Omoo-Omoo, the Shark God

October 24, 2010 at 11:40 pm (5 Heads, Omoo-Omoo the Shark God) (, , , , )

Omoo-Omoo, the Shark God – 1949 – United States

Dubiously named a “cult classic” on the DVD box, Omoo-Omoo, the Shark God is an “adaptation” of Herman Melville’s autobiographical novel Omoo. In actuality, it’s a creaky, nearly forgotten adventure flick sporting the appropriate clichés: lost treasure and primal native spirits.

According Mill Creek’s DVD copy: “When a sea captain removes sacred pearls from an island shrine, he unleashes a curse upon anyone who encounters them.” The blurb doesn’t quite do Omoo justice. With a plot mixing romance, treachery, and violence to convolution, Omoo follows a dying captain on a return voyage to a primitive island. His mission: steal some huge pearls from the natives. He dies, his daughter goes insane, and his crew murders one another—thematically similar to Steinbeck’s The Pearl, published two years prior.

Like most sea-faring adventures of the period, Omoo is spare. There are few sets, lots of dialogue, and liberal use of stock footage. One memorable sequence is a lengthy scene of an octopus torn apart by a fish swarm. The savage tiger duel isn’t so bad either. It’s less guilty than The Devil Monster (1946), which is virtuosic in its endlessly long and monotonously narrated clips, more stock footage than not. Still, Omoo feels padded, more so with its occasionally plodding dialogue.

Typically, adventure cheapies like this are unwatchable, but Omoo has things going for it. The (expected) plot twists add variety. The alcoholic doctor narrator has interesting philosophical ruminations on faith. The dense soundtrack features Theremin moments too. But Omoo never escapes the genre’s innate hokeyness: infallible hero, dimwit love interest, English speaking natives, and all.

Modern audience’s interest in Omoo stems from its the catchy name. It’s misleading since the narrator rationalizes Omoo-Omoo’s godly powers away. What do you expect from a Melville adaptation?

Rating: 5/10 Shrunken Heads. A little boring, a little fun.


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