“An angel does not make love; an angel is love.”
In the distant future, a sexually liberated female astronaut (Jane Fonda) is sent by the President of Earth (Claude Dauphin) to find a nefarious scientist (Milo O’Shea) who has invented the ultimate weapon — the Positronic Ray.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Jane Fonda Films
- Mad Doctors and Scientists
- Roger Vadim Films
- Satires and Spoofs
- Science Fiction
- Strong Females
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary asserts that despite the dizzying amount of activity occurring throughout this cult futuristic film — based on an adult comic strip by Jean-Claude Forest — it’s nonetheless “quite dull”. He writes that “the whole production… lacks imagination” and that “Barbarella herself is a weak heroine”, given that “her actions have little effect on what transpires at the end”. He notes that the “film’s cult has to do with [both] the campy humor” — which he finds “unintentionally amusing” — as well as the “uninhibited, scandalously garbed Fonda”, who “gives her body to all men who assist her”. He complains that director Roger Vadim (married to Fonda at the time) “subjects his heroine to ghastly tortures while she is either nude or having her clothes ripped off”, and posits that “trying to stimulate men by showing pretty women being physically abused is irresponsible”.
In Cult Movies 2 (where he analyzes the film in more detail), Peary notes that Fonda herself has claimed Barbarella isn’t one of her “many mistakes” (“I like it — it’s fun”, she’s insisted, without elaboration). Actually, the erstwhile brouhaha over Barbarella‘s role in Fonda’s otherwise (mostly) esteemed acting career feels entirely irrelevant these days, given that she’s no longer so actively in the limelight, and her recent attempts at an acting comeback have been less-than-memorable. Ultimately, I agree with Peary that the film — while undeniably visually provocative — is essentially an “innocuous” and dull piece of ’60s soft-core fantasy erotica. For instance, where’s the humor in exchanges like the following (taken from IMDb’s Quotes page)?:
Dildano: [radioing instructions to the rebel army] And our password will be… Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.
Barbarella: You mean the secret password is Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch?
I’ve seen Barbarella twice, and read about it plenty — but the point of its needlessly convoluted storyline continues to elude me, and I can only understand its cult appeal on an intellectual level.
Note: The best-known piece of trivia associated with Barbarella is the fact that the ’80s English rock band Duran Duran named itself after the central villain, “Durand-Durand” (O’Shea).
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Imaginative set designs and costumes
Yes, once, simply for its cult status.