Written by / 9/13/2015 / No comments / , , , , ,

PULP NOVEL 'HIS BONES ARE CORAL' INTO A CHOPPY 'SHARK'

SHARK Year: 1969
Sometimes you run into a terrific pulp novel watching a bad movie. The Samuel Fuller sea noir SHARK (in which stuntman José Marco died by Shark attack during production) came out in 1969 and starred a then mostly unknown Burt Reynolds as a drug runner, who actually mentions that he's only heard of that occupation, "drug runner," in the movies... His footloose, hunted character is used by a supposed father/daughter team to dive for gold in shark-infested waters. This was based on the book HIS BONES ARE CORAL by British author Victor Canning, and with a title like that, it was well worth finding after searching a few used bookstores.

Novel Published: 1954
This particular hardback jacket sleeve has a terrific Hemingway TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT style cover of an old fishing boat rocking through stormy waters. Wherein the film begins with a choppily edited shark attack, the book opens with our anti-hero crashing his plane and then hiding a "stash" in a cheap Cairo hotel, where he soon meets a pretty girl who introduces him to her father, and, like the movie, is hired to captain a charter where dad can dive for gold while sharks patrol the area... but are only attracted to blood. Our ragged lead winds up fighting for his life to win the girl, and to come out of the situation without getting stabbed by human goons or eaten by ferocious sharks.

Burt in Shark
The first-person novel narrative is pulpy, corny, poetic and lovely; the action flows and the dialogue is passionate, dreamy and tough at the same time. The only downside is the second half doesn't live up to the first, being that, like many dime novels (RIVER GIRL among them), the guy gets too weepy and whipped by the backstabbing dame... but no matter...

CORAL was a fantastic read that wouldn't have been discovered by Cult Film Freak without that maligned Sam Fuller flick, ruined by studio henchman, which is not only difficult to understand in the dialogue department, taking place in Cairo where the actors seem like the real thing and thus, dubbed horribly, even Americans like Arthur Kennedy (playing a Walter Brennan style rummy sidekick) and Barry Sullivan rush their lines: providing what feels like a Noir collage of sneaky conversations with brief bouts of jumbled action. Although, technically, if you center on individual shots, creative camera angles, and a few neatly-flowing non-cut performances by a genuinely cool Bogart-style Burt Reynolds, Mr. Fuller's poetic signature is visible, somewhat, within those murky, muddied waters.
Opening Credit Sequence Font... The "A" looks damn cool
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