Barbarella (1968) – Roger Vadim

 

Jane Fonda steps into her first and only science fiction movie in this 1968 camp classic that is so bad that it almost comes round to good again, who am I kidding, it doesn’t get anywhere near to coming around to good. It’s also the next stop in the Sci-Fi Chronicles book, so it was time to dive in.

Based on the comic of the same name penned by Jean-Claude Forest, the story concerns Barbarella (Fonda) a very sexually active adventuress (after she discovers how fun it is) who is called in to discover the location of a missing scientist, Durand Durand (Milo O’Shea) – this is where the pop group of the 80s got their name.

The film opens with the now infamous zero-gee striptease, as Barbarella sheds her spacesuit. Now, say what you will about Fonda before or after this film, she is simply stunning and exudes the sex kitten stereotype which the character needs.

She is tasked with finding Durand and recover his creation a positronic ray, a weapon, which could be used to destroy the thousands of years of peace.

Filled with camp humor, interesting set design, goofy model work, terrible songs and horrible special effects (sometimes so bad it’s good that the dialogue tells us what we’re supposed to be seeing) and some intriguing costumes (all of Barbarella’s get ripped or torn in suggestive ways), the film is filled with terrible dialogue and ludicrous settings.

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For instance, there are creepy children who try to feed Barbarella to their murderous dolls, there’s the blind Pygar (John Phillip Law) the last of the ornithanthropes, who is need of a morale boost.

Everything leads her to the city of SoGo, which is ruled by the Great Tyrant (Anita Pallenberg) and a host of Black Guards.

Jaw-droppingly bad, this one has established itself as a bit of a cult film, which is hard to believe, because even cult films tend to have something about them that appeals to me. This one, outside of the rather appealing form of Fonda, has absolutely nothing to draw in sci-fi or film fans, unless it’s to see how not to make a movie.

The character, herself, has a lot of potential, and is prime material to be revisited. It would have to be done right, smart, sexy, sly and fun, which, in itself, would be a difficult line to walk, but not impossible.

Despite how bad the film was, it helped cement Fonda’s image as a sex icon, one she tried to shed shortly afterwards with her political activism.

Spare yourself the watch, and just suffice to say that yes, the costumes are nice, yes, Fonda looks sexy, but, wow, is this a horrendous movie, even if one of my favorite bands took their name from it…

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