Jane Fonda in Barbarella (1968) makes superheroes look sexy

barb6I say Barberella (1968) is superhero movie, but most people prefer calling it a science fiction film combined with a rather “adult” comedy romp, if you get my meaning. It solidified Jane Fonda as one of the most attractive women around as she attempted to move the 60s peacelove movement to space. It’s not a very well made film, but I will say this—I couldn’t stop watching it.

Barbarella is a cult classic. It was produced by Dino De Laurentiis, the guy who put the boots to other good films to make them great. Barbarella is very poor in areas, but I could see the effort, the fun people had in making it. It is swanky entertainment at its finest, a lurid indulgence, like dancing all night without a care in the world to the same stupid song. As much as some people like the movie Halloween, some science fiction fans like Barbarella just as much. I can’t see how, but it does have style. Or at least, it tries to have style. 60s style, that is, which means lots of Tom Jones, power women, and sex.

barb1At the beginning of the movie, Barbarella rocks out to a singer that imagines himself to be Tom Jones and she performs a strip tease to the camera. That’s what it is, folks. She’s in a spacesuit on her ship and she strips. She shakes her hair around to encourage all men to keep watching. It’s not really Tom Jones music, but it still works all the same. There’s no dialogue. She just strips her clothes off and enjoys the tunes. Pretty simple 60s style right there.  Pretty much defines the movie.

barb2This movie is undoubtedly amusing. Barbarella is assigned by The President to a mission and I forgot what she was assigned to do, because she’s naked for the first ten minutes of the film. She finally dresses and flies on to her mission, when another 60s ballad lulls her to sleep. She is awakened by some turbulence and rolls around, but not to worry though, cause her furry walls cushion her fall.  What a stylish spaceship.

barb3After she demonstrates why furry walls are cool, she lands on a planet. She disembarks, putting on her high heels and her cape, trying to find out what is going on. Some alien girls capture her and take her to a cave. There, she meets Mark Hand, and I’m not sure if his name was meant as pure innuendo or not. I guess so, cause he’s all over her. While I watched Barbarella take a “romp” with Mark Hand, I was curious if Henry Fonda knew what the fudge was going on with his kids. I mean, how did Jane Fonda go from this crap movie to being an award-winning political activist and an anti-war poster child? How? Not by being naked in fifty percent of this movie, that’s for sure.

barb5Before her romp with Mark, Barbarella claims that sex was abandoned on Earth because it was distracting, and I had to laugh. That is comedy right there. Is it satire?  Maybe.  More comedy ensues when Mark Hand strips out of his hairy Gorilla suit, revealing his equally hairy chest.  Hilarious.  The rest of the comedy works in some ways, but other parts of the movie pretty much fall flat.  It’s really jarringly 60s.  That’s the problem with this movie, but at least it revels in it.

Afterward, she goes back on her mission. She doesn’t even ask for alimony. The dialogue drips with sexual innuendo and comedy. I won’t even bother discussing Mark Hand’s hairy gorilla suit, because it makes no sense.

Hairy Man #1: Barbarella, perhaps you’ll stop this way again once your mission is concluded! <hope hope>

Barbarella #1: Yes, perhaps I will. <wink wink>

Hairy Man #1: Good <smile smile>

Barbarella #1: Goodbye! And thanks again. For everything. <wink wink>

Hairy Man #1: It was my pleasure <wink wink wink>

It is funny how Jane Fonda’s career took off after this film, into a string of anti-war films and celebrated dramas. I guess when you’re good-looking, you can do pretty much anything. Around this time, her father Henry Fonda made Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), which is a darn good Western, as well as Too Late the Hero (1970), which also had anti-war overtones like his daughter’s films. But that’s where the similarities end, because it is fairly well-known that Jane and Henry Fonda did not have the best relationship. This ended in 1981 when she bought the rights to the novel, On Golden Pond, and made a movie with her father, reconciling with him.

barb8So what’s so superhero about this movie? Barbarella was a 60s movie, but she was also a character in French comics, or what were then graphic magazines. Barbarella was originally serialized in V-Magazine in 1962, and later published in a stand-alone book in 1964.  She has gadgets and a spaceship, and seems to be a space adventurer working for the Earth government.  She tries to rescue people and doesn’t stand around waiting to be saved, like many stereotypical female characters.  She has her own views and she is proactive.  

If you still think Barbarella is silly and has no relevance, let me remind of this: a popular English rock band took its name from a character in Barbarella. Duran Duran was one of the most successful English bands in the 80s and had such hits as “Hungry like the Wolf”, which is a song everyone knows them from. “Electric Barbarella” is another recognizable song from Duran Duran.

barb7Duran Duran’s early music videos were sexual and controversial, like Barbarella. In the movie, Barbarella’s mission is to find a man named Durand Durand, who is a crazy doctor. The band obviously likes this movie. There is also a Dutch female rock group and Mexican band named Barbarella.

In the end, Barbarella stumbles around and stops the mad doctor.  There’s no use recounting the rest of the plot because it makes no sense, but I think you get the idea.   It has the influence of the women’s free love sex movement, seems European in places and has French inspired fashion. But it is way too long and the latter half of the film is way too camp for me to sit through without the power of fast forward. I will say this: the movie Barbarella and Jane Fonda have had a great influence on many things, which I think is for the better. Don’t get me wrong, this movie is not good, but even Jane Fonda had to start somewhere, I suppose.  Because of Jane Fonda and the movement to accept camp movies, the word Barbarella has become synonymous with sex, as much as it has with powerful women.

 

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