a critiQal film review Barbarella (1968)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: Barbarella (Fonda), an interstellar representative of the united Earth government in the 41st century, is dispatched to locate scientist Durand Durand (O'Shea), whose positronic ray, if not recovered, could signal the end of humanity.

522 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 36s)

Back in the 60’s, one film shot Jane Fonda to superstardom. No, not her Oscar winning roles. It was in a campy, sci-fi spoof called Barbarella. With Duran Duran naming themselves after the villain of the pic, and it’s status these days as a cult classic, I just had to see what all the fuss was about for myself. Thankfully, NetFlix® provided the flick, so I sat down to take a peek.

Jane Fonda, honestly, isn’t in Barbarella for her acting talent. No, apparently she’s here mainly because her hubby at the time, Roger Vadim, was the director, and she felt comfortable stripping on camera. The beginning credit sequence, which shows her stripping out of a ridiculously bad spacesuit, is kind of par for the course for this film – and she never even speaks. Of course, she talks later on, but with dialogue this bad, it doesn’t really matter.

The rest of the cast are equally ill-equipped to deal with any of the actual acting to be done in Barbarella. Marcel Marceau may be the only exception to this rule, as his character – while he’s around – is actually semi-likable. The rest of the cast could easily have used stand-ins – or just people off the street who had never acted – and the viewer wouldn’t have noticed a difference.

The plot is something straight out of a soft-core porn flick. The dimwitted Barbarella is supposed to go to the Tau Seti system and bring back Durand Durand and his positronic ray. Instead, in a future where sex has devolved to hand-holding, she discovers actual sex and spends much of the film giving herself to everyone around her. It’s utterly ridiculous. Oddly enough, despite the ridiculous plot, no actual sex takes place on screen, and Fonda spends most of her time trying to look extremely gratified in the aftermath of these encounters.

While some films have something redeeming about them, Barbarella just doesn’t. The plot is awful, the acting is horrific, the effects are, for the most part, hideously bad, and the music sounds like it’s being sung by a bad lounge singer far past his prime. Supposedly a spoof on sci fi flicks, there aren’t even any laugh-out loud moments at any point, and this reviewer had a hard time even staying awake for the seemingly endless 98 minute runtime.

And yet, this film – originally panned by critics (and rightfully so) has been garnering more positive reviews the older it gets. Why? Maybe it’s how truly lousy it is. Most viewers will probably not see a worse film in their lifetimes, and sometimes that kind of bad deserves a spot of recognition. Something this awful needs to be recognized, and lifted up, if only to showcase how off a film can truly be…or something to that effect.

Going into this film, I figured that this would put Barb Wire (1996), another bad female-lead film based on a comic book, to shame. Instead, after watching Barbarella, I feel myself longing for the high quality that was Barb Wire (1996)…and if that doesn’t tell you how bad this is, nothing will.

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