SHEENA: QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE “Crash in the Jungle.” Syndicated, 01 September 1955 (Season One, Episode One). Irish McCalla (Sheena), Chris Drake (Bob Rayburn), Neal the Chimp. Guest Cast: Claudio Brooks, Rebeca Iturbide. Based on the comic book character created by Will Eisner and Jerry Iger. Directed by Carl K. Hittleman. Currently streaming on YouTube (see below).

   This early syndicated TV series may have been intended for children, but even if so, I’ll bet a lot of adults watched too. Former pin-up model Irish McCalla, while far from being a polished actress, was perfect in the role of Sheena, blonde, athletic (often doing her own stunts in skimpy clothing) and still totally feminine.

   This first episode doesn’t go into the origins of the character, and perhaps the TV series, which lasted for one season of 26 episodes, never did. In this episode a pilot of a small plane survives a fiery crash, but a reel of film of a reclusive native tribe taken by a lady journalist does not. Luckily the film was insured, a fact that does not escape the notice of those investigating the accident.

   At the end of this review is the discussion that Sheena has with them. She does not know what “insurance” is, and the conversation is designed to show her naivete in such matters, which is effective as well as charming. You could say the same thing about the whole production, in spite of its low budget roots, which are showing.

   No matter. Watching this was fun. There was a full-length feature film starring Sheena that came along later, followed by a second syndicated series, both in color with a lot more production values. And yet, while this is the only episode of the earliest version I’ve had a chance to watch, at the moment this is the one I’ve enjoyed the most.

Bob Rayburn: Insurance is like betting. It started out with ships full of cargo, understand?
Andy Howard: Yes! Only the cargo owners bet the ship is going to sink.
Sheena: Why?
Andy Howard: [to Bob] Why?
Bob Rayburn: Because they didn’t want it to sink.
Sheena: Why bet?


Andy Howard: Why, because if it does sink they want to be paid for the cargo.
Sheena: Who pay?
Bob Rayburn: The insurance company.
Sheena: Why?
Bob Rayburn: Why.
Bob Rayburn: [to Andy] You take it, lad.