Red Sonja (Morricone, 1985)


     Ennio Morricone's style includes not only spaghetti westerns, crime dramas and euro-thrillers, but sword and sorcery epics as well, as heard in 1985's "Red Sonja".  This film might as well have been titled "Conan 3: The Coming of Red Sonja", as it closely followed on the heels of 1982's "Conan the Barbarian" and 1984's "Conan the Destroyer" (both scored by Basil Poledouris).  The production again features Schwarzenegger's Conan (named "Kalidor" here) as a sidekick prince, and is directed by Richard Fleischer (director of "Conan the Destroyer" and son of famed animator Max Fleischer).


     In this film, Kalidor (actually Conan under a different name) encounters a dying Varna, a priestess sister of Sonja's.  He soon finds Sonja (having just completed her training) and they proceed on a mission to stop the evil Queen Gedren from unleashing a powerful magic talisman in the world.  Along the way they meet the child-king Tarn and his bodyguard, and the foursome battle Gedren's forces in her castle in a final earth-shaking battle.


     Morricone developed 5 major themes for this film, each of which get developed to varying degrees in each of their appearances:
  • Vision theme: ethereal, mystical melody on muted brass.
  • Respect theme: noble, ends with a melody somewhat reminiscent of Poledouris' Conan theme.
  • Kalidor theme: martial, clipped trumpet theme.
  • Talisman theme: mystical theme, somewhat liturgical.
  • Battle theme: action figures with brass and choral chant ("Sonja").  Like Poledouris' Conan battle material, this theme is somewhat derived from the classical "Dies Irae".





     The score was initially released in various forms as a two-suite package (essentially adjacent cues in two groups), but was later separated and and re-sequenced chronologically on a Perseverance Records release.  The rundown below is based on the Perseverance release.  Despite the film's failure at the box office, the score has some rousing and fun moments, and the the scenery has some glorious visuals (as seen in the snapshots here, click to enlarge).


Trk Dur Title Film Sequence
1 1:26 Prologue A ghostly vision visits a dissolute Sonja and reviews (through flashbacks) the terrible deeds Gedren and her men inflicted on Sonja and her family.  Sonja is gifted with power by the ghost.  Main Title.
Vision theme in tremolo strings/slow brass theme, joined by timpani/wordless choir, sweeping strings/choir/harp.
2 2:23 Main Title Kalidor rides his horse under clear skies and through an open landscape (under opening credits).
Rising vibraphone/choir leads to martial Kalidor trumpet theme over string rhythm, Kalidor theme repeated on strings, winds/brass, building and joined by choir, ending in timpani accent.
3 3:15 The Talisman White-robed Hyrkanian priestesses prepare to destroy a dangerous green talisman.
Talisman theme: harp/liturgical choir/held string textures with a few wind accents, followed by repeat of 17: "Entering The Castle" at 1:12.
4 1:40 Temple Raid Queen Gedren's forces raid the temple and battle ensues.
Battle theme: alarmed string figures/brass accents with dark brass fanfares over bass drum accents/rolls, wind ostinato leads to variation of "Dies Irae".
5 1:03 Touch It Gedren has her men lift the talisman out of its pedestal.  After a man is disintegrated, she reveals that only women may touch it.
Talisman theme on harp/slow strings/isolated wind accents.
6 1:49 Sonja And The Sword Master Sonja defeats her opponent in an Asian sword contest.  Her master says she has nothing more to learn.  Sonja recoils at a man's embrace and her master says that not all men are evil.  Sonja is gifted with a sword.
Vision theme in tremolo strings/brass, joined by timpani/wordless choir, sweeping strings/choir/harp.
7 2:00 Varna's Death Kalidor leads Sonja to her dying Hyrkanian sister.  When she arrives, Varna tells her that the talisman has been stolen, and that she must destroy it before it's too late.  Varna dies.
Kalidor theme in trumpet/strings, noble Respect theme in muted brass over harp/string/flute, theme on strings over wordless choir.
8 1:47 The Gate Of Brytag At night, Sonja approaches the Gate Of Brytag.  She calls out Brytag, who invites her up.  Sonja approaches his "throne", surrounded by men.
Also: Queen Gedren arrives at her castle with the talisman.  She places it in a room filled with candles.
Low suspenseful string rhythms joined by brass ornaments and wind accents, leading to low wind ostinati/harp accents/wind chords, end wind flourish cadence. 
9 1:14 Sonja Vs. Brytag Sonja and Brytag duel.  Sonja cuts Brytag's shoulder and he threatens her.  The duel continues.  Sonja kills Brytag.
Also: variation used when Sonja rescues Prince Tarn from brigands.
String accents with high staccato wind rhythm, joined by muted brass ornaments, low winds interlude, string accents/wind rhythm resumes.
10 3:36 Fighting The Soldiers Varna is shot by Queen Gedren's men as she escapes the temple.
Also: Brytag's angry army approaches Sonja from all sides, but Kalidor comes to her aid.  Battle ensues.  Kalidor engages the soldiers to allow Sonja to escape on her horse.
Also: Kalidor fights Queen Gedren's army in the castle dining hall.
Battle theme with choir adding "Sonja" chant over alarmed string figures/brass accents with dark brass fanfares over bass drum accents/rolls, vocal chants and wind ostinato joined by brass/choir variation of "Dies Irae", recaps twice with developed chants, ending in fateful brass figures/fanfares, more accented "Son-ja" chants.
11 2:02 The Chamber Of Lights (unused) Queen Gedren places the talisman in a room filled with candles.
Talisman theme developed as soft wordless choir layers/muted brass accents, building with added winds/choir.
12 0:46 Sorcery When conjuring a helpful vision, Queen  Gedren's wizard accidentally conjures up a naked dancer.
Rhythmic harp/recorder dance theme.
13 1:33 Sonja Teaches Tarn A humbled Prince Tarn asks Sonja to teach him fighting skills.  After a quick lesson, they develop respect for one another.
Respect theme in flute over held strings/harp arpeggios, developed in winds/strings.
14 2:07 Treasure In The Cavern (unused) When Tarn tries to acquire a large pearl, he ends up awakening a robotic snake monster.
Concerned wind/brass figures with strings, joined by trumpet/horns/ethereal strings, ending with a tense brass accent.
15 1:43 Sonja And Kalidor Kalidor flirts with Sonja.  She tells them that they must battle before they can continue.
Respect theme in muted brass over harp/strings, harp ostinati developed, theme on oboe/strings.
16 1:50 A Fair Fight As their duel continues, they begin to slow down from fatigue, and eventually fall down exhausted.
Heroic trumpet fanfares dialogue with Respect theme in oboe over romantic strings/harp, Respect theme in winds/strings, trumpet fanfare end cadence.
17 2:12 Entering The Castle Sonja and Kalidor begin scaling Queen Gedren's castle defenses as the talisman causes earthquakes.
Suspense accents in brass/strings/drums lead to brass/timpani accent rhythms in dialogue with trumpet fanfares and rising string accents, joined by low brass/high winds/string glissandi.
18 1:36 Sonja Defeats The Queen Sonja and Queen Gedren begin their duel.
Timpani roll leads to slow, fateful variation and development of Battle theme with choir ("Sonja")/strings/rhythmic brass fanfares/figures/accents.
19 3:42 End Credits After escaping Queen Gedren's destroyed castle, Sonja and Kalidor have a playful duel before kissing.  End credits.
Bass rhythm joined by soft winds/low strings leading to trumpet fanfares over Respect theme developed on flute/choir, then building on strings/choir/bass/drum rhythm, flute/harp interlude leads to Respect theme on flutes, winds/added violin rhythm/trumpet ornaments, ending in soft winds/choir.


     "Red Sonja" was originally available only as two long tracks (as a "Symphonic Suite for Chorus and Orchestra"), but these can be taken apart based on this handy breakdown from an FSM forum post by DanBeck:

Suite 01
(7) Varna's Death [0'00-2'01]
(2) Main Title [2'01-4'24]
(19) End Credits [4'24-8'04]
(10) Fighting the Soldiers [8'05-11'38]
(6) Sonja and the Sword Master [11'39-13'39]
(1) Prologue [13'40-15'05]
(13) Sonja Teaches Tarn [15'05-16'40]


Suite 02
(12) Sorcery [0'00-0'45]
(4) Temple Raid [0'45-2'24]
(5) Touch It [2'25-3'28]
(16) A Fair Fight [3'29-5'18]
(14) Treasure in the Cavern [5'18-7'23]
(9) Sonja vs. Brytag [7'24-8'38]
(8) The Gate of Brytag [8'38-10'24]
(3) The Talisman [10'25-11'32]
(17) Entering the Castle [11'32-13'40]
(11) The Chamber of Lights [13'41-15'29]
(15) Kalidor and Sonja [15'29-17'12]
(18) Sonja Defeats the Queen [17'12-18'48]

Links
Ennio Morricone Wiki
Red Sonja (Perseverance) iTunes Listing

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