When Sheena (Tanya Roberts) was a little girl, she was taken to Africa by her scientist parents who were investigating rumours of a particular panacea there - could such a thing be true, or was it a myth? They found a lead when a man dying of cancer was spirited away to a special area of earth in the African plains where the Zamboola tribe lived, and sure enough there he was, buried up to his neck in the ground. On being lifted out of the hole he had been cured, and the girl's parents were delighted to have succeeded in their goal, but that wasn't to last as soon after, while staying with the tribe, they were caught in a cave-in, leaving her an orphan...
And she grew up to be Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle! Um, not quite, she was actually Sheena, Queen of the Jungle (though oddly her parents call her Janet during their limited screen time), the movie incarnation of a female Tarzan character who had been around in comic books since the nineteen-thirties, but was most memorable at the time leading up to this production for a fifties television show where she was played by the statuesque Irish McCalla. That lady, though having established her career as a glamour model, kept her clothes on for the series, but this was the eighties and evidently it was believed Sheena needed a degree of spicing up, as some generations now have discovered.
After her two younger counterparts playing little girl Sheena are seen learning their jungle person craft (though she spends more time on the plains), which includes communicating with animals by adopting a Bruce Forsyth-esque pose, well, it works on a hedgehog, Tanya was introduced leaving us in no doubt as to why she was cast and why we should continue to watch. That's right, she's having a shower underneath a waterfall, so stark raving naked, very tasteful we're sure, but speaking to a rather more cynical (perhaps the filmmakers would have said "honest") reason to stick with the movie. Basically: keep watching and Tanya will get 'em orf again. For a character designed to appeal to kids, you might have thought that was a bit rum.
And indeed the rest of the movie did have a juvenile tone presumably thanks to Lorenzo Semple Jr rewriting the script, so perhaps they were brightening up the days of any reluctant dads in the audience who had been pressured into taking their tykes to watch what was promised to be a spectacular adventure: Tanya had another bathing scene later on much in the same way as her role in Beastmaster had offered. But enough of her pulchritude, even if that's all that appeared to be on the agenda, what of the plot? Sheena is drawn into a conspiracy to frame the Zamboola tribe for assassinating the King, when it was actually his brother the Prince (Trevor Thomas) and his Lady Macbeth-esque, glamourpuss fiancée (France Zobda) who organised the deed; luckily there is Zapruder film-type footage of the incident which can exonerate the tribe.
Which is in the possession of our hero Vic Casey, played by Ted Wass in a role he took after hitting stardom in sitcom spoof Soap, though when you know he graduated to being a successful TV comedy director that should give you some idea of the reception to Sheena. Anyway, Vic Casey is the love interest to Sheena because he can help her out, saving the tribe and so on as she insists on using his full name at every opportunity, as if using a cross between Johnny Weissmuller and Bo Derek's respective Tarzan movies as a template for our jungle girl. Sad to say, she may have looked the part but Tanya's acting was nothing short of embarrassing, blankly emoting when she wasn't riding a horse painted with zebra stripes (was anyone fooled?), so that left the stunts which to be fair were not half bad, flamingo attack aside, if rather absurd in a beefed up with explosions version of the traditional Tarzan stampede. Director John Guillermin had helmed possibly the finest movie ever to feature the Ape Man, but Sheena remained steadfastly clunky in contrast. Music by Richard Hartley (and Vangelis?!).