Tuesday, 6 November 2012


What They Say:
Barbarella is marked by the same audacity and originality, fantasy, humor, beauty and horror, cruelty and eroticism that make comic books such a favorite. The setting is the planet Lythion in the year 40,000, when Barbarella (Jane Fonda) makes a forced landing while traveling through space. She acts like a female James Bond, vanquishing evil in the forms of robots and monsters. She also rewards, in an uninhibited manner, the handsome men who assist her in the adventure. Whether she is wrestling with Black Guards, the evil Queen, or the Angel Pygar, she just can’t seem to avoid losing at least a part of her skin-tight space suit!
The Review: Technical: 
Paramount has put together a very solid release here in the technical area with a new high definition master that lets much of the colors and pop to the feature stand out. The English track gets the only TrueHD version here, in mono, while the French and Spanish tracks are in Dolby Digital mono. The English track does the best it can with the material, but it’s definitely cleaner than it’s felt before and while it may not stand out, it does the job well enough. The feature generally has a very good look and feel about it and after seeing three other format versions over the years, this is definitely the best of them all.
The packaging for this has to get an extra shout out though. The Blu-ray case itself is pretty good as it uses some of the classic artwork that features a lot of the basic elements of the film and it doesn’t try to update it, giving us the original illustration style and all. The back cover uses a pretty sexy shot of Fonda in one of her many outfits and it breaks things down well enough, never feeling like they’re cheaping out on it. Where this release does stand out a bit more is that we do get a slipcover version of it as well, which mirrors the case, but it also adds a bit extra. It has a pop-open panel along the front which reveals a two page spread that brings in more of the original artwork showing off more of the characters. It’s a bright blue piece with Fonda in another outfit that really is a thing of beauty when it comes to how poster art and other promotional artwork really was artwork

The only extra included here is the over three minute trailer for the feature which highlights just how awkwardly it was to try and promote this film in the US even at this time in the 60′s.

Please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers.
Oh, Barbarella.
One of the more controversial films of the late 60′s and one that was a flop in its release pretty much everywhere, Barbarella has become quite the cult film over the years. Filmed in Rome by Roger Vadim and produced by Dino de Laurentis, which really says all you need to know, Barbarella is based on the saucy French comics of the same name which have a lot of basis in its looks with Bridget Bardot. Which is amusing since Vadim was married to her and then to Jane Fonda as well. The film is wonderfully cheesy, filled with sixties visions of a peace and love future and a whole lot of implied sexuality that was beyond what many considered acceptable to say the least, even at that time. I also am endlessly amused that this came out the same year as Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, giving us two very different visions of where science fiction could go.
The basis here is simple in that some far flung future, peace and love rules the universe and war is gone. Everyone gets along and even sex is done through just hand to hand touches with pills and perfect psychocardiogram readings. Unfortunately, a man named Durand Durand (yes, that’s where the band got its name from) has ended up in the Tau Ceti system after developing a weapon that could obliterate a lot of things. This puts everyone at risk since Tau Ceti is completely unknown and is presumed to be violent, which could lead to a war should they get their hands on Durand Durand’s weapon. So the President of the Republic of Earth has asked his best Navigatrix, Barbarella, to head there to see if she can find the young man and bring him and his weapon back. She gets some weapons of her own to help deal with her mission, something that she’s not exactly prepared for, but will do it for the future of the universe of love.

The planet that she ends up on in search of Durand Durand is one filled with all sorts of mysteries and psychedelic natures as there are many displaced individuals there. From curious twin children that use dolls to chew people for fun and games to the last of a race of “angels” who has lost his will to fly due to now being blind. It’s while here in search of Durand Durand that Barbarella discovers that physical sex can be a wonderful thing – repeatedly – and makes an array of new friends as she performs her mission. But there are threats as well as most of the misfits are kept in a depressing labyrinth where they eventually die. They’re all ruled by the Great Tyrant who feeds on misery and gains power and life through another creature that resides on the city in a kind of symbiotic relationship. It’s not exactly complicated, but it’s a ninety minute string of set pieces and oddities that play to the kind of outlandish and nonsensical kind of science fiction that made up the fifties and sixties. Just with a heightened sexual bent.

And it’s glorious. The film is utter trash in so many ways for so many reasons, but there is a reason it has a cult following over the years. For myself, this was an awakening film at time in my life, back when we had our first VCR and my parents ended up with a copy that I was told explicitly that I was not to watch. I was nine or ten at that point I think, but a latchkey kid as well, so I’d come home, pop it in and discover sex. There’s a slew of fetishes one could probably be imprinted with here and I had to laugh upon revisiting it now at the age that I am, and it being some ten plus years or more since I saw it last, and made those connections.

While there’s an array of actors in the film, there are those that really do stand out above all else for the sexual reasons. Jane Fond is simply stunning to watch here as she plays a wide-eyed, doe-eyed woman of innocence as she makes her discovers. The opening sequence of her removing her spacesuit to reveal the skintight skimpy outfits is forever burned in my mind. And she has a series of other outfits throughout the film that play up different forms of sexuality and fetishes. And in this edition with all the detail far more visible, it’s even more, um, intoxicating. I’m typically not a fan of her works but there’s something about this that’s just engaging for me. Even when you get down to the silly doll chomping scenes or the highly controversial at the time music excitement machine with Durand Durand that plays out. It’s incredibly campy and just plain awfully stupid in so many ways, yet it all comes together in a way that keeps me from turning away.

In Summary:
Barbarella is and always will be a true classic for me. It’s one of those films that in a way signaled the end of this type of campy, trashy and poorly thought out mechanics of science fiction. The time was changing to things getting more serious as down the line we had 2001, THX-1138, the new Invasion of the Body Snatchers and eventually the space opera blockbuster Star Wars. But this was how things in a lot of ways really ended by being over the top, comical, sexy and political in a way as it dealt with women’s sexuality and its changing place in society and social mores. It’s very easy to dismiss this film for so many reasons but it’s also important to remember what it symbolizes and the impact it had on so many years after its theatrical release. It makes me wish that the remake had been achieved on some level a few years ago just to see what they would have done, if they would have “gotten” it, and how many people would have been introduced to the original for the first time. Jane Fonda became my first sex symbol with this film, a taboo film I was not supposed to watch, and it really did put me on some interesting paths because of it.

English Dolby TrueHD Mono, French Dolby Digital Mono, Spanish Dolby Digital Mono, English Subtitles, Theatrical Trailer

Content Grade: A
Audio Grade:
Video Grade:
Packaging Grade:
Menu Grade:
Extras Grade:

Released By: Paramount
Release Date:
July 3rd, 2012
Running Time:
98 Minutes
Video Encoding:
1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio:
1.85:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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