SHEENA (1984)
Page 7- Conclusion

The Tanya Roberts Sheena film is obviously one of those "guilty pleasure" films that red-blooded males are prepared to sit through for a bit of mindless fun and a substantial dose of eye candy.  I have discussed in some detail my own opinions of Tanya Roberts' appearance in this film on Page 3: The Star, and I am definitely not alone in those views.  A survey of the customer's reviews on the page for this film, and there are about thirty of them as I write this, shows that they are unanimous in their praise of Tanya's physical attributes (see link).  They are, however, disturbingly undiscerning about most aspects of the film and award it four out of five stars as an overall rating (the same score given to Citizen Kane).

There are two main things wrong with this film - Tanya Robert's performance and the script (hardly worth mentioning really) - and it is debatable which of these is more disturbing .  Robert's delivery of lines like, "Remove those strange skins you wear!  From what animal do they come?" is excruciating and laughable.  Many aspects of the script also test one's fortitude.  When Vic Casey and Sheena are taken prisoner by Prince Otwani's men and are being roughly marched to their doom at his camp, some of Ted Wass' dialogue leaves you with an open jaw: "There is so much I'd like to show you.  The view of the Trade Towers from my loft. And when you're walkin' down Wall Street at night, eatin' a sack of peanuts.  Aw, hell!  Forget them!"

I suspect that Lorenzo Semple is responsible for some of these attempts at "campy" dialogue (see Page 1: The Concept).  Semple had contributed his unique brand of over-the-top campiness to Flash Gordon in 1980, much to the disgust of fantasy film fans (see the letters section of Starlog magazine No. 83 for some inspired venom against Semple).  The combination of these two elements together - Roberts' thespian delights and a script to make your toenail's curl - is truly something to behold.

It isn't as if I don't have an appreciation of quality schlock.  Ask my wife.  She is always berating me about how I waste my time watching crap like Cat Women of the Moon and Zombies on Broadway.  These types of films are hilarious masterpieces of ineptitude, but the 1984 Sheena is merely lacklustre and dull.
I was surprised when several of the customer reviews mentioned how absolutely gorgeous the soundtrack of this film was, because I had hardly noticed it.  It had occurred to me that parts of it sounded like John Williams, which is no surprise, because so many post-Star Wars films have scores that sound like him.  I had also noticed, however, that the gentle, low-key Sheena theme was used inappropriately in two exciting action scenes.  We encounter it when Sheena rides out of the woods at night to rescue the imprisoned Zambouli shaman, accompanied by a bevy of animal friends, including an elephant.  As the pachyderm proceeds to demolish the prison walls in a violent scene of explosions, collapsing roof beams and general mayhem we are, surprisingly, listening to the gentle strains of an acoustic guitar playing the soothing, Vangelis-like melody of Sheena's Theme.  The other occasion is during the climax of the film, as Sheena charges across the dusty desert plain on her zebra in rapid pursuit of the fleeing Otwani.  The whole mood of excitement and tension is completely dissipated by the sudden introduction of the peaceful Sheena's Theme.  Again, that soothing melody on an acoustic guitar.  This casual, relaxing piece of music was used more appropriately to accompany the slow-motion undulations of Tanya Roberts' heaving bosom in the opening and closing credits and I couldn't help wonder what momentary lapse of creative acumen had allowed it to be used to accompany these action sequences.

While we are talking about the climactic chase scene I would like to point out that a racehorse can run at about 40 miles per hour (65 kpm).  It's irrelevant that zebras can run almost as fast, because this ain't no zebra she's riding.  I know Land Rovers aren't necessarily designed for speed, but this one looks like it has a limiter installed that prevents it from travelling faster than the speed limit of a large metropolitan city.  When you are fleeing for your life with a sun-tanned, bow-and-arrow wielding blonde in an animal-skin bikini bearing down on you, this is a major disadvantage.

Let's discuss some other moments of extreme silliness before we put the lovely Miss Robert's to bed:
• In an attempt to slow down Otwani's men, Sheena leads Vic Casy through a dense thicket of thorn bushes with impressive four inch (100 mm) thorns .  Neither of them have so much as a scratch after this incident.  When we see Otwani's men, however, two of them are laying face down in the back of a pick up truck, fatally injured by their encounter with the thorn bush.  Their bloody, lacerated corpses are covered in severe gashes and their clothing is torn to shreds.  Either Otwani's mercenaries are a bunch of milquetoasts, or they are too stupid to stop running when a nasty thorn bush looms in front of them.  
• I am indebted to Kenneth Richard Begg's wonderful site, Jabootu's Bad Movie Dimension, for the next one.  He points at that as Otwani's mercenaries are entering the The Great Forest a large band of Zambouli warriors wielding spears and shields are able to blend into the foliage with the stealth and precision of ninjas, despite being dressed in bright red clothing and vermilion hair dye.
• And lastly, one of the most harebrained scenes ever committed to celluloid - the attack of the killer flamingos.  Zanda has decided to toss Sheena out of a military helicopter over the Zambouli Falls in revenge for her (unmindfully) arousing the prurient interests of her beau, Prince Otwani.  Sheena sends out a psychic plea for help to all of the flamingos casually filtering algae and diatoms out of the soda lake over on the edge of Zambouli territory and they all launch a kamikaze raid on the chopper.  Drawing heavily from Hitchcock's The Birds, the scene shows poor old Zanda and the pilot being pecked mercilessly to bloody pulps while Sheena beams beatifically on the sidelines of the carnage, unscathed by the judicious assault of the pretty pink birds.  Apart from the sheer bizarre audacity of the concept of these ungainly, placid birds initiating an attack on a helicopter, it should be pointed out that these are not raptorial birds possessing talons and razor-sharp beaks.  They are large, elegant birds endowed with rounded blunt beaks designed to scare the living crap out of algae.

So, if you want to get a good look up Tanya Robert's derriere while she is climbing a tree, if you would like to examine her mammary glands jiggling on horseback, if you want to study her sweat-drenched cleavage heaving from exertion, and if you would like to see her all-over tan bathing au naturel in a jungle pool, then this film is for you.  If, however, you are looking for an intellectually stimulating character study with scintillating dialogue and polished performances, then I recommend Citizen Kane.  Then again, there is always Cat Women of the Moon.

To view a full set of lobby cards for this film click on the image below:

• All images on this page are from the DVD of this film, Sony Pictures Corporation
• The set of lobby cards for this film are from my private collection

SHEENA © is the property of Sony Pictures Corporation
This independent, fan-based analysis of the Sheena material is copyright © 2006-2008 Paul Wickham