“How… how are we talking to you?” Rich asks the small squirrel that has appeared in front of them. “Destiny,” it whispers in importance, dancing excitedly on its tiny feet, “it is foretold in the ancient scroll. Come.” Its eyes are shining and it hurries off, occasionally turning back and beckoning them forth. Rich and Poe shrug their shoulders. What’s one more adventure? Besides, Nic Cage needs saving and this, however bizarre, is their best lead. Upon arriving at the squirrel’s tree they see that word has already spread, for hundreds of squirrels are there chattering amongst themselves. A gray, wizened squirrel waddles up with a little tiny knobbly cane and it’s all very sweet and Rich and Poe both think it’s very cute. “It has been foretold,” the old squirrel wheezes, “in the ancient scroll,” it continues pulling out the cutest, tiniest scroll and unrolling it. Thank god they don’t have to read it themselves because it’s so little and tiny and they’d need tiny cute glasses to read it, which the old squirrel has. He clears his throat and reads, “It is foretold in this ancient scroll that there will come a time where the great one will fall ill and a pair of twins will arrive to seek out the cure. The Great Nut that will be broken and through its shattering will clear the bowels of humanity.” The bad movie twins frown. “And with a mighty expulsion of putrid air and waste, which is foretold in this scroll, the world will be empty and the movement satisfactory.” The old squirrel hacks and coughs with the effort of speaking and really this whole thing is a little less cute once it’s all laid out like that. Recovering, it squeaks out a final, “Destiny,” before waving them away. That’s right! We’re watching the Conan the Barbarian adjacent sword and sandals film Red Sonja starring a new-on-the-scene Brigitte Nielsen and Arnold (but not playing Conan for some reason). Let’s see if 35 years have aged this fantasy action film into a fine wine. Let’s go!
Red Sonja (1985) – BMeTric: 60.0; Notability: 33
(Surprisingly low. I guess I’m not surprised it has been rising with the number of votes though. I feel like these cheesy 80s properties are ripe for cult status. Very high notability given though considering it looks like garbage.)
Leonard Maltin – 1.5 stars – Spectacularly silly sword-and-sorcery saga with female lead, based on pulp writings of Robert E. Howard (of Conan fame). Might amuse juvenile viewers, but only point of interest for adults is deciding who gives the worse performance, Nielsen or villainess Bergman. Schwarzenegger has a brief guest spot.
(I don’t think Arnold’s guest sport is all that brief. I think he’s in like half the film. This feels like a review that was written much closer to the time of the film’s release. Somewhat interesting that he gave the same score to Conan the Destroyer, which was a genuinely terrible film from what I can recall.)
(They basically go all out on “THIS IS A CONAN FILM” … but he’s Lord Kalidor don’t worry about it. Man they really don’t make films like this anymore. It is basically a pulp novel come to life!)
Directors – Richard Fleischer – (Known For: Soylent Green; Tora! Tora! Tora!; 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; Fantastic Voyage; The Vikings; 10 Rillington Place; Compulsion; Mr. Majestyk; The Boston Strangler; Barabbas; See No Evil; The Last Run; The Narrow Margin; Violent Saturday; Future BMT: Amityville 3-D; The Jazz Singer; Doctor Dolittle; Mandingo; Million Dollar Mystery; The Incredible Sarah; BMT: Red Sonja; Conan the Destroyer; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Director for The Jazz Singer in 1981; Notes: )
Writers – Robert E. Howard (based on the character created by) – (Known For: Conan the Barbarian; Solomon Kane; Future BMT: Kull the Conqueror; BMT: Conan the Barbarian; Red Sonja; Conan the Destroyer; Notes: Sadly killed himself on the night his mother died when he was 30 years old. Was friends with H. P. Lovecraft and one of the Lovecraft Circle.)
Clive Exton (written by) – (Known For: 10 Rillington Place; Isadora; Future BMT: The Awakening; BMT: Red Sonja; Notes: His last major motion picture. He wrote 21 episodes of Poirot, which is great and I highly recommend.)
George MacDonald Fraser (written by) – (Known For: Octopussy; The Three Musketeers; The Four Musketeers; The Return of the Musketeers; BMT: Red Sonja; Notes: Created Harry Flashman, the bully of Tom Brown’s School Days. The character appeared in the film Royal Flash starring Malcolm McDowell.)
Roy Thomas (comic book) (uncredited) – (Known For: Logan; Fire and Ice; BMT: Red Sonja; Conan the Destroyer; Notes: Wrote for a bunch of comic companies, but probably most notably Marvel. Credited on Morbius, and Captain Marvel among many others because of that. Wrote three sword and sorcery films in 1983, 1984, and 1985.)
Barry Windsor-Smith (comic book) (uncredited) – (BMT: Red Sonja; Notes: Notably wrote on the Weapon X storyline for Marvel comics in addition to the Conan the Barbarian comics.)
Actors – Arnold Schwarzenegger – (Known For: Terminator: Dark Fate; Terminator 2: Judgment Day; The Terminator; Total Recall; Commando; Predator; Dave; True Lies; Kindergarten Cop; Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines; Conan the Barbarian; The Expendables; The Expendables 2; Escape Plan; The Running Man; Twins; Welcome to the Jungle; The Last Stand; The 6th Day; Maggie; Future BMT: Hercules in New York; Junior; Collateral Damage; Jingle All The Way; End of Days; Cactus Jack; The Iron Mask; Eraser; Terminator Genisys; Last Action Hero; The Kid & I; BMT: Batman & Robin; Red Sonja; Raw Deal; Sabotage; Around the World in 80 Days; Conan the Destroyer; The Expendables 3; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Actor in 1983 for Conan the Barbarian; in 1994 for Last Action Hero; in 2000 for End of Days; and in 2001 for The 6th Day; Nominee for Worst Supporting Actor in 1998 for Batman & Robin; in 2001 for The 6th Day; in 2005 for Around the World in 80 Days; and in 2015 for The Expendables 3; and Nominee for Worst Screen Couple for The 6th Day in 2001; Notes: A little odd he gets top billing in the film. Anyhoo, he just had heart surgery, but is in recovery and feeling “fantastic”. Arnold is the best.)
Brigitte Nielsen – (Known For: Creed II; Beverly Hills Cop II; Future BMT: Rocky IV; BMT: Red Sonja; Cobra; Razzie Notes: Winner for Worst Supporting Actress, and Worst New Star for Rocky IV in 1986; Winner for Worst New Star for Red Sonja in 1986; and Nominee for Worst Actress in 1986 for Red Sonja; in 1987 for Cobra; and in 1990 for Bye Bye Baby; Notes: Famously was engaged to Sly Stallone during Rocky IV and then married soon after. She’s famously 6’1’’ which is part of the reason they approached her for this film.)
Sandahl Bergman – (Known For: Conan the Barbarian; All That Jazz; Airplane II: The Sequel; Hell Comes to Frogtown; Future BMT: Xanadu; The Singing Detective; Mame; BMT: Red Sonja; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Supporting Actress for Red Sonja in 1986; Notes: Oddly, much like Arnold, she played two different characters in this and the original Conan the Barbarian. Apparently she was originally asked to play Sonja … I wonder with Arnold and her in the two leading roles whether they would have more explicitly suggested they were Conan and Valerie.)
Budget/Gross – $17.9 million / Domestic: $6,948,633 (Worldwide: $6,951,415)
(Yeah that’s a disaster. I’m not sure I believe the nearly $20 million budget though, but perhaps that explains why they pumped the brakes on King Conan, the third film that was eventually turned into Kull the Conqueror … oh yeah I forgot we have a final Conan film to watch!)
Rotten Tomatoes – 15% (4/26): Dull, poorly directed, and badly miscast, Red Sonja is an uninspired conclusion to Schwarzenegger’s barbarian trilogy.
(Most reviews appear to lament how miscast Nielsen is, and how if she were the least bit charming or funny the film would end up being a light romp. Instead it is a deathly serious disaster. Reviewer Highlight: Red Sonja returns to those olden days when women were women and the menfolk stood around with funny hats on until called forth to be whacked at. – Variety)
Poster – Red Skloga
(Yes. … … oh you want more? This fits a mold that makes my brain happy and I wish I could go back in time, ask for a large poster for my room, and hang it there because it’s cool. It feels like the cover of a book I’d read and it would be kinda terrible but also I’d like reading it. So I don’t even think I can give an unbiased opinion on this so I’ll rate it J. Stands for “Jamie likes this.”)
Tagline(s) – A woman and a warrior that became a legend. (C-)
(Bringing me down to Earth. I can judge this without bias and I don’t like it because it’s bad. It’s too long and doesn’t flow. It isn’t clever and is kinda vague.)
Keyword – sword and sorcery
Top 10: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), Troy (2004), Dune (1984), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), The Princess Bride (1987), The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005), The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), 300 (2006), The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), Stardust (2007)
Future BMT: 65.9 Highlander: Endgame (2000), 53.2 The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter (1990), 50.6 Your Highness (2011), 49.7 The Last Legion (2007), 46.9 Kull the Conqueror (1997), 45.3 A Kid in King Arthur’s Court (1995), 44.4 Wrath of the Titans (2012), 42.9 Hercules (1983), 41.2 Clash of the Titans (2010), 34.4 Il mondo di Yor (1983);
BMT: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013), Hellboy (2019), Warcraft: The Beginning (2016), The Last Airbender (2010), Conan the Barbarian (2011), Masters of the Universe (1987), Seventh Son (2014), The 13th Warrior (1999), Eragon (2006), Conan the Destroyer (1984), Red Sonja (1985), Season of the Witch (2011), Dungeons & Dragons (2000), In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (2007), Highlander II: The Quickening (1991), Highlander III: The Sorcerer (1994)
(I mean … I wouldn’t count the Harry Potter films personally. But certainly the genre had a moment with Lord of the Rings in the early 00s. And now they are having a big moment on television with Game of Thrones and now the upcoming Wheel of Time (which I hope is good), a reboot of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and things like The Witcher. NeverEnding Story II is a wild one from the BMT list.)
Welcome to Earf (HoE Number 13) – The shortest path through The Movie Database cast lists using only BMT films is: Arnold Schwarzenegger is No. 1 billed in Red Sonja and No. 4 billed in Expendables 3, which also stars Jason Statham (No. 2 billed) who is in In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Seige Tale (No. 1 billed), which also stars Leelee Sobieski (No. 4 billed) who is in Here on Earth (No. 1 billed) => 1 + 4 + 2 + 1 + 4 + 1 = 13. If we were to watch The Glass House we can get the HoE Number down to 12.
Notes – Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character was originally intended to be a reprisal of Conan, star of the comic book in which Red Sonja first appeared, but the film did not have the rights to this name. An unofficial explanation endorsed by fans is that Kalidor is one of Conan’s “traveling names,” a common feature of multi-national mythical/legendary heroes such as Zeus (a.k.a. Jupiter) and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Gandalf (a.k.a. Mithrandir). (Oh, I just thought they were trying to get that Conan sheen while not having to deal with it being a Conan movie explicitly. Weird they didn’t have the rights)
Arnold Schwarzenegger eschews this movie as one of his worst, yet he (laughingly) claims that it’s an excellent disciplinary tool for his children. “I tell them, if they get on my bad side, they’ll be forced to watch Red Sonja (1985) ten times in a row. It must be working, because none of my kids has ever given me much trouble.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger signed up for a glorified cameo, as a favor to producer Dino De Laurentiis. Much to his surprise, he was on the set for four weeks, three weeks longer than expected. He discovered after watching a rough cut of the movie that his role had been expanded to co-star, thanks to crafty angles and multiple cameras. Soon after, Schwarzenegger decided to terminate his 10-year contract with De Laurentiss. (Ha! See I knew the Maltin note was kind of wrong. He’s in like half the movie.)
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Brigitte Nielsen had an affair during filming. (Future wife of Sly … I wonder if there is any bad blood about that stuff)
Sigourney Weaver was considered for Red Sonja. (That would have been amazing)
It is commonly believed that Robert E. Howard created the character of Red Sonja in one of his Conan short stories. He actually created Red Sonya, who appeared in “Shadow of the Vulture,” a story set in 16th-century Turkey with no Conan connections. She was the namesake of the famous “Red Sonja” who first appeared in a Conan comic book written by Roy Thomas and illustrated by Barry Windsor-Smith.
A remake was announced in 2009, with Robert Rodriguez directing and Rose McGowan to star as Red Sonja. When Conan the Barbarian (2011) failed at the box office, Rodriguez and McGowan backed out of the project. As of 2015, the remake is in development hell. (… but Rose McGowan was the bad guy in the 2011 Conan film … I don’t get it)
Sandahl Bergman was initially cast as the title character. She decided to portray Queen Gedren to help avoid typecasting. (Poor decision, would have been cooler with the Conan connection there)
It took Dino De Laurentiis almost a year to find an actress “Amazonian” enough to play the title character. Eight weeks before production was set to begin, he saw Brigitte Nielsen on the cover of a fashion magazine. The 21-year-old native of Helsingør, Denmark, in Milan for a modeling job, soon found herself on a plane heading for Rome and a successful screen test.
On a 2015 episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, soap opera actress Eileen Davidson revealed that she auditioned for the role and was actually runner-up to Brigitte Nielsen.
Awards – Winner for the Razzie Award for Worst New Star (Brigitte Nielsen, 1986)
Nominee for the Razzie Award for Worst Actress (Brigitte Nielsen, 1986)
Nominee for the Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actress (Sandahl Bergman, 1986)