She Gods of Shark Reef (1958)


American International Pictures.  Director: Roger Corman.

Creature Feature Bleachers Award: Only An Hour Long.

This week’s film pushes against the boundaries of what can be classified as “sharksploitation.”  Despite the use of the word “shark” in the title and a shark’s presence as an element of the film, I am not entirely convinced that the shark was “ksploited” enough to merit the genre distinction.  Prove me wrong, but I don’t currently believe that any true sharksploitation films existed before the advent of “Jaws” in 1975.  All of this being said, “She Gods of Shark Reef” is enjoyable as an awful B movie.  Noted schlock director Roger Corman (responsible for “Sharktopus,”  “Up from the Depths” and “The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent,” among others) shows exactly what you can do with 2 weeks and $50,000.  Answer: not very much.

Jim (Don Durant) kills some guy in some place for some reason.  Then stuff happens and somehow his boat crashes, stranding him and his brother Chris (Bill Cord) on an island populated by female pearl divers.  A company launch will stop by in a few days for a regular supply run, but in the meantime things take a turn for the dramatic.  As some sort of wanted criminal, Jim is anxious to steal a boat and escape to a different remote island where friends will hide him from the law.  The island women believe in a stone god sunk near the reef that manifests itself as a shark.  Their queen, Pua (Jeanne Gearson), fears that the presence of the men will disturb this god.  To complicate matters further, beautiful Mahia (Lisa Montell, a.k.a. Lisa Janti, a.k.a. Irene Montwill, a.k.a. Irena Ludmila Vladimirovna Augustynowic– I am not making this up) falls in love with Chris.  Can the three escape, or will the shark block their way?

A Lobby Card

A Lobby Card for the Film

“She Gods of Shark Reef” has a tortuously slow and bewildering beginning.  The first 10% of the film contains no dialogue at all, aside from a little grunting.  This would not be a problem if we had any sense of where we were, who these people were, why they were there, or what the heck was going on.

Maybe we're supposed to get it from context?

Maybe we’re supposed to get it from context?

We soon get a voiceover that attempts to explain the setting, but the number of unanswered questions just multiplies as the film progresses.  The island on which Chris and Jim land makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.  I understand that this movie is an excuse to show bodacious babes frolicking in paradise, but come on.  For one thing, the island language is totally inconsistent.  Sometimes the women don’t know simple words like “is” (sometimes they do), and sometimes their vocabulary includes 100 dollar words like “purification.”  For a while, I thought that the more fluent scenes were supposed to represent conversations in the island language, but towards the end, pidgin and standard English get mixed together indiscriminately.


Maybe they’re just distracted by these skirts.

A fuzzy language background naturally leads us to question the origin of the island women.  In one scene, Pua mentions that another group of people previously inhabited the island, yet she offers no further explanation.  Did the women kill the previous inhabitants?  Did the stone god in the bay bring down his wrath upon them?  Did they simply move away?  This is pure speculation on my part, because the film doesn’t even hint at what happened.  Also, why is the island populated only by women?  The film offers no explanation whatsoever.  Further complicating the matter is the fact that the women on the island seem to come from a variety of different ethnic groups, yet have adopted the same lifestyle and manner of dress.


Uh, I mean, they are a completely homogenous group.

Let’s take a look at what we’ve deduced about the women so far:

  • Their English skills and ethnicities vary, suggesting they originally come from different places.
  • Without a viable means of reproduction, they must be the first generation of their culture on the island.
  • Their limited knowledge of the island’s previous inhabitants probably came from physical evidence like tools or buildings left behind.
  • They excel at industrial pearl extraction.

Putting all this information together, the only logical explanation seems to be that a cruise sponsored by the International Association of Female Pearl Divers and Anthropologists crashed there a few years ago.


And if that’s not the right explanation, I’ll punch my brother in the throat!

Whatever their origin, the women have a hearty sense of humor, as evidenced by the short skirts (supposedly Polynesian lava-lavas) that they give Jim and Chris to wear.  Pua suggests that this is customary female clothing on the island: “It’s an island of women.  We have nothing else.”  But given the fact that none of the women ever wears one, I like to think that this is actually some sort of undergarment.


“Why do they always snicker when we walk by?”

Though not a widely remembered film, “She Gods of Shark Reef” marked the breakout role of the Boom Mic.



This fan-made trailer makes the film seem cooler than it actually is, but it’s nice to see that someone really likes “She Gods of Shark Reef”:

The Trailer

“She Gods of Shark Reef” has fallen into the public domain and can be downloaded for free at the Internet Archive.  It is also available on Amazon.


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