We take a look back at the infamous 1985 adaptation of Red Sonja starring Brigitte Nielsen and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In the early eighties, Arnold Schwarzenegger had become a star through his role in Conan the Barbarian. Following a critically maligned but successful sequel, Conan the Destroyer, Schwarzenegger sought to move into more contemporary roles. His contract with producer Dino De Laurentis was ending, but the legendary mogul wanted to use Schwarzenegger’s star power to launch another adaption of Robert E. Howard’s work – Red Sonja. The resulting film was a star vehicle for Brigitte Nielsen, who some saw as a potential female action icon, and Schwarzenegger, due to his contract with De Laurentis, had no choice but to appear in a critical supporting role (for which he would be top-billed) opposite Nielsen, who played the titular character.
Directed by Richard Fleischer, who had also directed Conan the Destroyer, Red Sonja, with its $6.9 million gross, ranks as the least successful film Schwarzenegger made during his heyday, with even his wife, Maria Shriver, warning him that the film could have killed his career. Later, Schwarzenegger would say the movie was so bad that if his kids were misbehaving, he’d force them to watch the movie. While widely despised by Arnold fans, Red Sonja is interesting as perhaps the only major female-dominated fantasy film of the eighties.
With a reboot of the character on the way from Solomon Kane director M.J Bassett, a Robert E. Howard expert, if ever there was one, we’ve decided to give the film a reppraisal on this episode of Fantasizing About Fantasy Films. Written and narrated by Jessica Dwyer, and edited by Bill Mazzola, we dig into whether Red Sonja has any redeeming features and whether or not Arnie is right to be ashamed of it. Do you think Red Sonja deserves all the hate? Let us know in the comments!