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SHEENA

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, April 19, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: I was among the nearly unanimous critical community that found the deliberately campy ‘Sheena’ to be one of the worst films of 1984. Oddly, one of its defenders was the late Pauline Kael, the powerful movie critic for the New Yorker, who took it as a slapstick comedy. And the film does have a following, hence, the recent Blu-ray upgrade by Millcreek Entertainment. The most interesting aspect of this release is the design of the Blu-ray box, which is part of a series of less-than-stellar 1980s titles with a retro VHS look. My review below was originally published in the Deseret News on Aug. 24, 1984.

If you’ve been disappointed ever since Bo Derek’s “Tarzan, the Ape Man” that no other film has quite come up (or down) to its hilarious level of idiocy and incompetence, take heart: “Sheena” is in town.

No, not a concert film with Sheena Easton, “Sheena” is former Charlie’s Angel Tanya Roberts, her hair bleached blond and her body barely clad — when it is clad at all — as she rides her zebra (actually a horse painted like a zebra) through the jungle. As the “queen of the jungle,” Roberts stares blankly into space, juts her chin out for dramatic effect and spouts some of the most ridiculous dialogue in any film since “The Conqueror.”

     

   "Sheena" (Tanya Roberts) with her jungle friends.

The film begins with Sheena’s biography, though hardly in a class with “Superman.” She is orphaned when her parents are buried in a cave-in, though neither she nor any of the tribe that takes her in seems to notice or care. She also inexplicably has the power to communicate with the jungle animals — a sort of distaff Tarzan by way of Dr. Dolittle. (Oddly enough, Roberts co-starred in “The Beastmaster” a few years ago, which had Marc Singer as a similar hybrid, if you substitute Conan the Barbarian for the Tarzan comparison.)

The story here has network-television newsman Ted Wass and his cameraman Donovan Scott doing a story on an African prince, who is also an American football star that has killed his brother to get his hands on some land for its titanium value. Wass meets up with Roberts, of course, and they fall in love … or something. Scott provides comedy relief — as if that was necessary.

“Sheena” is actually little more than a jiggle jungle movie with a supremely serious music score and reverential directorial treatment that only enhances the film’s inherent campiness. Roberts seems to be taking it all so seriously that one can only chuckle out loud at how ridiculous she seems.

     

But no one looks good here, even those who have proved themselves in other shows. Scott’s comedy is clumsy and ill-timed, the villains all look so constantly angry that you expect them to begin hitting each other, and Wass is forced to say things like “You make me want to cry,” as he stares at Roberts. She replies, “What for?” He says, “For everything.” And later he adds, “I love you so much it busts my heart.”

Rated PG for gory violence and an awful lot of nudity, “Sheena” is hardly appropriate for the young audience it seems aimed at, and would most certainly have carried a PG-13 had it been rated after July 1.

“Sheena” is one of the decade’s worst movies — but if you’re in the mood for some unintentionally hilarious jungle nonsense, this one fills the bill.