|Copyright 1985 Famous Films
| Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 7 June 2008
- Red Sonja - Brigitte Nielsen! Her dislike of hugging is probably born of the fear that someone might rip out her hair extensions.
- Kalidor - Arnold Schwarzenegger! When you need a barbarian king...
- Prince Tarn - Spoiled brat who wears an air freshener on his head.
- Falkon - He is Tarn's doting guardian, so he also wears a funny hat. It is either a sun dial or an abstract horseshoe crab; I am uncertain which.
- Brytag - He died fighting, in bed, with his boots on. Not bad.
- Queen Gedren - Sandahl Bergman! I have noticed that her characters' relationships with Arnold Schwarzenegger never have a happy ending, unless you consider plummeting into a river of lava a happy ending. I do not, nor does anyone I have asked. Barani was in the market for a lava bath, but that's a different movie (and nobody in this one is carrying a lamp).
- Gedren's Pet Spider - Crickets must have been a lot bigger in the old days.
- Ikol - Chamberlain to Queen Gedren. He looked like a cross between Benny Hill and Darth Vader. Mushed.
|To make part of the story short (because the film does), Red Sonja is a female barbarian with a chip on her shoulder. Most of her family was killed by Queen Gedren's soldiers and she was raped after Sonja refused Gedren's advances. Ever since, the red-haired (hence RED Sonja) woman has trained to be a warrior, and she has excelled.
In truth, most female barbarians are angry at the world. It's the unfair expectations heaped upon their broad, but unhairy, shoulders by a culture that thinks a woman's place is in a harem.
Sonja's only surviving family member is a sister who became a sword-swinging nun in a temple that safeguards the Talisman. The Talisman might look like the mother of all lime gobstoppers, but it is actually an artifact that the mightiest of the Hyborian gods used to create the world. Light causes the Talisman to grow stronger, and the orb is approaching critical mass. The nuns are scared that it might destroy the world, so they decide to seal it up inside their temple. Unfortunately, Queen Gedren's troops attack before the "tossing of the artifact into the bottomless pit" ceremony is complete. Sonja's sister escapes the slaughter (it's like the Alamo, but with nuns), though she is mortally wounded. Kalidor carries the skewered woman to a safe place, then goes looking for Red Sonja.
Something to be said for the movie's battles is that the swords are swung with a lot of force. The actresses playing the doomed battle nuns often seem to wince, because the men attacking them are delivering heavy blows. Too bad that it's so often the combatants are obviously swinging at each other's swords, vice actually trying to deliver a thrust or slash to their opponent's body. We used to do the same sort of thing with wiffle ball bats when I was a kid. You were not trying to hit the other kid, just his "sword."
I tell you, getting hit in the hand with a wiffle ball bat hurt, and taking a plastic slap to the ear or cheek was guaranteed to bring tears to your eyes.
Arriving at the breezy "Hospice of the Stone Yak," Sonja speaks to her sister for a few minutes before the wounded battle nun expires. She then sets out to find and kill Queen Gedren, but pointedly ignores Kalidor. Being the bearer of bad news is never the right way to start off a relationship with a woman. The last time I tried to pick up a girl by telling her, "You know, your sister is dead. How about you and me have dinner sometime?" it did not work. Failed pretty spectacularly, if you would like to know. Cannot say that I would attempt it again; however, YMMV.
En route to Gedren's kingdom, Sonja rescues Prince Tarn twice, once from boiling mud and the second time from brigands. The deposed prince grates on the nerves, and it just gets worse once he and Falkon join Sonja in her quest to kill the evil Queen. The mouthy little noble might have a good reason for being upset, because Gedren did use the Talisman to destroy the royal city of Hablok, but I still despise Tarn. Were I a peasant in his kingdom, I would probably incite a mob and invent the sport of defenestration.
Don't try to tell me that defenestration never solved anything. I know better.
Queen Gedren's kingdom is shrouded in total darkness, meaning that her use of a weapon that feeds on light appears doomed to failure. Not so! Inside of the Queen's fortress is a room filled with thousands of candles. The Talisman is kept therein and brought forth whenever a new city is to be leveled by storm and earthquake. A palanquin is used to transport the god artifact to the site of any battles. The litter and the cone that covers the Talisman appear to be made from thick steel. Gadzooks, that must be heavy! When did somebody finally invent wicker? Was it after the Dark Ages?
To reach Gedren's land, Red Sonja and her friends must pass over an odd bridge. It looks like the intact skeleton of a giant rhinoceros. Why in the name of Darwin did this species of prehistoric rhinoceros come about? It appears that when they are about to die the huge animals seek out a chasm, then flop down across it so that the resulting skeleton becomes a creepy bridge of bone. Talk about a weird evolutionary adaptation.
Oh, it bears mentioning that the movie contains several impressive matte shots. The skeletal bridge is just one of them, but quite striking. On one side is green grass and sunlight, then there is a chasm, then there is a blasted landscape wreathed in shadow. People who have seen Jackson's "Return of the King" (there are a lot of you), along with those familiar with "White Dwarf" (not many of you at all) might experience déjà vu. Anyway, the matte work is surprisingly good. We are talking about a 1980's barbarian movie here.
Driven into a flooded cave by a storm of the Queen's making, Sonja and the others encounter a swimming metal monster. Kalidor suddenly appears (he had come to Sonja's aid once before during the journey), together he and Sonja pry out the creature's ball bearing eyes. Not that they needed to fight the thing. It was just a submerged merry-go-round. However, I think that we can all agree that barbarians and carousels are not compatible.
What story of swords and adventure would be complete without a little barbarian romance? Not this one, for sure, because Sonja and Kalidor start making Hyborian honeymoon eyes at each other. The only thing standing in the way of passionate kissing in a bed of bear furs is each warrior's pride. Sonja refuses to "yield" to a man who has not beaten her in combat. Kalidor tries, but both of them end up so tired (from swinging swords) that making with the grunt grunt is out of the question.
So it's on to Queen Gedren's stronghold, which I nicknamed the "Temple of Taboo."
Housing the overcharged relic of an ancient god is not good for your castle. The earthquakes that wrack Gedren's fortress are proof enough of that, but her desire for power makes the Queen blind to the danger. Inside, the stone walls wobble furiously as tremors shake the keep's foundations. At first, I had some trouble believing a castle would act that way during an earthquake. Later, we get to see the inside of a wall and it looks like the fortress is not stone, but stucco. Okay, I can believe that stucco might shimmy, but not granite - much too dignified of a strata for that sort of thing.
Red Sonja has her final reckoning with Queen Gedren, which does not result in anyone being tossed from a window, and the world is saved. What is Latin for "dropped into lava" anyway? Then Sonja and Kalidor are ready to get down to the business of making barbarian babies. In the Hyborian Age, men were real men, women were real women, and Brigitte Nielsen was really Brigitte Nielsen.
|Things I Learned From This Movie:|| |
- Breastplates are ineffective against Mongolian throwing stars.
- The Liberty Bell is an ancient symbol of female oppression.
- The friend of my dead sister might be my enemy.
- Asian children are born with a natural ability for martial arts.
- DJs are the modern equivalent of alchemists.
- A knife is not a pry bar (don't tell Jerry Busse).
- In the old days, when a woman said, "Not tonight, I have a headache." she was telling the sword-clanging migraine truth.
- The key to crafting a hermetically sealed door out of stone is human butter.
- Never build your castle on top of a natural gas well.
- 2 mins - That certainly covered a lot of ground quickly.
- 5 mins - Bet that you can't jump it...chicken! Bok! Bok! Bok!
- 11 mins - "We're going to need another Tahgn."
- 38 mins - For some reason I feel the urge to play "Connect 4" right now.
- 54 mins - Kalidor's strategy is quite simple: he is going to hold on until the creature rusts.
- 54 mins - "Falkon ged out! Ged to da copter!"
- 66 mins - Somebody is tossing foam rocks at you guys.
- 77 mins - Queen Gedren really needs to get some new curtains.
- 78 mins - RANDOM ACT OF VIOLENCE AGAINST CANDLES!
- Brytag: "I'm going to feed your eyes to the birds, Red Hair!"
Sonja: "I don't need eyes to find you. I can smell you at a hundred paces!"
- Sonja: "Why have you been following me?"
Kalidor: "To see that you reach the Talisman safely."
Kalidor: "I have to be sure that the Talisman is destroyed. Centuries ago, the High Lords of Arcadia entrusted the Talisman to the priestesses, because only women may touch it. But to guard it, and to destroy it if need be, is still the duty of the High Lord."
Sonja: "You, the High Lord?"
- Kalidor: "If you yield only to a conqueror, then prepare to be conquered."
| ||Audio clips in wav format||SOUNDS||Starving actors speak out|| |
||Gedren: "Hahahahaha! So, it is true, only women may touch it!"
||Ikol: "Um, perhaps...fewer candles would be advisable, your Majesty." |
Gedren: "Why? The stronger the light, the greater the power of the Talisman grows. I want more light here, not less."
Ikol: "But it is dangerously powerful already, great queen. Look what it did to Hablok!"
Gedren: "Yes, very satisfying."
||Sonja: "Oh, be quiet you arrogant, ungrateful pup!" |
Tarn: "How dare you, woman!"
Sonja: "I'll show you how I dare. This should have been done a long time ago!" (She puts Tarn over her knee.)
Falkon: "No! If you must hit someone, then hit me."
Sonja: "You're not worth the effort, boy."
Tarn: "Boy? Boy?"
||Sonja: "I'm under a vow. No man may have me, unless he has beaten me in a fair fight."
|Theme Song|| Listen to a clip from the soundtrack. |
| ||Click for a larger image||IMAGES||Scenes from the movie|| |
| ||Watch a scene||VIDEO||MPEG video files|| |
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