Barbarella (1968)M


Can you believe that I actually never watched this until I was getting ready to put these reviews online? Well, everyone knows this movie is pure cheese, but the Barbarella comic is French, and France produces the finest aged gourmet cheeses in the world... and this is definitely not just Velveeta here. Barbarella is widely considered to be a true camp classic, perhaps even the camp classic of its era. It’s essential viewing for students of ’60s-ness.

You learn everything you need to know about what you’re in for from just the opening credit sequence. It shows Barbarella inside the cabin of her space ship, taking off her space suit. The important points to note are: 1) an extremely cheesy Burt Bacharachish song is sung, in which “Barbarella” rhymes with “psychedela” — a tune that might be ancestral to the theme song of The Love Boat. 2) the cabin is lined with shag carpet. 3) the space suit is made from a material resembling bubble wrap, and has no joints between sections to hold air in. 4) about 20 seconds are wasted on a pointless special effect showing her helmet going from mirrored to transparent. 5) she is stark naked under the suit, and looks like Jane Fonda only younger. 6) the letters from the credits fly around and cluster over her naughty bits, obscuring them from view, but not completely. Pretty hot stuff for 1968, I tell you what, Chester. (See below). 

Jane Fonda doesn’t bother much with acting. If she did, maybe she’d be more convincing as a dumb blonde. You can’t help but notice right away that she isn’t dumb. The dialog and the plot certainly are, though. And about 75% of the special effects consist of various forms of lava lamp or the colored blob projections so popular in ’60s psychedelic light shows, and 75% of the music is more of that sub-Bacharachiana. But we’ve got some adventures that are far more imaginative than most camp fare. The set and prop design is utterly unique and often unexpected... but the credit for this probably goes to the comic. And naturally, any time you think that a situation just might lead to sex, of course it does.

I don’t know if it’s possible to review a film like this. I mean, come on, it’s a classic. You might as well try to rate Casablanca, or Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Ratings are irrelevant. I guess I’ll just assign a cape count based on how much I personally enjoyed the viewing compared to others here. Which probably would have been a lot more if I’d seen it thirty years sooner.

It may be too dated to really enjoy the way we might have a generation ago, but I still have to say, “Blessed are the cheesemakers.”

Ack — they say Drew Barrymore is doing a remake of it! Any chance it won’t suck? Probably not much.

No wait, now it’s going to be made by Robert Rodriguez, possibly starring Rose McGowan. Will that make it suck any less? Maybe a little.