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Sheena
Directed by John Guillermin
Produced by Paul Aratow
Written by Lorenzo Semple Jr.
Leslie Stevens
Starring Tanya Roberts
Ted Wass
Trevor Thomas
Princess Elizabeth of Toro
Music by Richard Hartley
Cinematography Pasqualino De Santis
Editing by Ray Lovejoy
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
(Sony Pictures Entertainment)
Release date(s) August 17, 1984
Running time 117 min.
Language English
Budget $25,000,000 (estimated)

Sheena is a 1984 Columbia Pictures film based on the comic character of the same name. An hybrid of action-adventure and soap opera-style drama, Sheena, shot on location in Kenya, told the tale of a female version of Tarzan who was raised in the fictional African country of Tigora by the equally fictional Zambouli tribe. Starring Tanya Roberts, Ted Wass, and Trevor Thomas, and directed by John Guillermin and written by Lorenzo Semple Jr.. It was produced by Paul Aratow. Sheena bombed in theaters but found cult success home on home video and DVD.

Contents

Plot summary

While investigating rumors of a mystical "healing earth" whose powers are said to flow forth from the sacred Gudjara Mountain, geologists Philip and Betsy Ames (Michael Shannon and Nancy Paul) are killed in a cave-in, leaving their young daughter Janet an orphan. Young Janet is adopted by Shaman, woman of the native Zambouli tribe (Princess Elizabeth of Toro), and because of a prophecy about the cave-in ("when the sacred mountain cries out") she is viewed as a child of the gods and named Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. As Sheena (Tanya Roberts) grows up, she learns much from Shaman about the lore of the jungle and the ways of all its creatures and is even entrusted with the secret of telepathic communication with the animals. Outsiders rarely disturb their territory, since that part of Tigora is under the special protection of King Jabalani (Clifton Jones). But trouble is brewing in Tigora; the King's ex-football champion younger brother Prince Otwani (Trevor Thomas) is conspiring with his brother's fiancee, Countess Zanda (France Zobda), to have Jabalani assassinated so that they can exploit the titanium-rich Zambouli lands (this may or may not have something to do with the healing properties of the soil, but this is never explained). Experiencing a vision foretelling the death of the King, the Shaman hastens to Tigora's capital of Azan to try and warn him, but is arrested by corrupt police officers working for Zanda.

Otwani's old "friend", reporter Vic Casey (Ted Wass), and his cameraman Fletch Agronsky (Donovan Scott) are in Tigora to do a story on the former football player. When King Jabalani is killed and the Shaman is framed for it, Vic and Fletch realize they are on to a much bigger story than they had anticipated. Heading to a remote prison compound to interview the Shaman they bear witness to her rescue by Sheena and her animal friends: "Chango", an elephant; "Marika", a zebra; and "Tiki", a chimpanzee. As they escape back into the jungle after destroying the prison, Vic and Fletch follow.

Meanwhile, Otwani obtains the services of Colonel Jorgensen (John Forgeham) and his small army of soldier mercenaries, the Black Berets. The Black Berets' job is to eradicate the Zambouli people so their territory will be open for strip-mining. Now Vic must join forces with Sheena to stop the evil Prince and his army.

Cast

Production

The movie was shot entirely on location in Kenya. According to the article To Realize the Impossible Dream in the Marvel Comics Super Special for the film (see below), producer Paul Aratow had been trying to get the movie made since ten years prior its completion and release in 1984. "At first it looked incredibly easy," Aratow says in the interview. "After only two months I had an office at the studio and Racquel Welch was going to play Sheena." However the film became mired in preproduction limbo and bounced back and forth between different studios for the next several years. Originally, when the film finally came to Columbia and looked ready to be made, Aratow hired David Newman to write the script. However when John Guillermin became the director, he felt like the script needed "something more," and Newman ended up being replaced by Guillermin's old friend Lorenzo Semple, Jr., who had worked with him on the script for King Kong.

The film was shot over seven months in Kenya, and ran into all of the expected production problems involved with shooting on location. Ted Wass (Vic Casey) recalled, in the article Man on the Spot (an article about executive producer Yoram Ben-Ami, also found in the Super Special), "Making a movie is like going to war. You can be the greatest general in the world but if you don't have a good army, you're going to lose the battle."

The film's multitude of animals were managed by Hubert Wells, who recalled, "We flew over an elephant, a rhino, five lions, four leopards, four chimpanzees, five horses and sixteen birds. It was the largest shipment of animals back to Africa and just getting all the necessary permits to bring them in and out of the country was a superhuman task." Although Wells had few problems with the trained animals used in the film, the crew did have some problems with wild animals that would come onto the set, in particular wild lions who would try to start fights with the tamed ones. Guards had to be posted on the set at night to keep them away. Despite this, Wells was quoted as saying that he enjoyed working on the picture so much he hoped for a sequel, which of course never came.

Soundtrack Listing

Music composed and conducted by Richard Hartley for the film. Released by Varese Sarabande Club in 2004, there are twelve tracks in all. Note that when the soundtrack was originally released, there were only eleven tracks: the forty-second Track 02 (Interlude) was originally part of Track 01 (Sheena's Theme).

  • Track 01 - Sheena's Theme (Main Title) (2:52)
  • Track 02 - Interlude (0:40)
  • Track 03 - Introduction / One Way Ticket (6:15)
  • Track 04 - Climb! / Young Sheena (5:58)
  • Track 05 - Marika and the Water Deer (2:14)
  • Track 06 - African Ballet (1:53)
  • Track 07 - The Encounter (3:36)
  • Track 08 - Shaman Taught Me (1:58)
  • Track 09 - The Circle (1:13)
  • Track 10 - Come on Vic Casey (2:20)
  • Track 11 - May I (1:43)
  • Track 12 - End Title (2:59)

Comic Adaptation

Around the time the film came out, Marvel Comics published an adaptation of the film as a Marvel Super Special (#34), written by Cary Burkett and illustrated by Gray Morrow. It followed the story of the film very closely, and developed the character of Fletch the cameraman quite a bit more than in the film, in particular revealing his surname to be "Agronsky." The comic also had several pages in the back about the making of the film. One noteworthy difference between the film and the comic concerns the ethnicity of Otwani's troops. In the film, they are all white. In the comic, the only white soldiers are Colonel Jorgenson and the helicopter pilot (identified as "Joe"), while all of the others are of African descent, including the featured soldiers (Wadman, Anders and Blau).

Other differences:

  • Otwani plays for the Washington Redskins, rather than the fictional Cougars.
  • The scene where Fletch notices the mercenaries' helicopter, Hawk One, at the airport is missing, as is the scene of him and Vic leaving their hotel and encountering Jorgenson and his men by getting off on the wrong floor.
  • King Jabalani is hit in the back by the arrow, rather than the chest.
  • Sheena and Vic escape from the villains on foot, rather than climbing a tree and hiding.
  • When the fuel truck catches fire, at least one of the soldiers is killed in the process, whereas none die in this scene in the movie.
  • The destruction of Z'Kuru occurs entirely offscreen. Sheena and Vic do not witness the massacre.
  • During the scene of Hawk One strafing the animal herd, the pilot actually manages to hit some of the animals unlike in the movie.
  • The Zambouli lead the villains into a rocky canyon, rather than the jungle, before ambushing them.
  • Colonel Jorgenson is not shown being killed. He disappears entirely from the final battle, and Chief Harumba's line "For Z'Kuru!" is spoken while killing a random soldier instead.
  • The deaths of Wadman and Anders during the battle are also omitted.
  • Juka does not return to America with Vic and Fletch.

External links

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