Omoo-Omoo The Shark God (1949)

Omoo-Ommo The Shark God (1949)‘It is written in law of Shark God: three nights from now moon will cross path of great sky bird.’

An alcoholic doctor ships passage on a charter heading for the South Seas. The Captain is sick, having broken a native taboo on his previous voyage. He stole two giant black pearls, which also happen to be the eyes from the idol of the Shark God.

Low budget/no budget South Seas doodle allegedly based on the Herman Melville novel. It’s hard to believe this was made in the late 1940s because it plays very like one of those countless jungle adventures from the decade before. Actually, some of the plot was lifted from the old Harry Houdini melodrama ‘Terror Island’ (1920)! Most of the time we’re treated to a no name cast rambling about the local botanical gardens and pointing off-screen at scratchy clips of animal stock footage. But, to be fair, that’s not all that’s on offer; the first half hour is set on the boat and helps to establish the stereotypes that pass for our main characters. At some length. Our narrator is the drunken medical man, but he’s sidelined throughout in favour of the slightly jaded, square-jawed hero, who may just get reformed by the Captain’s beautiful daughter. Yeah, you just knew she was on board, didn’t you?

The medic is allegedly Melville himself, who would probably not have been flattered by the inaccuracy of his depiction here. (In real life he may have liked a drink or two, but he certainly wasn’t a doctor!) ‘Omoo’ (1847) was his second book and was basically a recounting of his experiences as a sailor in the South Seas. However, the public found it so hard to swallow that, although it was massively popular, it was treated as fiction! Ironically, when he tried his hand at actual storytelling (the impenetrable ‘Mardi; and a Voyage Thither’ (1849)) it was a financial disaster. Although it’s pretty obvious why if you read it! Certainly it’s the strangest book I’ve ever tackled.

Omoo-Ommo The Shark God (1949)

She didn’t fancy her leading man very much.

But, meanwhile, back at the movie, our hapless, mismatched crew have reached the island and link up with the natives who want their pearls back. Apparently, the Shark God is rather narked at losing his peepers and no children have been born in the village since the theft. What follows is the requisite plotting, tiger attacks, double crosses and native dancing. There’s even time for a little bit of fisticuffs before things are wrapped up and we can all go home.

Most of the cast went on to long but undistinguished careers as support players in films and later on U.S. TV. Leading man Ron Randell played Cole Porter in the movie of ‘Kiss Me Kate’ (1953). Writer-director Leon Leonard was never allowed behind a camera again.

In short, a scruffy, half-baked effort that was already hopelessly dated at the time it was released. The best thing about it is the title.


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