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Although ostensibly a Brigitte Nielsen vehicle, Red Sonja is much more a thinly veiled attempt at a kid friendly Conan, complete with Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan knock off…uh, I forgot his actual character name because I only referred to him as Conan the Codpiece throughout the film. The film also features perennial B-movie favorite Sandhal Bergman (Valeria of Conan the Barbarian if you needed any further links to that movie) as the deformed and deranged Queen Gedren. Also co-starring is one of the 1980s most insufferable urchins, Ernie Reyes, Jr. as a prince whose kingdom has been lost to Gedren. Here is the most glaring attempt to market this to children, though his obnoxious character can appeal to likely no one. He really drags down every scene he’s in for the first three quarters of the movie. He and his bodyguard/nanny, who I’ll call Ram-Man, provide the comic relief in the film. If you know anything about comic relief in comically bad movies, then you already know how welcome this is.

The plot is a standard sword and sorcery film, focusing heavily on revenge for family/villagers slaughtered by a more powerful force. The acting is sub par on every level. No one more than phones it in save Bergman, who chews scenery with a vigor unknown to her acting before this. According to her wiki page she turned down the lead for this role. I guess she wanted to expand her repertoire. The sets and props are comically cheap, with hilarious matte painting subbing frequently for backdrops. Once Gedren peels away her “gold” face plate it bends in a suspiciously rubber-like manner. The fight choreography is sub-Conan as well, even Schwarzenegger’s work lacks much pizzazz. Nielsen seems to be learning English as the movie goes along, and while this may have worked for the stoic, man of action Conan, Sonja has far too many lines to pull of the same. Nielsen also lacks Schwarzenegger’s natural charisma and comedic timing, which made a lot of what he did in a similar role work (see prayer, Crom‘s).

Enough grousing, though. I’m not denying the fun that can be had with a movie like this. Most of this is in deriding how bad it is, but we like that around here. The bad guys have a special ludicrousness that has to be seen to be appreciated, from henchmen throwing women into pits of crushing doom to the keeper of the gate who demands Sonja’s sexual submission as passage to the pacing, wild eyed madness of Gedren as her empire quite literally crumbles around her. There are few of these films that make such memorable impressions with the antagonists. So, for what it’s worth Red Sonja provides some silly diversion and goofy entertainment but, honestly, even Conan the Destroyer knew better than to put kids in the movie. 2 stars

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