Barbarella (1968) - 6/10
Is Barbarella the most knowingly kitsch film ever made? Probably not, but surely it’s got to be up there. Maybe I’m being harsh on the effects, it is 1968 after all and what we think of as comedic elevator music now, was hip pop over 50 years ago… 50 years! So forgive it as Barbarella (Jane Fonda) weightlessly strips naked over the opening titles. Weightless of course because she’s a sexy astronaut floating in space. Oh how they imagined the future in the 60s. Plastic clothes, shag carpeted spaceships and video screens. They were right about the last bit at least. She’s on the hunt for Durand Durand (Milo O’Shea) who’s invented a deadly weapon, a positronic ray. Unthinkable in the 41st Century when the galaxies ooze love and war is a thing of the past. Crash landing on a distant barbaric planet. She dons a revealing outfit and gets in a snowball fight with some freaky local kids, before being tied on some squid powered skis to go play with some disturbing steel toothed dolls. See, kitsch. It’s a fairly basic story, delivered through some utterly bonkers visuals and plenty of sex. Again remember, swinging 60s. It’s all very arch though, with lots of laughs. Which is just as well, as otherwise it’s really just quirky soft porn. Everyone is good looking, from Barb to Pygar (John Phillip Law), a blind Angel like creature unaware of the macabre horrors that surround him. Pygar and his boss Professor Ping (Marcel Marceau) are slaves to The Great Tyrant (Anita Pallenberg), but with Barbarellas… talents, they take on evil with the help of a lot of wire work and back projection. Fonda seems to be aware that it’s all just a bit of fun and not to be taken seriously, but the rest of the cast come across like serious am dram players, excited by a slightly bigger budget… slightly. Well aside Dildano (David Hemmings) who’s clearly in on the joke. He’s well connected, with a host of secret toys, some of which work and helps Barbarella on her way. All the weird foreplay eventually leads her to Durand Durand, who hasn’t really been that hard to find after all, which sort of proves the generally pointlessness of the plot. It’s a good watch though. Utterly nuts, but inventive, entertaining and actually makes some sense with a story arc that works, even if the finale is… well, you’ll just have to watch yourself. There’s rumour that a remake is in the works. I can’t imagine why anyone would want this or how they intend to update it. Barbarella is very much of its time and it’s charm is it’s cult cool. Certainly worth a watch if you’ve not seen it before.