Sheena: Queen of the Jungle
Sheena: Queen of the Jungle 1984
I often enjoy doing blogathons, especially when I am able to do them within the focus of this site, and so when my friend Todd over at Forgotten Films decided that he wanted to do a big 1984-a-thon in honor of the 30th anniversary of one of the greatest years in cinema history, I gladly jumped on the bandwagon. Unfortunately, 1984 wasn’t a huge year for superhero movies and the two that were made, Supergirl and the Toxic Avenger, I had already covered here. But there was one other film released that year that wasn’t quite a superhero movie, but it was a comic book adaptation of the first female to ever get her own comic book title four years before Wonder Woman. It began its way to the big screen in the 70’s and took over 10 years before it finally got its cast and went into production with Tanya Roberts who I knew as Donna’s mother Midge from that 70’s show and didn’t realize it until over halfway through the movie and not only that but love interest and journalist was played by Ted Wass who I best knew as the dad from Blossom. Anyway, when I chose this movie I knew it was going to be a campy movie right along the lines of Supergirl and Toxie and it really was. A silly plot, bad acting, and a lot more nudity than I was expecting for a PG-rated movie. But in the end, it was still quite a bit of 80’s fun.
The movie follows Sheena as the young girl of a couple scientists of a generic slash unknown field make a trip to a small village in Africa called Tigora where they see a man healed of many tumors all over his body by getting buried in the sand next to this sacred mountain while the tribesmen and women burn pyres all around him. The next day they investigate a cave in the mountain, their daughter Janet follows them, her mother shouts out when she sees Janet in the mouth of the cave and causes a cave-in, burying themselves in the mountain. Luckily the village shaman who was supposed to be watching Janet knows about the prophecy of a golden child who will become Sheena: Queen of the Jungle. And Janet/Sheena who just watched her parents die right before her eyes seems perfectly ok with this at the age of around five. After a training montage where Sheena learns about the animals while wearing tattered rags instead of the well cut tribal robes everyone else wears, it cuts over to the city where we meet the prince of Tigora. He finds out that there is titanium (at least it wasn’t unobtainium) in this sacred mountain and decides that he must kill his brother the king so he can set it up for mining. Did I also mention that he’s a famous football star and has a couple journalists that follow him back to Tigora so they can film it. And at the same time, the shaman that raised Sheena gets a vision about the king’s death and also travels to the capitol of Tigora to warn him, but gets framed for the murder in the process. Luckily the journalists caught the deadly arrow on film and have proof of the true assassin.
But all this set up and plot basically amounts to getting the journalist Vic Casey, played by Ted Wass, to team up with Sheena while they are being chased by the prince who is now the king of Tigora. It’s surprisingly a complicated plot to try and explain beat by beat, but it’s all laid out fairly clearly and easy to follow, if rather unbelievable. It doesn’t help much that none of the actors really do anything special with their roles. The best two would probably be the two journalists, Vic Casey and his comic relief sidekick. Sheena herself is passable as she handles the stilted Tarzan-esque dialogue as well as can be expected. I do like how she is presented as being fairly intelligent and she does speak English, something I won’t argue the logic on and just take it as it is, she is only unfamiliar with the modern world as she has only seen this isolated village. It’s also quite a bit amazing to see some of the animal interaction in this movie. There are many scenes involving lions, elephants, a leopard, a horse who was done up to look like a zebra, and a frikkin rhinocerous right next to the actors and they are definitely real animals with no camera trickery or special effects other than one time when I believe the elephant throws a dummy over his back. Oh, and there is a climactic scene with a bunch of flamingos who are a combination of stock footage, bad puppetry, and bad animation, but the rest of the animals are done for real.
Of course, aside from some of the things that I liked about this movie, it does take forever to get to the point. It meanders from scene to scene and has plotlines that go nowhere, like the important footage that they have of the assassination doesn’t really matter in the end. And Vic’s sidekick has a moment where he decides to go help his friend, but he doesn’t make it there until after everything’s all said and done, all the while learning these made up Tigoran rules for poker hands. Sheena and the shaman both have powers that don’t make sense, like the shaman’s visions and Sheena’s ability to communicate to the animals by putting her fist to her head as if she has a headache. At least they do point that out during one scene as she is trying to hide the fact that she is calling out to her animal friends by claiming she does indeed have a headache. I also mentioned that there was a surprising amount of non-kid-friendly in this PG movie including someone getting a spear jabbed into their throat, a couple scenes of nudity albeit non-sexual, and a single instance of “shit”. But even with all that, I didn’t really have any qualms watching this with Jena, and while the first half of the movie bored her so much that she wasn’t even paying attention, once the action and the animals came into play she was on board and in the end called it “a good movie”. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.