Sumuru (2003)

Sumuru_(2003)‘If it wasn’t for the Queen, Taxan would have sacrificed you to the snake goddess.’

In the far future, a gene disease has rendered nearly all mankind sterile. In a final gamble, two men are sent to try and reconnect with a long lost colony on a remote world. Luckily, they find it populated, but society is run by the women and they sacrifice males to a large, hungry snake.

Author Sax Rohmer created the character of Sumuru in a series of what proved to be his last books, beginning in the 1960s. She was an international criminal of possibly supernatural or mythological origin who plotted and schemed in much the same way as Roher’s more famous creation, Dr. Fu Manchu. So what has this film got to do with all that? Absolutely nothing. Only executive producer Harry Allan Towers had already launched two ‘Sumuru’ films many years earlier; ‘The Million Eyes of Sumuru’ (1967) and ‘The Girl From Rio’ (1969), both starring ex-Bond Girl Shirley Eaton in the title role. Neither of them were any good (apart from Eaton), but Towers obviously still had the rights to the character so simply stapled her on to this cheerful slice of space opera.

Towers, whose name had been all over low budget cinema since the 1960s, also co-writes here under his familiar Peter Welbeck pen name and, to be fair, the story does avoid a lot of the stupid cliches about female-run societies that proliferate science fiction. Here, we get more of a political struggle between Queen Sumuru (Alexandra Kamp) and high priestess Taxan (Simona Williams) rather than a tiresome battle of the sexes. There’s some nice dry dialogue and even the addition of a moppet and his dog isn’t as excruciating as it could have been.

Sumuru_(2003)

Blimey, I didn’t know we we’re going to have to appear in an 80’s rock video as well…

Most of the entertainment value here is down to the performances of the principals. Michael Shanks, familiar from various incarnations of T\/’s ’Stargate’, has a nice way with a dry comment and he’s ably supported by sidekick Terence Bridgett. When it comes to the women, Kamp is appropriately regal in the title role, but she has to fight hard, in every sense, to compete with the villainous Williams who looks like she’s channelling some very serious anger management issues!

This was filmed in South Africa, and the locations and some camera filters make for an effective alien world. The musical soundtrack is another strength; being unusual and evocative. However, the SFX are mostly rather shabby CGI, and in particular the giant snake is truly awful. This U.K./German co-production never really escapes the ‘direct to video’ label imposed by the restricted budget and lack of fresh ideas, but it’s an entertaining enough way to spend 90 minutes if you’re not too demanding.

Precious little to do with Sax Rohmer though!

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