Barbarella might not be everybody’s cup of tea, it certainly wasn’t mine, but there are certain aspects one can appreciate beginning with Jane Fonda’s performance. Otherwise, the film is a bit too far “out there” though it does have some great, memorable, scenes.
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Fantasy, Comedy
Paramount | PG – 98 min. – $29.99 | July 3, 2012
Directed by: Roger Vadim
Writer(s): Jean Claude Forest (novel); Terry Southern (screenplay)
Cast: Jane Fonda, John Phillip Law, Marcel Marceau, David Hemmings
Theatrical Release Date: October 10, 1968
Features: Theatrical Trailer
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (Dolby TrueHD 1.0), French (Dolby Digital 1.0), Spanish (Dolby Digital 1.0)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 1.78
Subtitles: English SDH, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish
Disc Size: 25.7 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): A, B, C
THE MOVIE – 2.5/5
“Are you typical of Earth women?
“I’m about average.”
Critiquing camp is a tough thing to do, especially when the filmmakers and cast know what they’re doing at the time they’re doing it (as opposed to a project, like say, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter where it seems the filmmakers take silly material too seriously). So, even now, a day after watching Barbarella for the first time in my life, I’m unable to make up my mind what to think of it. Does it have the sexpot of the 1960s? Absolutely and Jane Fonda is strikingly beautiful and perfectly charismatic in the title role, but at the same time, the story is thin and the comedy even thinner save for one scene.
Speaking of the story: it follows Barbarella (JANE FONDA), a woman from Earth sent on a mission to locate and bring back home a brilliant scientist using any means necessary, which when she crashes on the planet, involves sexual favors. Her journey then takes her into an outcast region where she meets a blind angel named Pygar (JOHN PHILLIP LAW) and the brilliantly quirky Professor Ping (MARCEL MARCEAU) who gives a lay of the land including that the city is ruled by The Great Tyrant (ANITA PALLENBERG), a lovely lady who treats her citizens with grace and respect… or because she’s known as “The Great Tyrant” might not be the best gal on the planet. Take your pick.
So basically Barbarella continues her search through the city for the elusive scientist when she drops upon inept resistance fighter Dildano (DAVID HEMMINGS) who saved her from certain death by a swarm of… birds (far out, man) when the Tyrant’s concierge (MILO O’SHEA) entrapped her in an enclosure. The resistance’s lair is a mess with secret passage ways that don’t open and other devices needing a kick-start to even remotely work. It’s this sequence that’s probably the saving grace and I only wish that we got to it sooner and they kept with it for the rest of the film.
I think it’s a bit pointless to rehash the rest as it’s a mishmash, or hodgepodge, of psychedelic scenes strewed together with a needle thread thin plotline there only to, albeit lightly, show off Jane Fonda’s sexuality. In a nutshell, Barbarella is nearly a porn flick minus gratuitous sex (those scenes primarily are off camera), not much nudity (in small portions) and slightly higher production design… at least for the era.
It’s difficult for me to say Barbarella (Queen of the Galaxy) is a bad film perse but it sure as heck not very good. Having said that, there are some fun moments and given the material, Jane Fonda herself was fantastic portraying a certain naivety and innocence that contrasts against the inhabitants of the planet.
Directed by French-born Roger Vadim, Jane Fonda’s husband at the time, Barbarella contains an acceptable level of entertainment but not much more. If you can appreciate 1960s camp cinema, then this might be right up your alley.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 0.5/5
This release comes with a nice and durable slip cover where the front opens for a panoramic artwork from the movie. Features-wise, all we get is the theatrical trailer (3:21; HD).
VIDEO – 4.5/5
I weep at the fact that even some newer releases don’t look this good, but Paramount seems to have done a wonderful job restoring Barbarella to its pristine video transfer. The colors look vibrant but not artificially pumped up, the amount of detail levels is fantastic and there’s a fine amount of film noise which only adds to the experience. The detail is so good that you can still see the wires moving the model spaceship. The only drawback is there are cases of flickering throughout, but it’s negligible.
AUDIO – 3.5/5
The Dolby TrueHD Mono track is surprisingly well done. I’m glad Paramount didn’t artificially expand it to 2 or 5.1 channels because while all the action comes from the center channel, it never sounds muffled with clear dialogue levels and when we do get into the action sequences, they’re well rounded enough.
OVERALL – 2.5/5
Overall, Barbarella might not be everybody’s cup of tea, it certainly wasn’t mine, but there are certain aspects one can appreciate beginning with Jane Fonda’s performance. Otherwise, the film is a bit too far “out there” though it does have some great, memorable, scenes. As far as the Blu-ray is concerned, I was very impressed with an amazing video transfer and half decent mono lossless track. The only downside is there’s only a trailer and with a $29.99 MSRP, it is a tad pricey so I recommend maybe picking up around the $10 mark.