Barbarella (1968)

barbarella poster 1968 movie
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 5/10
Acting: 6/10
Visuals: 8/10

Swinging throw back movie

So-so story drags, dated but in a good way

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Barbarella

Studio:  Paramount Pictures

Genre(s):  Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Comedy

Release Date(s):  October 10, 1968

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

Fly, Pygar! Fly!

Innocent and lovely Barbarella (Jane Fonda) has an assignment that could affect the fate of Earth’s future.  She must retrieve the missing Doctor Durand-Durand (Milo O’Shea) who has disappeared in Tau Ceti region of space.  Travelling the galaxy, Barbarella finds herself stranded on an alien planet and learning things about life she never even considered.  Barbarella finds herself aided by a blind angel named Pygar (John Phillip Law) and in battle with the Great Tyrant (Anita Pallenberg) in the City of Night called Sogo…Durand-Durand might be close, but the danger is closer!

Directed by Roger Vadim, Barbarella is a sci-fi fantasy comedy.  The film is based on the French comic by Jean-Claude Forest that first appeared in 1962 in V Magazine.  The movie was a critical and financial bomb at the time of its release but quickly gained a strong cult following.  The movie was released in 1977 to capitalize off of Star Wars in a PG version called Barbarella:  Queen of the Galaxy (though rated PG, the released versions are generally the original unrated version that was released before the MPAA ratings were established).

What’s more terrifying? The dolls or the kids?

Barbarella is completely ridiculous but entertaining in its weirdness.  I can’t imagine how the PG version works (granted it is ’70s PG which is much different than today’s PG) because the fun of Barbarella is the sex and inuendoes.  Barbarella is still fun and edgy in a swinging ’60s style.

The movie is what could be described as a sci-fi sex romp.  Barbarella is a sexually repressed character who goes through a sexual awakening through the movie.  Despite being a super-secret agent, Barbarella just bumbles her way through events in her search for Durand-Durand and falls into one trap after another.  The character uses her sexuality to get out of trap after trap including an actual orgasm machine (call the Excessive Machine) which can’t handle her high level of sensuality.  It is a strange “I Am Woman Hear Me Roar” story, but at the same time Barbarella is so dense and helpless at points that she comes off as weak.  It is the a weird sex-kitten post-modern dichotomy that is both progressive and sexist (but knowingly sexist).

barbarella pill sex david hemming jane fonda

This is HOT!

Barbarella made a star of Jane Fonda as the sex bomb under the direction of her then husband Roger Vadim.  Durand-Durand is played by Milo O’Shea, and famed mime Marcel Marceau plays Professor Ping in a rare speaking role.  John Phillip Law plays the memorable angel (aka ornithanthrope) Pygar who spends most of the movie with his blind stare.  Italian model Anita Pallenberg gives a nice turn playing the Black Queen of Sogo aka the Great Tyrant who has eyes on Jane Fonda and Pygar in a bisexual triangle.  Ugo Tognazzi is the furry Catchman who introduces  Barbarella to real sex (as payment for his fares) while David Hemming plays the rather square revolutionary who chooses to uses the pill sex with Barbarella.

barbarella durand durand excessive machine jane fonda milo oshea

Sex in the key of C-Flat

The visuals are what sells Barbarella.  The movie has a similar tone and look to 1980 film Flash Gordon (whose pulp character is kind of a model for Barbarella).  While Flash Gordon now gets all the attention, it feels like there is a lot of room to enjoy this film which predates it by twelve years (both films were produced by Dino De Laurentiis).  The movie goes for a psychedelic non-apologetic look with new-age and swinging 1960s style.  They aren’t realistic but they aren’t supposed to be…they are trippy and fun.

Barbarella was a bomb at the time but is now rather legendary.  The movie pop nature has led to constant plans for remakes or sequels.  Dr. Durand-Durand and Barbarella’s search for him led to the band Duran Duran to choose the name.  The film still has reach and influence and is still worth seeking out…plus, the horror of those chomping dolls and creepy kids just make it worth the viewing.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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