There was no time to put any layers into the story, and I'm sure that sort of thing was frowned on by the producers anyway (Whaddaya think we're makin' here, art or somethin'? Get back to work!).
The problem then is that's there's really no reason to watch this movie...other than to say, “I've seen it.” It exists only as itself in its own little space. Perhaps it's admirable for a work to do so, to be its own little unique self, but a film has to have something to offer a potential viewer. And She Gods of Shark Reef doesn't offer much of anything. Not even any she-gods!