Red Sonja (1985) – Directed by Richard Fleischer – Starring Brigitte Nielsen, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sandahl Bergman, Paul L. Smith, Ernie Reyes, Jr., Ronald Lacey, and Pat Roach.
Arnold Schwarzenegger has called RED SONJA the worst movie he’s been in, and joked that when his kids are bad, he punishes them by making them watch this movie.
RED SONJA is not a good movie, and watching it on an endless loop certainly qualifies as punishment, but it’s hardly one of the worst films ever made. It’s clunky, obvious, dumb, slightly homophobic, and full of truly atrocious acting from Brigitte Nielsen, Sandahl Bergman, and Schwarzenegger, but it’s usually a “so bad it’s fun” movie, and there’s some genuine warmth between Sonja (Nielsen) and Prince Tarn (Ernie Reyes Jr.) that keeps SONJA from being completely without merit.
Queen Gedren (Bergman) wants to have sex with Sonja, but the young woman refuses, and as punishment Gedren kills her family, burns her house, and lets her troops have their way with Sonja. Wanting revenge, a spirit visits Sonja who gives her magic strength to accomplish this task, and the film is simply Sonja’s quest to kill the Queen.
Sonja has a sister who’s a priestess and she’s nearly killed when Gedren and her right hand man Ikol (Ronald Lacey) steal a glowing ball of green that’s super powerful. Varna (Janet Agren) is found by Lord Kalidor (Schwarzenegger), who’s like Conan except with a different name, better manners, and a slightly better ability to speak English. Varna begs Kalidor to go find Sonja, which he does, and then Varna convinces Sonja to go after Gedren and the Talisman, Kalidor wants to come.
Sonja says no because Kalidor is a man, and all men are evil.
She sees a storm in the distance and heads for it, knowing that the storm signifies the big ball of green is being used by Gedren. Along the way, she runs into Prince Tarn and his flunky Falkon (Paul L. Smith), who have seen their kingdom destroyed by Gedren and the Talisman. Tarn is a right little bastard, full of ego and orders. He treats Falkon like a slave and offers Sonja a chance to join him as a cook. Sonja refuses, of course (she’s not on the poster holding a frying pan, after all), and tells Falkon to put Tarn over his knee and give him a spanking.
Next up is Brytag (Pat Roach) and his men of the mountain pass. Brytag wants Sonja to give up her goods for payment, but she refuses, so they fight and she wins and all his men gang up to attack her. Luckily, Kalidor doesn’t listen to women who tell him they don’t need his help, and together they escape.
Then there’s more fighting and more “flirting” between Kalidor and Sonja. She tells him that no man can have her unless he can best her in a sword fight, so Kalidor challenges her to a sword fight. These are not complicated people. They fight to a draw and Arnold and Nielsen engage in some of the worst acting I’ve seen when it comes to being tired. It’s like they couldn’t even be bothered to go for a quick jog to work up a sweat. Nope, they just start to half swing and then go to the ground, gasping for air like a couple of five-year olds pretending to be tired in gym class.
They reunite with Tarn and Falkon and there’s a huge final battle scene that’s rather blah, but all the good guys survive and the bad guys die. Kalidor and Sonja play kissy face and Tarn and Falkon go on their way.
The only thing I really like about the film is the relationship between Sonja and Tarn. Brigitte Nielsen is not a very good actress, but she’s actually better at playing parent with Tarn than she is warrioress with Schwarzenegger. When Sonja first meets Tarn she wants him scolded. When they meet up a second time she offers to teach him a bit of swordplay. At the end, they’re companions in the battle against Gedren. Ernie Reyes, Jr. is the best part of the film, and if we had ever gotten a sequel, I would have preferred it to be about Tarn than Sonja.
Look, RED SONJA is a below average movie. I watched it once as a kid and not again until the other night. I didn’t get much out of it then and I didn’t get a whole lot out of it now (except for a pretty darn good Ennio Morricone score), but it’s one of those films I’m guessing most sci-fi/fantasy fans have seen over the years and I don’t think it left any of us particularly scarred. It’s not good but you could do worse than team RED SONJA with Hawk the Slayer for a night of personal MST3King.