Red Sonja (1985)

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Released 2-Jun-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1985
Running Time 84:58
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (60:48) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Richard Fleischer

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger
Brigitte Nielsen
Sandahl Bergman
Paul L. Smith
Ernie Reyes Jr.
Ronald Lacey
Pat Roach
Terry Richards
Janet Agren
Donna Osterbuhr
Lara Naszinsky
Hans Meyer
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Ennio Morricone

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.30:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Danish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    You may remember a little film called Conan the Barbarian. I really liked that film, and was a lot less impressed with the sequel, Conan the Destroyer — I was not the only one, so the Conan films finished there. But the denizens of Hollywood are not easily put off. They saw how well Robert E. Howard's books sold, and lit upon a lesser character, Sonja, and decided to make a movie about her.

    Originally they intended to have Conan in the film as a supporting character, but the bad reviews of Conan the Destroyer must have put them off. Instead, they had a character called Kalidor, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, strong (although somewhat less impressively muscled than Conan), good with a sword, ...

    The credits at the start of the film list Arnold Schwarzenegger first, followed by "introducing Brigitte Nielsen as Red Sonja". Yes, this was her first film. It was just two years (and three films) later that she was the ice queen in Beverly Hills Cop II (and I haven't seen her in anything since). Third on the cast list was Sandahl Bergman, playing evil Queen Gedrun (a bit of a change from her role as Valeria in Conan).

    As I watched this film, I kept getting the feeling that I was watching a Western — quite odd, and I wondered why — perhaps it was their riding style? Then I noticed the name against the music: Ennio Morricone, the man famous for the music in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and a stack of other spaghetti Westerns — that could explain it. After all, there's only so much music you can write to go over a man riding a horse across an empty landscape, and there's plenty of that in this film.

    So what's the plot? We start with a young woman lying unconscious — we learn in flashback that her family has been slaughtered in front of her after she refused the advances of Queen Gedrun. She's empowered with the strength to seek revenge by a goddess of some kind. Cut forward in time somewhat, and a bunch of priestesses are about to destroy a talisman (a glowing green sphere) because it's too dangerous. Naturally, they are interrupted, and the talisman is taken by Queen Gedrun. Only one priestess survives, and she only long enough to tell her sister, Red Sonja, about the dangers the talisman represents — if it is kept in the light for 13 days the world may be destroyed.

    Sonja goes to get the talisman from Gedrun, and destroy it. She is assisted on occasion by Kalidor, although she denies any need for his help. She helps the arrogant Prince Tarn (Ernie Reyes Jr), and his only remaining servant, Falkon (Paul Smith), when they get in her way.

    It seems kind of amusing that she is called Red Sonja — sure, she has red hair (as does her sister), and her horse is caparisoned in red. But Kalidor is dressed in red, as are Prince Tarn and Falkon. Maybe she should be called Red Companions Sonja?

    The dialogue in this film is quite stilted, the special effects are primitive (they do the "severed head flying in the air" gag twice!), and the plot rather predictable. There are a few references to Conan, including "Do you want to live forever?", and some scenes that look quite familiar, but that's about the best part of the film. If you are desperate for another film set in the Conan universe, then this film is it, but don't expect a film anywhere near as good as Conan the Barbarian.

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Transfer Quality


    The DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.30:1, and is 16x9 enhanced. The film was originally presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, so this is very close.

    The picture is a little soft, with what might be light film grain, but close and midrange shots seem clear enough. Long shots, however, are fairly blurred. Shadow detail is fairly poor. Film grain is not excessive. Low level noise is not a problem.

    Colour is not a highlight of this film. There are a lot of black things, and quite a few silver ones, but there are things which should be gold or brass in colour and they are rather muted, almost to the extent of being indistinguishable from the silver. Add to that a number of red things that look more orange than red, and skin tones that vary, and you can see why this film isn't scoring full marks for colour. There are no colour-related artefacts, though: no bleed, and no cross-colouration, for example.

    There are more than a few film artefacts, but they are either very small — chips, flecks, and such like — or not too obvious — there are a couple of stains, but they aren't too big a change in colour.

    There is some obvious aliasing, such as at 13:46. There's occasional moiré on chain mail. There are no MPEG artefacts, save that softness that might be a touch of over-compression.

    There are subtitles in five languages, but they do not include English, unfortunately. I didn't watch any of them, because I don't speak the languages.

    The disc is single sided and RSDL-formatted; the layer change is at 60:48, and it's not bad — they placed it at a scene change to make it less obvious. I'm surprised to see a short film like this, with no extras, and only one soundtrack (at 192 kbps, too), put on a dual layered disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There is exactly one soundtrack, in English Dolby Digital 2.0, marked as surround encoded, at 192 kbps. The surround encoding means that the soundtrack essentially collapses into the centre channel, making this sound pretty much like a mono soundtrack. It's not a bad mono soundtrack, but it's lacking in any stereo separation of significance, and I didn't notice anything from the surrounds..

    The dialogue is clear and readily understood. There are no obvious audio sync problems.

    Ennio Morricone has provided us with quite a decent score, but it does share motifs and orchestrations with other scores he has done. That's a fancy way of saying that it sounds rather like other scores he has done. Not his best work.

    The surrounds aren't used in any significant way. The subwoofer is not provided for by a 2.0 surround-encoded track, although bass management might steer a bit of signal in the direction of the sub.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There's a distinct lack of extras on this disc.


    The menu is animated with music, and easy to operate.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This title will be released in Region 1 in July by Warner. Because it is not yet released, there is a dearth of detail on the content of their DVD, but the general specs for their release are the same as ours: 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced, and no extras. Sounds like theirs will be pretty much the same as ours, although I imagine theirs will be in a snapper case...


    A fairly low-quality swords and sorcery film, presented adequately on DVD.

    The video quality is not too good.

    The audio quality is good for an essentially mono soundtrack.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Thursday, July 01, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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