Monday, May 27, 2013

Red Sonja

Brigitte Nielsen. To many, her name is inextricably linked with that of Flavor Flav, like Romeo and Juliet or Marty and Elayne. But back before reality TV and reality TV spinoffs, Comedy Central Roasts and Dr. Drew's rehab of death, she was in the movies. And before Flavor Flav, it was Stallone and Schwarzenegger,  Cobra and Rocky III. Nielsen's acting skills were about equivalent to your average Reagan-era model/actress, i.e. dismal -- but whomever planned her sole starring role was clever enough to realize this and made sure Brigitte spoke mostly in monosyllables and was surrounded by camp. Ladies and gentlemen, i give you Red Sonja!

Big ol' titties, a badass mullet and to see your enemies crushed before you. What else do you need?
Red Sonja, "She-Devil With a Sword" was a Conan spinoff who had her own erratic Marvel series.
Red Sonja the movie opens with a double-whammy of scrolldown exposition and voiceover narration. Sonja is living peacefully in her family cottage somewhere in eastern Europe. A marauding band arrives, led by a  brunette in designer S&M drag. They murder her family and, when the nubile young Sonja spurns the domme's advances -- spurns them so vigorously that queen winds up with a wicked facial scar -- the gang rapes her.

Sonja calls upon the goddess of vengeance and her fairy godmother appears to bestow "a sword arm that has no equal." Seriously: It's a fairy godmother. The Russkie Goddess of Vengeance is a floating, fluty-voiced apparition in tinselly white robes? I think not. These are my people and i'm pretty sure she's a giant screaming bitch in boots with a bottle of poison in one hand, a bottle of vodka in the other and a 12-inch dagger between her teeth. (Trust me: My grandfather and great uncle were from the same area of the world as Red Sonja and they delivered their last family-vengeance-driven beatdown when they were both in their seventies. Speaking of movies and my great-uncle Slim, did i ever tell you that he was a WWII hero who served in the same unit as Samuel Fuller and, hence, traces of Slim and stuff that happened to him can be found in Fuller's masterpiece, The Big Red One? But i digress...)

Cut to another redhead and a bunch of other broads wandering around the Canyon Ranch Spa in schmattes and Versace tiaras, preparing to put some kind of magical glowing rock into a trash compactor. "Oh god of gods, it has become too powerful for us. And we must destroy it before it destroys the world." And then we will all have a massage and a bodyscrub. Of course at the moment all of this is happening, a bunch of  douchetypes in spiky armor are conducting a panty raid on the Spa. ("World destroyer? I want it!" Typical.) After a brawl led by redhead, the douches finally rout the ladies and get the rock. And who's leading them but Queen Gedren -- the same kinky sadistic bitch who presided over the rape n' murder flashbacks earlier, now rocking some gold-studded bondage gear and a sort of crown/facemask combo that is fierrrrrrce!

Seriously, Lady Gaga is pissed she didn't have someone think of it first. And the queen sitting next to her on the divan is sketching it as furiously as he can. Anyway, Arnold Schwarzenegger just happens to be passing by, riding his horse, wearing a tiara and some kind of burgundy loungewear from the Siegfried & Roy Collection. Before he can say "Hey, vat are dose azzholez up to?" redhead takes a crossbow bolt to the back while escaping on the vestal temple zipline. Schwarzenegger knocks off the last few fratboys and agrees to take her to her sister -- none other than Red Sonja.
 Let me clarify here that, in the Conan spinoff, Schwarzenegger, who played Conan, is playing someone called Kalidor. To add to the oddness, evil Queen Gedren is played by Sandahl Bergman, who played Valeria, Conan's badass comrade and eventual girlfriend, in Conan the Barbarian.
Anyway, we cut to Red Sonja herself, in snakeskin bustier, kicking ass in some kind of Asian parking lot, watched by a bunch of cosplay dudes. Sonja wins the battle and just as she is choosing her mighty sword, Conan -- uh, Kalidor shows up just in time to take her to her dying sister. Sister says that Sonja must get the World-Destroyer: "The talisman has terrible powers... in thirteen days, it could destroy the world!" Sonja swears to destroy it. Con--Kalidor offers to aid her but, "I need no man's help!"

Here's where shit goes really south: The entrance of the prince and his retainer whom Sonja rescues from.... oh, does it matter? A miserable asshat of a little boy and his obsequious enabler, you want to slap them both. Every time they appear on the screen. The whole time they appear on the screen. Repeatedly. Brigitte may be wooden, but she's beautiful and seems pleasant enough. These two are a pair of tedious characters played by lousy actors. You know it's a bad gig when Arnold Schwarzenegger is the most emotive/endearing thespian on screen. Red Sonja will not surmount this problem.

On her way to the city of death or evil or darkness or whatever, she passes the Toll Road. Passing the Toll Road involves swordfighting another ginger. Said Ginger is the scruffy-beared, morbidly obese and probably relatively unhygienic leader of the Fishmen  (Wasn't Ginger and the Fishmen the name of a Merseybeat act back in the 60s? Didn't Jimmy Page play on their big single back when he was a studio guitarist for Lulu and Brenda Lee?) He's a total chauvinistic fuckwad and calls her "Wench!" a lot before he gets his. She kills him, takes his keys, but then the Fishmen turn on her. Con--Kalidor shows up just in time to rescue her by whacking a mess of Fishmen (who seem to be second-level fighters at best) and, like Willie Nelson, Red Sonja is on the road again.
She promptly comes across a bunch of RenFaire hippies trying to draw and quarter the tedious child. Which seems a little heavy-handed, even if Little Royal Shitass is the most grating filmic character since Dumb Hick Hippie in Ciao Manhattan! But, naturally, Sonja rides up and frees him -- and even though it turns out the Little Royal Shitass knows martial arts and uses them to beat up a hippie, he's still a miserable turd. Yup, that's how awful this kid is: Used kung fu to whoop a vegan in a ruffled shirt and is still not someone i wanna know.

Queen Gedren stores the talisman/glowing rock of doom in her basement, which was coincidentally also where the Police shot their "Wrapped Around Your Finger" video. Upstairs she's got a sweet throne room with hardwood and marble floors, gothic woodwork, dance floor, ultra-widescreen TV, a full bar and full-time bartender, luxury seating for one and plenty of room for both her girl toy and her pet giant spider.

Queen Gedren uses her giant TV screen not just to watch ancient barbarian porn (It is oddly like the wookie porn from The Star Wars Christmas Special -- which, just for the record, does not hold a freakshow candle to the Donny & Marie Star Wars Special.) but to watch Red Sonja, the Little Royal Shitass and the Fat Wimp make their way to her palace. She demands that a can of whoop-ass be opened, but without harming the divinely-ordained warrior bent on her death: "I want that beauty here with me. See that she is spared... I do not want a scratch on her!" Good luck.

So, time for the old "monster in the pit" trope. The difference here is that said monster is a rather awesomely steampunk sort of Mecha Loch Ness Monster -- naturally, Con--Kalidor shows up to help them battle it, the same way he's showed up to bail Red Sonja out of every battle she's in. I find this kind of offensive myself, given that she is supposedly unbeatable. The hilarious part is that they whomp away at the thing with plenty of clanging noises and grab on and ride it around but it still takes over five minutes for it to dawn on them that it's not a real lizard. Motherfucker, i saw the rivets in the first twenty seconds! Then Kalidor reveals that he is some High Lord entrusted by the gods to protect the talisman.
Cue Captain & Tennille: "Mullet Love"....

Wait! Not so fast. Miss Sonja has some dating rules: "No man may have me unless he has beaten me in a fair fight." (Yeah, i have the same rule, which is why i haven't gotten laid since the Bush administration.) So, it's time for us to take off our headbands, muss up our mullets and get to the true climactic battle of this movie -- not whether Red Sonja will save the world from destruction, but whether Conan can get into Sonja's box.

I'm an asshole! I interfere with everything!

Well, as you can imagine, Kaliconan beats Brigitte and bangs Brigitte and then we're left to hurry up and defeat evil and save the world and get this all over with. Back at Evil Disco, Queen Gedren's henchman is asking why, why, why she's still doing all of this, they have plenty of gold, they rule everything, so why destroy everything, WHY!? This is a question i would like more henchmen of evil to ask: Really, Mr. Goldfinger? How much more can you use?  Or perhaps ask Mr. Sauron why he needs all of the remaining corners of the universe. No one ever asks the evil who rules the world why it wants more.  Figures it would only happen to an evil woman, which still doesn't explain why no one's buttonholed any of the Kardashians on this issue yet.
Such faithfulness to the source material... well, except for adding all of the annoying and/or patronizing supporting characters and completely rewriting the plot to accommodate them.

Red Sonja was pretty much the high point of Brigitte Nielsen's career. After this she quickly did Rocky III and Beverly Hills Cop III, but soon she was in 976-EVIL II and Chained Heat II, along with some European televison. Then it was bad disco records and reality television and next thing she knew she was dirty dancing with a skeleton wearing a clock around its neck. However, Brigitte is still making shitty movies -- even last year she was singing "Respect" in a beauty salon in a movie titled Eldorado, about which i know little, but have heard things like "embarrassing," "train wreck" and "very, very bad." Sounds promising!

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