Red Sonja is a 1985 film by director Richard Fleischer. It is loosely based on the works of and created by Roy Thomas, who first started writing for Marvel's Conan the Barbarian series (#23) in 1973. The movie stars Brigitte Nielsen in her first movie as the title character as well as actor Arnold Schwarzenegger as a character that is essentially Conan the Barbarian called Kalidor.
Spoiler warning! Plot and/or ending details follow.
The movie kicks off with Red Sonja's family being slaughtered by the evil Queen Gedren's army. Sonja manages to survive and even gives Gedren a little souvenir in the form of a brutal scar on her face. Later that night, Sonja is visited by a spirit who grants her the strength to seek her revenge.
The story then jumps to a big palace full of white robed priestesses. They are getting ready to destroy a big green glowing bowling ball called the Talisman. Apparently, this dangerous artifact grows destructively powerful from exposure to light, they intend to destroy it before it gets out of control. However, Gedren, now wearing a gold mask to cover her scar, and Ikol, her advisor and wizard, crash the party. Her army begins killing the innocent priestesses, some of whom actually put up a good fight.
Gedren gets her hands on the Talisman, but not before discovering that the rumor that only women can touch it is true. As Gedren imprisons the rest of the surviving priestesses, one of them, Varna, manages to escape, but is wounded by an arrow in the back. As luck would have it, however, she literally falls into the arms of the mighty Kalidor. She begs him to help find her sister, Red Sonja!
Meanwhile, Sonja has been training with a Chinese swordmaster. Kalidor comes charging in and informs Sonja about her sister. Sonja arrives just in time for Varna to tell her about what happened in the palace, and recommends finding the Talisman and destroying it or else the world will be plagued with floods and earthquakes. Varna then departs and Sonja starts her journey to find evil Gedren.
Later that night she notices a storm off in the distance and believes that someone is using the Talisman. Kalidor offers to help her, but Sonja tells him that she doesn't need the help of a man. She rides to the now ruined kingdom of Hablock and joins up with naughty little Prince Tarn and his servant, Falkon. The new little group sets out to find Gedren's fortress, with Kalidor surreptitiously following them.
Soon they encounter a thuggish toll road operator who takes an unhealthy interest in Sonja. She challenges him to fight and kills him, but his men, who greatly outnumber Sonja's group, try to get revenge. Kalidor's sudden arrival, however, saves the day. Sonja and her band make their escape, leaving Kalidor behind to take care of the remaining hoodlums.
Meanwhile, Gedren places the Talisman in a room full of candles to increase its strength. Ikol warns her against this because the light will cause it to grow too powerful to control, but Gedren won't listen to him. On the way back to the main hall, Ikol (who has giant black knife-like fingernails) tells her that there are enemies approaching the castle. He shows her the current location of Sonja’s group in some kind of magic screen. Gedren recognizes Sonja and orders that she be brought back to the fortress unharmed. She and Ikol then use the Talisman to conjure up a storm that forces Sonja’s band to take shelter in a cave.
Gedren and her magician then summon a monster under the water of a pond near the cave. When Sonja and her group try to cross the pond, the monster attacks them. Sonja struggles with the monster, but is unable to find any way to kill it. Kalidor again dramatically appears and is able to hold down the creature while the others escape. He then digs out the monster’s eyes and flees himself.
Sonja now accepts the company of Kalidor, but also gives him a warning--she will never be with any man unless he can defeat her in a swordfight. That night, Kalidor challenges her and they spar, but neither of them is able to defeat the other and eventually they both give up. Kalidor at least wins her heart.
The Talisman is starting to get out of control, but Gedren doesn't want to hear about it and once again rejects Ikol's counsel to put it in a dark place. Meanwhile, Kalidor, Sonja and Tran climb over the fortress wall, leaving Falkon outside.
In the final confrontation, Sonja starts settling her score with Gedren, while Kalidor deals with her evil minions, attacking them while they are eating. Ikol tries to sneak away but gets crushed under the front gate, before Sonja finishes him off.
The Talisman breaks the floor of the candle room, opening up a hellish pit of fire.
Gedren flees to candle room, with Sonja right behind her. After a final fight, Sonja throws both Gedren and the Talisman into the hell beneath the broken floor. The fortress starts to collapse, but the heroes manage to escape (Kalidor at one point having to hold two pillars on his shoulders while the others pass by). The castle finally falls into the lava pit and blows up.
At the end, Sonja and Kalidor kiss, while Prince Tran and Falkon look on.
Characters and castEdit
- Arnold Schwarzenegger as Kalidor
- Brigitte Nielsen as Red Sonja
- Sandahl Bergman as Queen Gedren
- Paul L. Smith as Falkon
- Ernie Reyes Jr as Prince Tarn
- Ronald Lacey as Ikol
- Janet Agren as Varna, Red Sonja's Sister
- Tad Horino as Swordmaster
- Donna Osterbuhr as Kendra the High Priestess
- Francesca Romana Coluzzi as Red Sonja's Mother
- Hans Meyer as Red Sonja's Father
- Kiyoshi Yamasaki as Kyobo
- Pat Roach as Brytag
- Lara Naszinsky as Gedren's Handmaid
- Stefano Maria Mioni as Barlok, Red Sonja's Brother
- Terry Richards as Djart
- Tutte Lemkow as Wizard
In Conan the Barbarian, Sandahl Bergman played Valeria, the queen of thieves and the love of Conan’s life. Initially she was offered the role of Red Sonja, but turned it down, choosing instead to play the villainous Queen Gedren. After Bergman turned down the lead role, it took Dino De Laurentiis almost a year to find an actress Amazonian enough to play the title character in Red Sonja. He was still looking eight weeks before the production was due to start, when he saw Brigitte Nielsen on the cover of a fashion magazine. The 21-year-old native of Helsingør, Denmark, who was in Milan on a modeling job, soon found herself on a plane heading for Rome and a successful screen test. Arnold Schwarzenegger had great success in the two Conan movies, but his next film, James Cameron's The Terminator, was a real breakthrough. When De Laurentiis approached Schwarzenegger and asked him to appear in an extended cameo and take second billing in Red Sonja, the actor agreed out of a feeling of obligation. He worked on the movie for only three weeks, and was very unhappy with De Laurentiis when he discovered he had been given top billing for what was essentially a supporting role.
Ennio Morricone, who wrote the music for Red Sonja, is one of the most celebrated of film composers. He has written scores for more than 400 movies, including Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven, and Roland Joffé's The Mission.
The Encyclopedia of Fantasy gave Red Sonja an extremely scathing entry. The main criticism was that it was a "B-movie," had bad characterization, bad acting, and was an entirely clichè display of swords and sorcery.
In particular, the Encyclopedia accuses the movie of being extremely homophobic, and for purposely portraying homosexuality as a negative and evil trait. Gerden is portrayed as a lesbian whose rivalry with Sonja is partly based on the fact that Sonja once rejected her sexual advances. Likewise, the wizard is depicted as gay; one scene involves him accidentally conjuring up a homoerotic image.
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- The film was shot in Italy, on location in Celano and Abruzzi, near Rome, and at the Stabilimenti Cinematagrafici Pontini studios.
- Ennio Morricone
Quotes and triviaEdit
- Arnold Schwarzenegger was originally to have reprised the role of Conan in this film, as the Red Sonja character was a spin-off of the original Conan novels. Ultimately, a new character was created who was essentially Conan in everything but name.
- The original theatrical trailer of this movie contains cutting room-floor footage of scenes glimpsed only briefly in the film's prologue: Sonja, left to perish in her burning home, is saved by her dying brother Barlok; Gedren, prior to her disfigurement, addresses her soldiers and slaves.
- The name of Ronald Lacey's character, "Ikol," spelled backwards is "Loki." Loki in Nordic mythology, was the God of Evil and Corruption, infamous for being a jealousy-prone troublemaker.
- Sandahl Bergman was initially cast as the title character, but decided on portraying "Queen Gedren" instead, to help avoid typecasting.
- The Encyclopedia of Fantasy • edited by John Clute and John Grant • Orbit 1997 ISBN 1857233689
- International Superheroes: Conan • "Loki"
- The Internet Movie Database (IMDb)
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