Production has just wrapped on Sumuru, a fantasy boasting the highest use of CGI ever for a feature produced in South Africa, which has been shooting for the past six weeks in and around Johannesburg.
The film is produced by Brigid Olen and Marlow De Mardt of DO Productions, Harry Alan Towers of Towers of London and Germany's Framewerk. Directed by Darrell James Roodt, Sumuru is loosely adapted from a character made famous by author Sax Rohmer, the creator of Fu Manchu.
The plot revolves around two astronauts who crash land on a desolate planet, where Amazonian-like female warriors rule the roost and men work in the mines as slaves. The society is ruled over with a benevolent but firm hand by the titular Sumuru (played by German actress Alexandra Kamp) who is at odds with another Amazon, Taxan and her followers - who sacrifice men to a giant snake.
Towers, whose actress wife Maria Rohm has owned the property for years, made two previous films around the Sumuru character in the 60s featuring the golden girl from the Bond movie Goldfinger, Shirley Eaton. He says, "This time around we wanted to imbue a new element to the Sax Rohmer character. The film is guaranteed a theatrical release in the U.K and Germany, but in the long run we're hoping it will become a television series."
Co-writer of the screenplay Torsten Dewi of Tandem Communications says, "Besides from the name and a strong female character as the lead, this has very little to do with the original. The novels were a product of their time, fuelled by sexism and racism, presenting a world full of 'yellow peril' and 'deadly women'. Exotic, but really outdated...The success of Xena - Warrior Princess and Stargate SG-1 has proven that a lot of viewers watch science fiction and fantasy if it is not too tech-heavy or preachy."
Alongside Alexandra Kamp as Sumuru the film also features Stargate SG-1 star Michael Shanks and Simona Levin. The film whose budget is undisclosed but if shot in the US would run into the tens of millions of dollars had an investment of 11% from German broadcaster RTL 2, 11% through a U.K sale and leaseback scheme, 28% from German special effects company Framewerk and a 50% investment from South Africa's Industrial Development Corporation.
Stefan Jonas and Frank Wegerhoff of Framewerk, a division of German movie conglomerate DasWerk is responsible for most of the CGI work as well as being a major investor in the project. Nu Image has worldwide rights to the picture while Tandem holds rights for Germany and Eastern Europe.