Sheena (1984)

Sheen-a good movie lately?

by Adam Miller


Much of what can be said about SHEENA has been said elsewhere. The film is a camp classic featured by The Golden Raspberries as one of the “most enjoyably bad movies” of all time. Whether it’s Tanya Roberts lithe figure, the idiosyncratic soundtrack, or the killer flamingos—there is plenty to be enjoyed in SHEENA.

It was pretty clear to me what kind of movie this one going to be from the DVD cover alone. Sheena is set in Africa, yet my DVD (see picture) features a young Tanya Roberts (Donna’s mom from THAT 70’s SHOW) prancing about in front of… a tiger? In Africa? This is one of those little trivium that you learn in elementary school: Tigers don’t live in Africa!!! But did the makers of SHEENA go to elementary school?

Question left hanging.

Our heroine is raised by an African witchdoctor after her parents die in a really unnecessary cave-in (seriously, don’t scream in a cave!) Sheena acquires the ability to communicate with animals which becomes useful on several occasions throughout the film. In fact, every major action sequence involves Sheena commanding animals do kick butt. First there’s a jail break sequence where elephants knock down walls and monkeys trip guards with sticks. Then there’s a brief hostage situation involving a pride of lions. And then a flock (?) of flamingos attacks a helicopter putting Hitchcock in his rightful place: very, very high in the pantheon of directors.

SHEENA suffers (in a good way) from not knowing what it wants to be. On the one hand, the magical powers and friendly animals and naïve Sheena have the makings of a kids’ movie. On the other hand, Tanya Roberts poses nude in two different scenes. Of course, shouldn’t we really be asking if nudity automatically precludes a film from being a “kids’ film?” These are the important social questions SHEENA raises… when I force it to.

No doubt SHEENA is a must see for bad movie lovers. There is some gorgeous photography of the Kenyan landscape , some awful delivery by Tanya Roberts, and some fun animal choreography. Don’t miss!

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