Deep in Africa, late at night, a Range Rover bounces over a rough dirt track. Suddenly the headlights pick out a face...a man buried up to his neck in sandy soil. A young couple, scientists, are horrified. They get out and walk to the face. The eyes are open and staring. Suddenly a tall native appears and tells them they are intruding on sacred soil. Then other natives appear with torches and begin to dance around the huddled couple and the head. And from the car appears a small, blond child, curious but apparently unafraid. At the climax, the head moves, shoulders appear, the body rises from the soil, free of the terrible sores which had afflicted it. Mysteriously, the man has been healed.
Days later, the couple set out to explore the source of the healing soil, which seems to be from a cave in the sacred Guchar Mountain. Unknown to them they are followed by their child. When they are killed in a cave-in, the child survives. And then the shaman lifts the child in the air before a gathering of the tribe and proclaims to all that "the prophecy has come to pass. When a day when the sacred mountain cries out, a golden god child shall come from the depths of Guchar and she shall grow in wisdom and be the protector of the Zamboulis and all their creatures...and she shall be called Sheena, Queen of the Jungle."
Sheena (Tanya Roberts) grows into a strikingly beautiful woman, who sleeps with snakes, plays with elephants, splashes with hippopotami and rides zebras. She has telepathic power and can call not only on mammals and reptiles, but on birds as well, small and large. In fact, those who have seen Sheena swear that she has the biggest parakeets in Africa.
She’ll need them. The brother of the king of a neighboring land assassinates his sibling and plans to open the sacred lands of the Zambouli to large-scale mining. Prince Otwani (Trevor Thomas) has learned that rich ore is there for the taking. Backing him up is the evil Princess Zanda (France Zobda), who had been betrothed to the dead king, and a band of tough mercenaries led by the ruthless, white-haired Colonel Jorgensen (John Forgeham). However, a visiting reporter, Vic Casey (Ted Wass) and Fletch (Donovan Scott), his chubby photographer, find evidence implicating the Prince. The chase is on, with Sheena, Vic and Fletch on the run, and the bad guys using helicopters and armored vehicles coming after them. Only Sheena's jungle smarts and the animals she can call on stand in the way of Prince Otwani winning the day.
This is one of the guilty pleasure movies I get a kick out of. Roberts is a truly limited actress. When she calls on the animals, she places the back of her hand to her forehead and looks like she's getting a migraine. When she tries to be angry, she's only petulant. And the movie handles the love scenes between Sheena and Vic in such an awkward way that you can't stop looking. Sheena at last discovers love in the arms of Vic one afternoon when he kisses her. We know, because the camera pans to thousands of flamingos suddenly taking off from a lake. The flapping is intense.
Still, the premise of the movie is a good-natured reverse of the Tarzan story. Vic may be courageous, but Sheena has to help him climb a tree, scramble down a cliff and demonstrate how to shoot a fire arrow into barrels of gasoline. Not least, Sheena looks great bathing nude in a lake, bathing nude under a waterfall, and bathing nude...well, you get the idea.
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