Tuesday, 24 January 2012


Watching Barbarella is like eating a bag of cotton candy. It's a lot of pure yumminess, and though it isn't particularly nutritious, you also don't feel bad when you're done. beautiful women, crazy visuals, and fun music. Barbarella begins about as classily gratuitous as it could. Inside a psychedelically decorated spaceship, an astronaut is floating around. The astronaut takes off its gloves, and . . . are those a girl's fingers? As if in answer to the question, the music switches from a vague sci-fi score to bass-y seventies funk (played by The Bob Crew Generation), which blossoms into an all-out theme song that I still can't get out of my head. Sure enough, the astronaut begins the process of completely disrobing (for no apparent reason) to fully reveal a perfect female body in zero-G. It's Barbarella!

The plot begins immediately after this sequence, and Barbarella's (Jane Fonda's) nude body does not resurface in front of the camera, except for behind a few sheer materials, for the rest of the film. The President of Earth gives her a ring on the videophone, and informs her that scientist Durand Durand (the movie came before the similarly named band, actually) has run off with the positronic ray, a weapon he invented -- the world's only weapon, in fact, other than those kept in museums of conflict. It's up to Barbarella to stop him from ruining the known galaxy's long-running era of peace.

Throughout all of this, Jane Fonda is what really keeps the film's pulse (and the viewer's) pounding. She's clearly in her physical prime here, and she speaks all her silly lines, makes all her naïve facial expressions, and wears all of her skimpy outfits in perfect dedication to the film. There are no winks to the camera, and that really helps this film work. It always seems that the film is taking itself seriously, even though we know that it knows it's one big gimmick. It gives us what we want, with no apologies.

The movie is basically a string of odd creatures and bizarre events, all surrounded by probably-LSD-inspired scenery and infused with the same cheesy seventies funk that opens the show. At one point Barbarella lands on an ice planet, at which point she becomes the captive of a band of children, rides on a sled pulled by a giant purple ice-coasting stingray-like creature, and gets attacked by chomping dolls with razor-sharp teeth, fortunately losing some of her outfit in the process. Later, in a climactic encounter with the evil "Great Tyrant" of a place called Sogo, Barbarella is put in a death machine. As it turns out, though, she's too powerful for the machine, so it does nothing but sexually stimulate her. This tone is kept throughout the entire film.

In short, Barbarella the movie and Barbarella the character are every sci-fi geek's dream, and it is not a sleazefest at all (though I admit I don't know how it got away with a PG rating). All nudity is tastefully done, and all sex occurs off-screen, except for one scene of a futuristic version of sex that involves not the slightest degree of prurience. Throw in some imagination, top it with cheese, and you have . . . a good bag of cotton candy? Okay, forget my metaphoric disjunction. Just go watch Barbarella. It's corny, it' s gratuitous, and it's childish, but it's all harmless fun.

Jane Fonda: Barbarella
John Phillip Law: Pygar
Anita Pallenberg: Black Queen
Milo O'Shea: Concierge
David Hemmings: Dildano
Marcel Marceau: Prof. Ping
Ugo Tognazzi: Mark Hand
Claude Dauphin: President of Earth
Roger Vadim: Director
Tudor Gates: Writer
Jean-Claude Forest: Writer
Clement Biddle Wood: Writer
Claude Brule: Writer
Brian Degas: Writer
Roger Vadim: Writer - based on the book by Jean-Claude Forest
Terry Southern: Writer
Vittorio Bonicelli: Writer
Jean-Claude Forest: Source
Dino De Laurentiis: Producer
Claude Renoir: Cinematographer - Panavision, Technicolor
Victoria Mercanton: Editor
Charles Fox: Musical Composer
Bob Crewe: Musical Composer

Year: 1968
Rated NR
Parental Rating: Objectionable for children
Country Of Origin: Italy
Running Time: 98
Format: Color
Genre : Erotic; Science Fiction
Production : Paramount
Released By: Paramount

REVIEW: Jack Berry
IMAGES: Marcus Brooks

1 comment:

  1. I've always loved 'Barbarella'. It's fabulous campy fun!



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