Friday, August 11, 2017

Now That Everybody Loves Wonder Woman, Let’s Watch Red Sonja

 At 6’1”, 21 year-old Swedish model Brigitte Nielsen was three inches taller than Gal Gadot in her big screen debut as Red Sonja (1985).  That’s only an inch sorter than her co-star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who got top billing, literally “Red Sonja, Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and introducing Brigitte Nielsen”, a regrettable lack of faith in the leading lady.  But hey, it was the 80’s, and this isn’t a gender politics blog, it’s a movie blog, and don’t ever forget that.
Directed by Richard Fleischer of Soylent Green (1973), Red Sonja is based on the Robert E. Howard’s 1934 character and subsequent Marvel comic book hero.  Brigitte Nielsen doesn’t wear Red Sonja’s signature chainmail bikini in this incarnation, but she does sport a snakeskin corset and a rockin’ mullet, if you’re into such things.  Arnold plays travelling swordsman Kalidor, but let’s face it, he’s Conan, I mean look at him.  Red Sonja’s on a mission to destroy a glowing green talisman stolen by Queen Gedren, as portrayed by Sandahl Bergman, who you will remember as Valeria in Conan the Barbarian (1982).  In an extraordinary coincidence Queen Gedren also burned down Sonja’s village and killed her parents in an extended flashback introduction that makes the viewer feel they’re watching the second movie in a trilogy that was never made.

With a rousing martial soundtrack by Ennio Morricone and very analog, old school stunts.  There’s no wire work or spinning around here; it’s just brutes hacking at each other with swords.  The movie relies on the physical presence of the actors to relay the action; Brigitte Nielsen is all arms and legs, towering over the Italian stunt men, and Arnold was a seven time Mr. Olympia.  All he had to do was pick up a sword and let his arms fill up the screen.

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