Sheena, Queen of the Jungle
There was a point in time where someone thought putting a fair amount of money behind a movie starring a bleach-blonde Tanya Roberts (of Beastmaster fame) and Ted Wass (later of Oh God, You Devil!—a movie I will probably get to at some point with this), and putting them in Africa to save magic sacred land from gun-toting warlords was a great idea.
Really, the drugs in the 80s must have been fantastic.
I have no idea how a movie like Sheena got greenlit. But, lord, is it a glorious trainwreck
The set-up has a pair of white, blond missionaries (or something) doing whatever it is they were doing in Africa, until they get killed. They discover a tribe that has secret, sacred earth that literally is healing magic. Seriously, the tribe buries someone who is sick or hurt up to his neck, and then they do some ritual, yank him out and BAM, he is ALL BETTER.
So, clearly, it won’t be long before some Stupid Americans just want to, I don’t know, build a mall on top of it or something, just because.
What matters is the blond missionary couple ends up dead, and their little blond daughter escapes the murder, so she can be raised by the tribe and grow up to be Tanya Roberts.
Cut to the present day, where Ted Wass is a journalist who is in Africa to cover some new prince, but he’s tied the warlords or something. It’s just a set up so he can discover Sheena, the gorgeous white, blonde woman living amongst the tribe.
People, Tanya Roberts is glorious in this role. She tries to play Sheena as if English is not her native tongue, but I swear, it comes off as if Tanya herself forgot how to speak English and learned her lines phonetically. Also, she’s not just a white girl who’s been living with this tribe: she can speak to animals. Swear, she just presses her fist against her forehead, and zebras and elephants come running to help her. Because this is the 80s, and apparently people believed that Africa is magic.
Seriously, that’s the only explanation behind this.
I should point out that this movie is PG. But this is, like, 1984 PG, before we had a PG-13. But even still, by today’s standards this movie wouldn’t even be a PG-13, but a hard R. Not only because there is a fair amount of gun violence throughout, but because Tanya Roberts is all kinds of naked.
And I’m not talking about a quick flash that movies back then could get away with and still be PG. It’s, like, three minutes solid of Tanya standing there in the lake to bathe, talking about Ted Wass’s hairy chest, the shot framed so its millimeters away from being full-frontal. There were honest exploitation movies from that era that had less nudity. I can only imagine some studio flack fast-talked the MPAA with the idea that it was the same kind of nudity in National Geographic, as opposed to a former Charlie’s Angel.
Sheena and Ted fight the warlords to save the tribe and the sacred land– honestly, the plot is largely negligible– but in stopping the warlord, Ted Wass is horribly burned. Fortunately, he’s saved by said sacred land—and we’re treated to his bare ass when they pull him out of the dirt. Then the Western World is going to take him back to New York, or wherever, because that’s where he belongs and Sheena can’t go there because she’d have to wear shoes or something– but in the end he stays behind to be with the crazy woman he loves. I think. Maybe he flies away while she rides a zebra. My memory is hazy on this point.
Either way, it learns one lesson from Beastmaster: the best way to end a movie is a helicopter shot of nature, animals, and Tanya Roberts.