The tyrant Gedren seeks the total power in a world of barbarism. She attacks and kills the keepers of a powerful talisman just before it is destroyed. Gedren then uses the power of the talisman in her raid of the city Hablac. Red Sonja, sister of the keeper, sets out with her magic sword to overthrow Gedren. The talisman's master Kalidor follows to protect her. Of course they fall in love - however Red Sonja's power bases on the oath to never give herself to any man... Written by
Tom Zoerner <Tom.Zoerner@informatik.uni-erlangen.de>
It's been ages since I've seen this film, and it holds about as much interest for me as when I first saw it. It's entertaining on a certain level, and holds some interest.
Some minor notes before progressing with my comments; Kalidor in reality is Conan's alternate name. That is to say Conan and Kalidor are one in the same person as per Robert Howard's authorship. Ergo Laurentis casting Arnie in the role was most likely deliberate, though Governor Schwarzenegger and his then agent may have had the wool pulled over their eyes and had this little fact kept from them when approached for the role. In fact and essence you're seeing "Conan the Barbarian III", in spite of the Red Sonja title.
But, enough of that. Can Bridgette Neilson act? Yeah, sure. Is she Oscar material? Err... no. Was she right for the role? Probably. How about the other roles? Me, I think Sandahl Bergman rejoining the Conan cast as a lesbian queen was a fine choice. And pardon my prurient interest, but I think she's hotter as a brunette with short hair than as a natural blonde :)
The film is what it is; a thinly veiled knockoff of the first two Conan films, though again, it really IS a third (albeit unofficial) installment of the "franchise", so to speak. The sets and art direction for a moderately budgeted sequel are actually fairly impressive, though one gets the sense that there's some slight of hand being used to mask budgetary limitations.
And, believe it or not, it works after a fashion. There's the usual "we can't afford to costume real life size armies, so we'll allude to armies and battles in dialog, than actually show them" thing going on. But there're enough costumed bodies to get the gist across that our antagonist does command vast hosts to conquer the Hyborean world.
Other technical aspects; it's not a poorly shot film, but the cinematography doesn't recapture Milius' touch with the first Conan film. But, then again, there is a kind of artistic professionalism that comes across in this movie that can be admired after a fashion. The one thing that strikes me visually, other than the elaborate and well designed costumes and set pieces, is the fact that even though the cinematography is respectable, there's no real "theme" to it. The shots are fairly static, but well composed, yet there's no underlying dynamic to them. In essence the cast and crew were told to do their best with the material they were given, and they do so in spades.
This isn't to say the film is outstanding, because it isn't. But everyone puts their best foot forward in a film that's pretty much all- business. That is to say it was given a nice clean professional coat, but lacked a certain integrity that comes across in the script. We are, in fact and essence, watching Robert Howard's feminized version of Conan do her thing and not much else.
What could have improved this film? Lots of things, I suppose. A bigger budget for one to actually stage some large battle sequences as Sandahl's character goes about conquering the world. Neilson does her double-Y chromosome thing as an Arnie imitation, but is perhaps off par by a stroke or two in terms of performance. Arnie does his thing, and Sandahl does hers (she actually gives a respectable performance). Reyes Junior is who he is, and does an adequate job as a spoiled brat.
The truth of the matter is that this film was made in the 80s, when female marketed films weren't seen as big money makers, and so it was budgeted as such; i.e. it wasn't expected to make lots of money, but financed to put on a good show. Red Sonja is to the Conan films as Supergirl was to the Superman films.
All in all it's another De Laurentis production. Take it for what it is, interesting and entertaining popcorn fare.
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