Sheena (1984)

PG | 117 mins | Adventure, Fantasy | 17 August 1984

Director:

John Guillermin

Producer:

Paul Aratow

Cinematographer:

Pasqualino De Santis

Editor:

Ray Lovejoy

Production Designer:

Peter Murton

Production Company:

Colgems Productions
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HISTORY

Producer Paul Aratow was in development with Sheena for almost ten years. According to articles in the 18 Apr 1983 LAT and the 15 Aug 1984 DV, Aratow became interested in a film adaptation of the comic strip character “Sheena” in 1974. The jungle heroine made her first appearance in U.S. comics in 1938, created by Will Eisner and S. M. “Jerry” Iger, who, together, used the pseudonym W. Morgan Thomas. The comic book, Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, was published in 1942 and a syndicated television series of the same title, starring Irish McCalla, was produced from 1955 to 1956. For a time, the Sheena property was owned by Sy Weintraub, who was the producer of several films and a television series based on author Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan character.
       Aratow, a former literature professor at the University of California, Berkeley, had worked with documentaries and underground films, but he and business partner Alan Rinzler, credited as the film’s associate producer, were newcomers to Hollywood features, as noted in a 1975 HR item. After acquiring the Sheena rights, Aratow re-located to Los Angeles, CA, and negotiated a feature film deal with Universal Pictures in 1975. Robert and Laurie Dillon, known as the co-writers of French Connection II (1975, see entry), completed the original screenplay and Raquel Welch was set to star.
       When the project went into turnaround, Filmways Pictures became involved and set up a co-production deal with United Artists (UA). The 3 Aug 1977 Var announced that Michael ... More Less

Producer Paul Aratow was in development with Sheena for almost ten years. According to articles in the 18 Apr 1983 LAT and the 15 Aug 1984 DV, Aratow became interested in a film adaptation of the comic strip character “Sheena” in 1974. The jungle heroine made her first appearance in U.S. comics in 1938, created by Will Eisner and S. M. “Jerry” Iger, who, together, used the pseudonym W. Morgan Thomas. The comic book, Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, was published in 1942 and a syndicated television series of the same title, starring Irish McCalla, was produced from 1955 to 1956. For a time, the Sheena property was owned by Sy Weintraub, who was the producer of several films and a television series based on author Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan character.
       Aratow, a former literature professor at the University of California, Berkeley, had worked with documentaries and underground films, but he and business partner Alan Rinzler, credited as the film’s associate producer, were newcomers to Hollywood features, as noted in a 1975 HR item. After acquiring the Sheena rights, Aratow re-located to Los Angeles, CA, and negotiated a feature film deal with Universal Pictures in 1975. Robert and Laurie Dillon, known as the co-writers of French Connection II (1975, see entry), completed the original screenplay and Raquel Welch was set to star.
       When the project went into turnaround, Filmways Pictures became involved and set up a co-production deal with United Artists (UA). The 3 Aug 1977 Var announced that Michael Sheff and David Spector would write the screenplay and Filmways’ Ed Feldman would serve as executive producer. However, UA abandoned Sheena after their executive, Mike Medavoy, left in 1978 to form Orion Pictures. In 1979, the project became part of Avco-Embassy Pictures’ production slate and was scheduled to start filming in late 1980, “with financing from the Far East,” as noted in a 21 Sep 1979 DV article. When Aratow realized that Avco-Embassy could not fulfill its commitment, he negotiated a deal with Columbia Pictures and its chairman, Frank Price. Columbia also agreed to assume Aratow’s debt to the other studios, which amounted to around $200,000 in turnaround fees. By this time, the overall budget was estimated between $7 and $15 million.
       The 15 Aug 1984 DV mentioned that screenwriter David Newman completed his script draft in 1982 and shared onscreen story credit with Leslie Stevens. Newman also shared final screenplay credit with the last writer to work on the project, Lorenzo Semple, Jr. John Guillermin was hired as director in early 1983, as indicated in the 18 Apr 1983 LAT. Guillermin and Semple had previously collaborated on King Kong (1976, see entry).
       After Raquel Welch’s early association with the project, several other well-known actresses were considered for “Sheena.” According to a 28 Aug 1979 HR brief, Irish McCalla turned down the chance to reprise her role, while another television star, Cheryl Ladd, was a favorite when the project was at Avco-Embassy. Aratow stated in the 4 May 1980 LAT that his first choice was Bo Derek . The 2 Feb 1981 HR revealed that martial arts champion-turned-actress, Susan Mechsner, was a “leading contender.” Following auditions of reportedly “more than 2,000 actresses,” a 28 Apr 1983 Columbia Pictures press release announced that Tanya Roberts had been cast. Roberts explained in a 17 Aug 1984 NYT article that she trained on a trapeze and with weights to prepare for the athletic role, and estimated that she performed eighty percent of the stunts required.
       Principal photography began 15 Dec 1983, according to the 15 Aug 1984 DV. During development, the filmmakers scouted several locations, including Mexico and South America, but decided on shooting the entire film in Kenya. All the trained animals that appeared with the actors, including a rhinoceros, lion, elephant, and chimpanzees, were shipped to Africa by the film’s animal coordinator and trainer, Hubert G. Wells, who owned Animal Actors of Hollywood. Producer Aratow estimated the animal budget at $1 million. The 17 Aug 1984 NYT article revealed that Sheena’s zebra, “Marika,” was a horse painted to resemble a zebra. A 26 Jul 1984 HR article stated that the majority of filming took place around Kenya’s Aberdare mountain range. Airstrips were constructed so that the production could use planes in and out of the area, but primitive roads were the primary means of transport for equipment and the 300 to 400-member crew. The vine-swinging scenes required that the production import potted trees into the mountainous region. Over 700 Samburu, who were native Kenyans from the country’s north-central plains, were hired to participate in the production. Filming was completed in Apr 1984.
       Throughout development and production, the title remained Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, but was changed to Sheena prior to release, as noted in the 15 Aug 1984 DV. The final production budget was reported as $26 million, while Columbia allocated $9.2 million for the marketing campaign.
       According to a 10 Aug 1984 HR item, the world premiere was scheduled for 14 Aug 1984 at Plitt Century Plaza Theater in Los Angeles, CA, as a benefit for the Wildlife Waystation. The picture opened at 1,200 theaters on 17 Aug 1984.
       Although critical reaction was generally negative, reviewers commended the animal performances and John Guillerman’s direction of the handsome scenery. In the 17 Sep 1984 New Yorker, critic Pauline Kael called head animal trainer Hubert G. Wells, the “real hero of this project.” The majority of reviews noted that the film contained a great deal of nudity for a PG-rated picture, whose adventure and wild animal themes were also designed to appeal to young children. The 15 Aug 1984 Var review commented that the state of undress was “surely unprecedented in a PG-rated film,” but the release occurred just prior to the implementation of the new PG-13 rating.
       Sheena was nominated for five Golden Raspberry Awards in the categories of Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, Worst Musical Score, and Worst Actress for Tanya Roberts.
       A syndicated television series, also titled Sheena, was produced by Columbia TriStar Television from 2000-2001 and starred Gena Lee Nolin.
       End credits include the statements: “Filmed on location in Kenya,” and, “The producers wish to thank the following for their cooperation: Animal Actors of Hollywood; The government of Kenya; Kenyan Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife; Ballet Africains de la Republique Populaire Revolutionaire de Guinea.” More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
LOCATION
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
21 Sep 1979
p. 1, 33.
Daily Variety
15 Aug 1984.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Aug 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Feb 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jul 1984
p. 3, 12.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Aug 1984.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Aug 1984
p. 4, 18.
Los Angeles Times
4 May 1980.
---
Los Angeles Times
18 Apr 1983
Calendar, p. 1, 3.
Los Angeles Times
18 Aug 1984
Section E, p. 1, 6.
New York Times
17 Aug 1984
Section C, p. 6.
New York Times
17 Aug 1984
Section C, p. 8.
New Yorker
17 Sep 1984.
---
Variety
3 Aug 1977.
---
Variety
11 May 1983.
---
Variety
15 Aug 1984
p. 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Columbia Pictures presents
A John Guillermin film
From Columbia-Delphi Productions II
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
Key 2d asst dir
2d asst dir
3rd asst dir
Asst dir, Kenya
2d unit dir, 2d unit
Asst dir, 2d unit
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam op
Key grip
Cam focus
Cam focus
Cam focus
Clapper loader
Generator op
Rigging services
Gaffer
Gaffer
Cam, Action unit
Asst cam, Action unit
Steadicam op, 2d unit
Gaffer, 2d unit
Elec and grip equip
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
2d unit ed
Asst ed
2d asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Const supv
Const supv
Prop master
Stand-by propman
Propman
Propman
Armourer
Standby painter
COSTUMES
Ward and cost des
Cost coord
Ward, 2d unit
MUSIC
Mus comp
Mus rec at
Eng by
Eng by
Asst mus ed
SOUND
Sd mixer
Sd boom
Sd maintenance
Sd mixer, Action unit
Supv sd eff ed, 2d unit
Supv re-rec mixer, 2d unit
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst re-rec mixer
Sd tech
Sd trainee
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff supv
Spec eff coord
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Wireman
Opticals
Blue screen
Blue screen
Blue screen equip provided by
Opticals and titles by
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Hairdresser supv
Hairdresser
Spec hair consultant
Hair colorist
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Casting
Loc mgr
Loc mgr
Trainee
Prod coord
Prod representative, U.K.
Prod representative, Rome
Prod consultant
Prod accountant
Accountant
Asst accountant
Animal coord and trainer
Asst animal coord
Trainer
Trainer
Trainer
Trainer
Trainer
Safari consultant
Safari camp mgr
Transport coord
Transport asst
Unit mgr, Action unit
Cont, Action unit
Prod asst, Action unit
Cont, 2d unit
Projectionist
Helicopter pilot
Helicopter pilot
Camping
Military adv
Security
Translator
Translator
Unit physician
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Utility stuntman
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
COLOR PERSONNEL
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the comic strip Sheena, Queen of the Jungle by W. Morgan Thomas.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Sheena, Queen of the Jungle
Release Date:
17 August 1984
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Los Angeles at Plitt Century Plaza Theater: 14 August 1984
Los Angeles and New York openings: 17 August 1984
Production Date:
15 December 1983--April 1984
Copyright Claimant:
Colgems Productions, Ltd.
Copyright Date:
7 September 1984
Copyright Number:
PA223924
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Filmed in Panavision®
Prints
Prints by Metrocolor®
Duration(in mins):
117
MPAA Rating:
PG
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
27464
SYNOPSIS

Missionary doctors Phillip and Betsy Ames travel with their young daughter, Janet, to the African kingdom of Tigora to investigate the healing properties of the soil around the Zambouli tribal region, but are killed when a cave inside Gudjara Mountain collapses. The Zamboulis’ female Shaman takes in the orphaned Janet and announces that the prophecy about a “golden god-child” emerging from the sacred mountain to protect the tribe has come true. The Zamboulis cheer as Shaman calls the girl, Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. Shaman introduces Sheena to the wild animals of the region and teaches her how to speak to them telepathically by touching her forehead. As the young girl becomes a woman, she learns to ride a zebra named Marika and becomes skilled at archery, a Zambouli tradition. Meanwhile, Prince Otwani has returned to his home country of Tigora after playing professional football in the U.S. In the capital Azan, Otwani learns that Gudjara Mountain is full of the valuable mineral titanium, and he is greedy to exploit it. To take control of the country, Otwani plans to assassinate his brother, King Jabalani, who has always protected Zambouli territory from mining. Shaman senses the king is in danger and goes to warn him. At the royal residence, the king’s deceitful fiancée, Countess Zanda, schemes with Prince Otwani, with whom she is having an affair. After being informed that the Zambouli Shaman was in town, Zanda has her arrested and plans to frame her for the king’s murder. From her cell, Shaman telepathically summons Sheena. Meanwhile, television sports reporter, Vic Casey, arrives in Tigora with ... +


Missionary doctors Phillip and Betsy Ames travel with their young daughter, Janet, to the African kingdom of Tigora to investigate the healing properties of the soil around the Zambouli tribal region, but are killed when a cave inside Gudjara Mountain collapses. The Zamboulis’ female Shaman takes in the orphaned Janet and announces that the prophecy about a “golden god-child” emerging from the sacred mountain to protect the tribe has come true. The Zamboulis cheer as Shaman calls the girl, Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. Shaman introduces Sheena to the wild animals of the region and teaches her how to speak to them telepathically by touching her forehead. As the young girl becomes a woman, she learns to ride a zebra named Marika and becomes skilled at archery, a Zambouli tradition. Meanwhile, Prince Otwani has returned to his home country of Tigora after playing professional football in the U.S. In the capital Azan, Otwani learns that Gudjara Mountain is full of the valuable mineral titanium, and he is greedy to exploit it. To take control of the country, Otwani plans to assassinate his brother, King Jabalani, who has always protected Zambouli territory from mining. Shaman senses the king is in danger and goes to warn him. At the royal residence, the king’s deceitful fiancée, Countess Zanda, schemes with Prince Otwani, with whom she is having an affair. After being informed that the Zambouli Shaman was in town, Zanda has her arrested and plans to frame her for the king’s murder. From her cell, Shaman telepathically summons Sheena. Meanwhile, television sports reporter, Vic Casey, arrives in Tigora with cameraman Fletcher to film a story about Prince Otwani. During a formal dinner, King Jabalani is struck down with an arrow, and Fletcher catches the chaos on camera, as Otwani pretends to grieve over his brother’s body. After examining their footage closely, Vic and Fletcher discover the king was not killed with a Zambouli bow as Countess Zanda claimed, but with a steel crossbow hidden in a tree. Anxious to investigate the conspiracy, Vic goes to the prison to interview Shaman. He and Fletcher arrive in time to witness Sheena rescuing the Zambouli woman, with the help of her zebra, elephant, and chimpanzees. Astonished, the two men follow Sheena and Shaman into the jungle. The next day, Otwani orders his henchman, Colonel Jorgenson, to find and kill the escaped prisoner, along with the two nosy reporters, but prefers Sheena be captured alive. Surrounded by her pride of lions, Sheena confronts Vic and Fletcher driving through the jungle, and orders them to go back. However, as she and Vic look at each other with curiosity, she realizes he is not an enemy and creates a protected area for the reporters to wait. Sheena briefly leaves them to look after her mentor Shaman, who soon dies from injuries she received in prison. Colonel Jorgenson and his mercenary soldiers find the reporters and attack, but Fletcher escapes and returns to Azan to ship the film footage, while Vic hides with Sheena in the treetops. The next day, Sheena and Vic travel towards Zambouli territory on her zebra, Marika, and must outwit their pursuers along the way. During the journey, the two fall in love. Meanwhile, Fletcher is unable to ship the film or leave the country after Otwani shuts down communications and the airport. When Sheena and Vic reach Z’kuru, the first Zambouli village, they are horrified to see Jorgenson’s soldiers destroying the place. Further along the road, the two assemble a flaming arrow to ignite the convoy’s gasoline tanks. However, a fighter helicopter arrives in time to fan out the flames, and Otwani orders the pilot to shoot at Sheena and Vic as they flee. When the helicopter begins to gun down a herd of gazelle and threats to kill Sheena’s beloved zebra, she and Vic emerge from the camouflage of trees and surrender. While being held prisoner, Vic indicates to Otwani that he has incriminating footage of King Jabalani’s assassination. In exchange for Zambouli independence, Vic will hand over the film negative. Otwani wants to view the film first and sends Vic back to the capital Azan, guarded by two of Jorgenson’s thugs. Meanwhile, against Otwani’s wishes, Countess Zanda prepares to throw Sheena over the waterfall from the helicopter. Zanda first orders the pilot to circle the nearby village, so that the Zamboulis will come out to witness their so-called protector die. Using her telepathic abilities, Sheena summons flamingoes that surround the helicopter and attack the pilot, while Zanda falls to her death. As the helicopter descends, Sheena jumps into the treetops before it crashes and explodes. Still in chains, she appears before the Zamboulis and orders them to collect their weapons for the battle. Meanwhile, Vic evades his captors and returns to help Sheena. After discussing a plan with Chief Haromba, Sheena summons her wild animals. In anticipation of mining the rich titanium, Otwani orders Jorgenson and his soldiers to secure Gudjara Mountain, but along a dense forest road, the convoy becomes stuck. From hiding places in the hillside trees, Sheena and the Zamboulis attack with arrows, spears, and boulders. Realizing they are cornered, Jorgenson orders his men to retreat as elephants, chimpanzees, lions, and a rhinoceros charge the convoy. Sheena jumps on her zebra to follow Otwani, who has escaped in a Jeep, while Chief Haromba spears Colonel Jorgenson in revenge for the death of the Z’kuru villagers. Although thrown from her zebra during a fast-paced pursuit, Sheena is able to kill Otwani with her bow and arrow. At the same time, Vic speeds across the desert to try and stop Otwani and crashes his Jeep. He is thrown from the vehicle and is badly burned, but is still alive. Vic recovers after Sheena and the Zamboulis submerge him in the healing soil. Initially, Vic wants to take Sheena back to New York City with him, but changes his mind after realizing the exploitation she would suffer. Before going their separate ways, the two declare their love and Vic promises to return. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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