Monday, April 13, 2009

Barbarella (1968)

Years before Jane Fonda's career as a staunch political activist, rumor has it she used to be in movies. Proof of this former life is scant, limited primarily to hearsay, circumstantial evidence, dubious personal accounts, and bootlegged footage.

One that survived is Barbarella, the 1968 sci-fi passion project of her then-husband Roger Vadim. Based on a French comic, it tells the story of sexually enlightened space bimbo Barbarella, a "five star, double rated astronautical aviatrix" of the 40th century sent on a mission to find scientist Durand-Durand, who has created a Positronic Ray that could destroy all life in the Universe.

Upon her arrival on the planet Lythion, the skilled earth agent is immediately captured by small children. She tries to communicate with them through the use of her Tongue Box, but instead is tied up and subjected to the most disturbing dolls in the history of anything.

The dolls come closer and closer, using their teeth to tear away strategic areas of her outfit, until she is saved by a bearded man in furs. He strips down to receive his reward (sex), only to reveal that beneath the furs, he's slightly hairier.

On the planet resides SoGo, an extremely subtle reference to Sodom and Gomorrah which lies on a gloopy mass of pure evil serving as the city's power source. It is ruled by a bisexual Italian woman who calls herself The Great Tyrant. Those who are pure of heart are cast out into the labyrinth, where Barbarella comes across a sightless angel named Pygar, who has lost the will to fly (though the blindness is also a significant hindrance).

Once Pygar discovers her, he is immediately rewarded (with sex), and like spinach to Popeye, the hearty boning restores his will to fly. Like any good woman, Barbarella uses his new self-confidence to her advantage, riding the poor amaurotic cherub to SoGo to complete her mission. Upon arriving in the city, the leers of the town's residents prompt Barbarella to say "we need to find something to hide your wings." The two never discuss how they would go about this, or what they would use, and the matter is immediately dropped forever.

Once inside SoGo, Barbarella is again captured (this time by adults) and placed into a cage full of psychotic killer parakeets. Despite the strategic costume tears and bits of blood, a vast majority of the birds seem more content sitting on her ass than ripping her flesh.

She is eventually rescued from the avian onslaught by Dildano, leader of the SoGo resistance movement. She rewards him (sex) and then goes about helping the movement by getting captured once again, and subjected to Durand-Durand's Excessive Machine, which orgasms its victims to death. Barbarella's nymphomania comes in handy, as she overloads the machine and causes it to catch fire.

Barbarella is the kind of film that could only have been made in the 60s. It's too campy to appeal to adults, too risqué to appeal to children, too tame to be porn, and too fun to be dismissed. While it never shows any actual sex, there are a number of breast shots. This caught me off-guard, since the cover declares it a PG film. IMDb offers an explanation:

Barbarella was released in the USA before the MPAA introduced the motion picture rating system on November 1, 1968. It was consequently released with a tag "Suggested For Mature Audiences". A re-release in 1977 (to cash in on the success of Star Wars) was edited to obtain a "PG" rating and was called "Barbarella: Queen Of The Galaxy". The video version is of the original uncut version and not the "PG" version (despite the subtitle "Queen of the Galaxy" and the "PG" rating on the cover).
There you have it, kids. If you want to see some titties, but you're not allowed to watch R-Rated films, rent Barbarella. Your parents will be none the wiser (unless they've seen it).

What to drink:

Essence of Man

Quotable quotes:

"Make love did you say? What do you mean? You don't even know my psychocardiogram!"

"A good many dramatic situations begin with screaming."

"De-crucify him or I'll melt your face!"

"An angel does not make love. An angel is love."

(while being pecked to death by parakeets) "This is really much too poetic a way to die."

"There is the secret key."
"It's invisible, of course!"

"I'm just not the tube type."

"An angel has no memory."

Arbitrary ranking system

78.9 on the psychocardiogram.


Dildano explains his secret plan.

Barbarella overwhelms the Excessive Machine.

Pure slapstick.


  1. I agree, death by parakeets is way too poetic

  2. Now death by sparrows, that's just trashy.

  3. totally. also, I'm pretty sure they stole the line "de-crucify him or I'll melt your face!" straight from the bible. mary magdalene said it.