Sheena: Queen of the Jungle reminds me a lot of another blonde comics hero that also made its way to the screen in 1984, Supergirl. Tonya Roberts and Helen Slater each had their opportunity to start a female driven action franchise and both of the resulting films are laughably bad. Roberts is the big-screen incarnation of Will Eisner’s comic-strip heroine Sheena. Aiming for a target audience of Conan, Beastmaster, and Indiana Jones fans–Sheena is perhaps the most sexually explicit PG rated film I’ve ever seen. It’s no wonder that 1984 was the year the MPAA invented the PG-13 rating.
Young fair-haired Janet is orphaned when a cave implodes and kills her geologist parents. The child is discovered by an elder Shaman, the female leader of the Zambouli clan, she proclaims the child a miracle from God and renames the girl Sheena. Sheena (Tanya Roberts) eventually becomes a startlingly beautiful woman with all of the cosmetic perfection of a New York socialite, but that is never addressed in any of these jungle adventure movies. Tonya Roberts with a uni-brow and hairy legs won’t sell tickets.
The assassination of the King by his ex-football champion younger brother Prince Otwani (Trevor Thomas) and conspiring fiancée, Countess Zanda (France Zobda), have brought unrest to the Jungle. The Zambouli tribe has been publicly blamed for the Royal’s death, and are now being hunted as an enemy by hired mercenaries. The murderous Prince’s plan is to mine the titanium rich land for profit.
Sportscaster Vic Casey (Ted Wass), and his tubby cameraman Fletch Agronsky (Donovan Scott) are in town to do a story on the former football player. They happen to catch the assassination on tape and are now considered fugitives. Sheena rescues the pair and affords them the chance to expose the true identity of the King’s assailant.
Sheena: Queen of the Jungle dutifully hits all the beats, but never generates any excitement or fun during the process. It has been photographed handsomely and Roberts looks great nude, but it contains too many story elements that don’t add up to much in the end. The film’s most interesting character is the villain, an African Prince turned field-goal kicker in the NFL. I wanted to see his story more than that of the jungle child Sheena. A pretentious score nearly proves ruinous to the scenes in which it plays over.
Director: John Guillermin
Stars: Tanya Roberts, Ted Wass, Donovan Scott