Sci-Fi Nerd: Commentary, reflection and accolades from a fan’s point of view on all things sci-fi and fantasy.
The zeitgeist of the late 60’s is not well captured in this portrayal of the famous French comic book by Jean-Cluade Forest that portrays the adventures of a sexually liberated woman in a series of surreal and extraordinary adventures in outer space.
Jean-Claude Forest created the character of Barbarella for serialization in the French magazine V-Magazine in spring 1962, and in 1964 Eric Losfeld later published these strips as a stand-alone book, titled simply, Barbarella. The stand-alone version caused a scandal and became known as the first “adult” (pornographic) comic-book (despite its eroticism being slight)
In the world of the 21st century where porn is readily accessible 24/7 at the click of mouse its almost hard to imagine what all the fuss was about over these French comics the movie is based on nearly fifty years ago. By today’s standards it hardly qualifies as even risqué. The sophomoric approach to the sexuality the film depicts is born of the innocence of the time. The film, which eventually attained a status as a cult favorite, was an Italian/French production directed by Roger Vadim, and produced by Dino De Laurentiis.
This is a silly movie, you know you’re in trouble when the opening sequence is the best part of this very over-the-top camp film. Barbarella seems so random and half-baked as a concept its almost as if they were making up this stuff just before filming it, while under the influence of the psychedelic substances popular at the time. This film makes an attempt at creating a modern day version of Alice in Wonderland, that fails in its attempt to be an amusing parody and allegory of the sexual revolution occurring at the time.
Barbarella begins with a straight up striptease performed by its star Jane Fonda, the sex kitten extraordinaire of her time. Admittedly, she was remarkably attractive at this stage in her life. This is the one full nude scene in the film, and what follows afterwards is pretty disappointing both story-wise and visually. Fonda is never called upon to do any acting in this film but is left to look pretty and sexy while she meanders through the bizarre sets while modeling the parade of skimpy outfits provided for her, and that is simply not enough to carry this film.
Barbarella is an example of a type of film popular at the time, the all- star comedy romp. Other more successful examples of this sub-genre from the same period, that actually managed to be amusing and more entertaining, are Casino Royale (1967), and What’s New Pussycat? (1965). The writing in this case is not up to the challenge of being amusing, lacks wit and any redeeming charm. The all-star international cast in this case is composed of John Phillip Law, Anita Wallenberg, Milo O’Shea, Marcel Marceau, David Hemmings, and a list of others whose names you probably wouldn’t recognize, who were popular in Europe at the time. The soundtrack by the Bob Crew Generation Orchestra is noteworthy for being not very good, with the possible exception of the title theme song, which is oddly catchy
Revisiting this film i cannot in good conscience recommend it. It is rather a somewhat odd footnote and remnant of a time gone by, and maybe best forgotten. Barbarella is not all that interesting, with the exception of a few brief moments of its duration.