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In this it is remarkably successful, and Fonda actually has both enough sex appeal and round-eyed innocence to carry the thing off, emerging as something like a Barbie doll; John Philip Law strikes a similar note as the sexy but equally innocent "angel" Pygar. The designs are 1960s psychedelic with as many Freudian twists as the film's makers can come up with, and when all is said and done you can't help but roll your eyes in amusement.
True enough, BARBARELLA was probably much more entertaining back in the days LSD, and indeed one might read the entire thing as an acid trip time machine. No one in the cast takes the film very seriously, and neither should you; when all is said and done it has all the depth of a pancake, not so much funny as merely amusing and appealing to a very high-camp sensibility. But as cult movies go, it ranks right up at the top. Give a party and show it on a double bill with FLESH GORDON! Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
Jane Fonda is at her sexiest, and then-hubby Roger Vadim likes to show her assets off. Those who have only seen Serious Jane, Aerobics Jane, Mrs. Turner Jane, or Hanoi Jane, are really missing out. Fonda had quite a talent for comedy. The rest of the cast vary in quality. John Philip Law is wooden as ever, but David Hemmings is great as the revolutionary Dildano.
For those raised in the post-Star Wars special effects world, you'll probably cringe at the effects, but they are passable, given the era, and it adds to the campy charm.
Dino De Laurentiis has been both a blessing and a curse to comics. He has produced several films based on European and American comics; unfortunately, most of them are pretty bad. Diabolik and Flash Gordon do nothing but injustice to their source material. Conan was good, but Red Sonja definitely wasn't. In fact European comics have fared rather poorly. Aside from the aforementioned Diabolik, Modesty Blaise ruined what was a great action/adventure/spy strip and turned it into a campy mess. Barbarella, on the other hand, holds up, since it was never really a serious strip.
Yes, this is the film that would inspire the future Duran Duran and entice Drew Barrymore to pursue a remake. And yes kiddies, Jane is nekkid in this one, so get that pause button ready. I mean come one, who actually watches this for the acting?
Unbelievably silly it has some fantastic lines of dialogue like "de-crucify the angel or I melt your face!" Great characters, a killer lava lamp, fur lined space ship and a villain called Duran Duran.
The evil organ of desire scene, and the opening strip tease still manage to be erotic, even though this film is dated. Cult with a capital C, this is never going to appeal to a mainstream audience, and yet remains my favourite movie of all time. A classic. And very pretty pretty.
On her quest she finds daunting foes, unexpected comrades and twists and turns like any good superhero story should have. The only problem is that her world is made up of Christmas lights, cellophane and balsa wood, and it's all held together with scotch tape.
However what some might consider schlock entertainment, I saw it as pure camp all the way, with some hysterical situations and outrageous costumes draped over not-so-difficult-to-look-at actors (especially our babe-o-naught Ms. Fonda), and to top off the cake we have an icing of infectious music by comedic composer Charles Fox (9 to 5, Foul Play) and singer/songwriter Bob Crewe.
This is pure candy all the way so don't expect any nutrition here, but if you let it happen instead of looking for more, you may find yourself inspired to watch it again and again, when you don't feel like using any brain cells in this dimension.
See Jane Fonda meet men from around the galaxy, and have sex with them! Dare your friends to count how many times she changes her costume!! Sparks deep philosophical discussion, like what exactly the writers were on when they wrote this. Great fun, not to be missed!
The "Excessive Machine" (a genuine "sex" organ on which an accomplished artist playing its keyboard can literally drive a victim to certain death by pleasure)....
A lusting, lesbian queen, wearing an eye-patch, who, in her fantastic dream chamber, can will her most deliciously wicked fantasies to take form.
Believe me, Barbarella is one wild, Sci-Fi, sex farce that seems to stand out (in all of its zany audacity) on its very own.
One can't help but be tickled pink by the cheesiest special effects imaginable - As well as the various ways that were found to tear off what few clothes our heroine, Barbarella, already had on.
The DVD is fine for an old movie, although blemishes are quite evident. What puzzles me is the 'PG' rating listed on the package and the disk. The opening scene, of Barbarella getting out of her space suit in the weightlessness of her spacecraft, clearly shows her breasts, and her nude butt. Very nice breasts and butt, at that, nonetheless inconsistent with a 'PG' rating. Plus many other scenes in the movie show groups of men and women in alluring positions, again with some obvious female nudity. So anyone who plans to view this movie with those under 18 should be aware of this. For an adult audience, it should not be an issue at all.
May 2013 update: It is now on Netflix streaming movies, with a rating of "R", and comes across very well.
** (out of 4)
Campy sci-fi based on the French comics has Jane Fonda playing the title role, a futuristic superhero who is asked by the President of Earth to travel to a distant planet and rescue a doctor. I can understand why this film has gained a cult following over the past few decades but to me this thing is still a pretty big mess and it's somewhat shocking watching the film to day and looking back and wondering what the original producers were thinking. I mean, if you look at the "story" of this thing, it's a complete mess and it's all over the place. I'm not exactly sure what they were trying to do in regards to the story but it's a complete misfire. Not for a single second do you care about Barbarella's adventure nor do you care about anything she's doing in the film. The reason the film remains entertaining is because it's simply so strange and surreal. Visually the film is quite impressive as a bunch of pulp. The set design and costumes are certainly memorable and the now laughable special effects have a mild charm to them. What really keeps the film moving is seeing someone like Fonda doing a role like this. She's very good in the role, there's no doubt about it, as she can handle the campy moments as well as deliver on the sexuality of the character. Her nude striptease that starts the film is certainly the highlight but they needed more of these throughout. John Phillip Law isn't all that "good" in the film but there's no question that his angel character is quite memorable. Director Roger Vadim doesn't bring enough life, energy or fire to any of the scenes to really make them work and that's certainly not good when you're dealing with a film like this one. BARBARELLA certainly deserves its label as a camp classic but it's just not entertaining enough to be fully rewarding.
I first saw the film at university in the early eighties when a student film society organised a screening. Interest in it at that time may have been aroused by the release in 1980 of "Flash Gordon", another ultra-camp science fiction film which was undoubtedly influenced by it, and by the fact that one of the leading British pop groups of the era had called themselves Duran Duran in homage to their origins in a now-defunct Birmingham nightclub called Barbarella's.
The film is based on a French series of comic books, which I must admit I have never read. (Unlike, say, the "Asterix" or "Tintin" series, the Barbarella comics have never had much of a following in Britain). The action takes place in the 40th century. Barbarella, a beautiful young female astronaut, is ordered by the President of Earth to travel to the planet Tau Ceti to find a scientist named Durand Durand, from whom the band took their misspelled name. Durand is the inventor of a weapon known as the Positronic Ray, which the President fears may fall into the wrong hands.
The rest of the film is taken up with Barbarella's increasingly bizarre adventures on Tau Ceti. She goes ice-skiing across the planet's frozen surface, pulled along by an octopus-like creature, is menaced by flesh-eating dolls with razor-sharp teeth, seduces a blind angel (or "ornithanthrope"), meets the predatory lesbian Queen of a decadent city and survives an attempted execution by means of an "orgasmatron", a machine designed to kill by an excess of sexual pleasure. (Barbarella's capacity for sexual pleasure is so great that she blows its circuits). We are not, of course, meant to take any of this seriously; the whole thing is intended as a sort of tongue-in-cheek exercise in high camp surrealism, Salvador Dali meets Edna Everage. The surreal nature of the film is emphasised by the use of psychedelic lighting effects. (The opening song even includes the rhyme "Barbarella Psychedella").
Barbarella is played by Jane Fonda, who at the time was married to the director Roger Vadim, clearly a man with the knack of attracting beautiful women. (He had previously been married to Brigitte Bardot and had been the lover of Catherine Deneuve). I wonder if, when Fonda was taking her wedding vows, she realised that Vadim's interpretation of "for better or for worse" included casting his wife in eccentric films like this one. Her devotion to her wifely duties seems to have been at the expense of her career; she later revealed that her commitment to "Barbarella" meant having to turn down the leading roles in two more serious films, "Bonnie and Clyde" and "Rosemary's Baby". Moreover, many of the heroine's adventures seem to have been designed with the express purpose of showing off Fonda's figure in a series of provocative outfits, leaving her with a lasting "sex kitten" image. This was something she was never comfortable with, especially when she was trying to reinvent herself as a feminist and left-wing activist a few years later.
This is far from being Fonda's best film, yet she is about the only cast member who emerges with any credit from it, playing the heroine as a sort of wide-eyed innocent abroad. John Phillip Law, who plays the ornithanthrope Pygar, is so wooden that I wondered if he was under instructions to play his role with a deliberately deadpan lack of emotion. David Hemmings as the resistance leader Dildano shows us just why his career never really took off in the way it was expected to after his early breakthrough in "Blowup". (Hemmings's costume, looking like a pair of leather Y-fronts, is just as bizarre as anything worn by Fonda). Marcel Marceau shows that his talents as a mime did not extend to acting in spoken roles. Anita Pallenberg, better known for her relationships with several members of the Rolling Stones, was cast as the wicked Queen, but Vadim did not trust her to speak her own lines; the Queen speaks with the unmistakable contralto tones of Joan Greenwood.
"Barbarella" was a failure on its release, both at the box office and with the critics, yet despite the dodgy acting and the nonsensical plot it has since 1968 acquired the status of a cult movie. (Even back in my student days it was regarded as sort of historic artifact). Cults, whether religious or cinematic, can be baffling to everyone except ardent devotees, yet I must confess that I have a soft spot for this surreal relic of the hippie era. It is an ideal film to watch when returning from the pub late at night. Particularly if one is drunk. 6/10
Some decent villains would help. I'm unsure if it's a result of the poor special effects, but Barbarella is consistently menaced by the un-menacing: small birds. nibbling dolls. a giant space amoeba that looks like bath gel.
Decent music, (intentionally?) atrocious special effects round this out perfectly. Definitely worth a viewing.
It's intended to be an erotic adventure and the opening credits depict Fonda cruising around floating through her space craft absolutely naked.
That's really all the movie is. Fonda running around (or floating around) wearing little, if anything at all.
If that's your sort of thing, you'll probably dig this. Otherwise, stay far, far away.
It has all the elements to be a camp classic. The production design is bizarre and original. Terry Southern's screenplay is often witty. Jane Fonda and Anita Pallenberg are wonderful. I ought to love it. Instead, I find it almost intolerable.
From the opening credits, which go on too long, and the first bars of that execrable music, you sense something is seriously amiss with this movie. The camera seems to be in the wrong place all the time and the wrong shots are held too long. It often seems as if that they simply shot footage with no idea how it was going to fit together. You suspect that weeks may have passed between shots so that nobody could remember what had come before or what would come after. Faced with this hopeless material, the editor was in despair and just gave up, so nothing cuts together properly. At best, the picture looks like the roughest of rough cuts. At worst, the editing seems to be almost completely random.
As a result, there is no pace or rhythm, either in individual scenes, or in the movie as a whole. People wander about from scene to scene with no purpose or point. Soon, all the energy drains out of the picture and you find yourself stranded in a weird limbo in which nothing seems to be happening, even when it is, nothing connects with anything else and time stretches out endlessly before you. At times the boredom is so intense it makes your teeth ache.
I have seen and commented on some of the most incompetent movies ever made (Fire Maidens, The Flying Saucer, Mesa of Lost Women) but this movie seems to be inept in ways that transcend even those notorious turkeys. Although Roger Vadim had made at least a dozen pictures before this one, it feels like it was assembled by people that had never even seen a movie before, let alone made one. Of one thing I am sure - it could never have been made in America. It is purest Eurotrash.
I have finally posted my response to this unaccountable movie, but I know I will be coming back again and again to edit it, because I realise I haven't even come close to identifying what makes it such a uniquely stultifying experience.
It will particularly appeal to anyone who thought the special effects in the original Flash Gordon TV series were over the top.
The plot-holes are gargantuan, the continuity errors are abysmal, most of the story is absolute nonsense and yet this film is an absolute pleasure to watch. The fantastic excuses used to divest Jane Fonda of various pieces of her costume will have you choking into your popcorn.
The seventies' view of a future of decadence is a breath of fresh air and the idea of absolute, insane evil is camped up to the max. You'll either love it, loathe it, or do both simultaneously.
Fonda was born to play a sex kitten, with her soulful eyes and lithe body, and the costume department is allowed to have fun on this film because the joyfully absurd story manipulates her into a series of revealing outfits. Rest assured she isn't alone in the silly attire stakes; there's even an 'angel' on hand for us to giggle at. Logic isn't heavily relied upon either when developing the narrative, so there are also plenty of bizarre set-pieces tenuously linked to the megalomaniacal villain of the piece - including the now famous chair... (I don't wish to spoil it, but you'll know it if you see it).
"Barbarella" was a lot more fun for me than something like the po-faced "Logan's Run", anyway. It works because it doesn't ask you to take seriously what the setting then renders ludicrous. Everything is intentionally camp fun from the outset. Go with it - surrender yourself to bliss!
The second wise decision amounts to casting Miss Fonda in the first place. The girl can act. Plenty of ability is required in light comic roles, so Jane's far from just "window-dressing", despite the Italian penchant for stylistic excess.
The production itself is lavish, exploring 60s Cinema's desire to demonstrate artistic originality. By today's standards, the special effects seem quaint, but I personally adored the non-CGI inventiveness of the wacky machines and unlikely objects Barbarella finds herself examining and using throughout 98 minutes of fun-packed enchantment.
Box office takings suggest Barbarella was a commercial flop, but this hardly matters. With the right director and production team, such a wonderful film could be remade as a masterpiece of futuristic splendor. I'm sure modern audiences would agree... (But all film companies beware, you'll need an actress of Jane Fonda's quality to fill Barbarella's boots).
Fabulous costumes, quirky settings and thought-inducing ideas are other features of this retro-delight. The rich contrast between Barbarella herself (as "nice-girl-nextdoor") and The Great Tyrant played by equally stunning Anita Pallenberg (as a kind of leatherclad rock queen) make for unforgettable viewing.
Oh, and remember guys: "Angels have no memory".