I’m not ashamed to admit that “Red Sonja” is a childhood favorite. As a TV junkie, I spent a lot of my childhood watching movies on network TV and I constantly tuned in to “Red Sonja.” It was such a departure from the normal movies I watched as it sported a female heroine, Ernie Reyes Jr. trying his best to kick ass, and an unusual narrative that feels like a mix of “Barbarella” and “Wizard of Oz.” Of course this being 1985, you can sense Dino DiLaurentiis also trying to build his own movie series a la “Star Wars,” even featuring a battle with an underwater monster in a cave. I never caught on to it before, but this is also one of the rare action movies from the eighties where there is a heavily implied sexual affair between heroine Sonja and villainous Queen Gedren.
Though it’s not extrapolated on as it should be, there seems to be the indication that after refusing to side with her after a passionate affair, Queen Gedren pretty much laid waste to Sonja’s life. Now Sonja is essentially on the journey to avenge her family and confront her ex-lover all the while coming to terms with her own bisexuality. It’s popular to bash “Red Sonja” these days, but it’s still a shockingly progressive fantasy tale considering most of the eighties fantasy movies were for kids, or had stories about young men saving princesses and maidens. Granted, “Red Sonja” is not a masterpiece, but it embraces the somewhat groundbreaking territory while also transforming in to a bit of cheap exploitation.
The presence of Lord Kalidor as played by Schwarzenneger (an obvious Conan avatar) is a funny gimmick using the Conan influence to keep “Red Sonja” afloat. Meanwhile all Red Sonja needs is to flirt with Kalidor before she realizes she actually likes men, and isn’t so lesbian anymore, gosh darnit. When I was a kid, Schwarzenneger was Conan, no matter what “Red Sonja” identified him as. It was merely Conan travelling incognito. “Red Sonja” is just a simple fantasy actioner tracking down the Queen that ruined her life and is looking to destroy the Macguffin known as the Talisman. Said Talisman can only be operated by women, for some reason, and has the key to all power—or something. I was never clear, there.
But hey, Sandahl Bergman is very sexy as Queen Gedren and has a palpable tension with Nielsen. Schwarzenneger is also fun as Kalidor, while Ernie Reyes and Paul L. Smith fulfill their purpose as comic relief from the decapitations and impalings. As for Brigitte Nielsen, she is at her peak sexiness, and if you can forgive her often stiff acting, you might enjoy the undertones heroism and nobility she exhudes. Seriously, whenever Brigitte Nielsen recites lines in “Red Sonja” she sounds like a “Speak and Spell.” But that said, Nielsen compensates for that with the Amazonian build, ace choreography, and a competent enough performance to keep you entertained. “Red Sonja” is a favorite from the eighties, it’s a fun and exciting movie I enjoying for the swords and sorcery, Schwarzenneger flaunting his god-like image, and Brigitte Nielsen’s damn stellar mullet.