Friday, May 29, 2020


John Guillermin

Janet is the daughter of two geologists who die in the field while researching the healing properties of the land of a tribe called the Zambouli. She is adopted by the tribe and soon learns to control animals with her mind and becomes their defender. She is now called Sheena (Tanya Roberts). Meanwhile, a coup is unfolding in the nation of Tigora and reporter Vic Casey (Ted Wass), and his cameraman Fletch Agronsky (Donovan Scott) are caught in the middle. Soon enough Vic meets Sheena and falls instantly in love.

Ultimately Sheena’s far too languid pace is what kills it. What should be a rip-roaring jungle adventure tempered with more modern (well, for 1984) sensibilities, instead turns into a dull slog that is not interested in action, metacommentary, or even good old-fashioned lewdness. Sheena never becomes anything but two hours long. To its credit, it never becomes as racist as jungle adventures of the past, although we are still reduced to watching two white people being the biggest heroes in a fictional African.

An empty morass of nothing, I feel like this is a metaphor for something.

The action of Sheena contains some of the most poorly framed and realized scenes I’ve witnessed in a major motion picture. There is never any punch to them, the camera is just placed somewhere static and the scene happens. Vic Casey’s first face to face encounter with Sheena is shot through a windshield as she gracelessly plops down from a vine and we are treated to a shot of her knees. Not the most heroic of entrances. There are a few animal stunts in Sheena, none of them exciting, some of them perplexing. We get to see a chimp electrocute a man to death and later we are treated to stagehands whacking actors with live flamingos inside an obviously fake airplane set.

Boring insult to boring injury comes in the form of the film’s score. An adventure film benefits greatly from an electrifying score, instead, Sheena offers an almost ambient synth theme that plays every time she does anything, from attacking a prison with an elephant to taking a bath in a stream. There’s nothing exciting about it and combined with dull action, any momentum the film starts to build is immediately destroyed. It’s a death knell for a production like this, there’s not much of a plot to get invested in, and the film doesn’t seem willing to really utilize its star or its environment. In the end there just isn’t anything to keep a viewer engaged.

"Good lord, I am hung over..."
Perhaps the oddest part is that acting is all-around decent, serious enough to not reduce things to farce, but just campy enough to keep an element of fun in the air. It is just too bad the rest of Sheena couldn't pull off this balancing act.

Sheena commits the most heinous of movie sins, it wastes a potentially fun premise by turning it dull. Jungle adventure movies would stay the purview of the Indiana Jones movies at least until Predator (1987) came around a few years later with a whole new twist.

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