Movie Review: Jane and Barbarella

By Moira Sullivan
Movie Magazine International

The opening minutes of Roger Vadim's all time sci-fi classic "Barbarella" is a showcase for Jane Fonda and what we will always best remember her best gymnastics. Emerging from her space suit she floats weightless in her fur cabin onboard Alpha 7, her visor descending from the bubble like headgear, extremity by extremity while a statue of a Goddess holding the moon stands by. Jane at the time was 31 and looked like a stereotypical wholesome American woman, a bit of an airhead with a mane of strawberry blonde hair, actually a bit dorky. Based on the French banned bestseller comic book by Jean Claude Forest and produced by Dino de Laurentiis Barbarella is also famous for two additions to music history: a captivating sound track by Bob Crewe and Charles Fox performed by "The Glitterhouse" and for being inspirational source to the band Duran Duran in 1978,named after one of the characters of the film, minus a D on the end. In this Europop tale of love and evil, Dianthus (Claude Dauphin), president of earth and rotating premier of the sun system, appears face to face with Barbarella via widescreen satellite to send her off on a mission to find Durand Durand (Milo O'Shea), a 26 year old man with brown eyes who has managed to invent a weapon after centuries of peace on earth. Barbarella is of course 'shocked' at this invention because that means 'war and selfish competition'. As a five-star astronaut, several archaic pieces of weaponry are materialized for her by Dianthus, as she disgruntingly remarks that she now looks like a 'native savage'. During the course of the film she meets Dr. Ping (Marcel Marceau) who survives by eating orchids, a blind angel named Pygar (John Phillip), and an evil queen (Anita Pallenberg) who propositions her, calling her 'Pretty Pretty'. The sci fi technology is all done in a studio that looks like a 60's TV set.
Why did Jane make a film like this? Even she does not know herself. As the retrospective guest of honor at the San Francisco Film Festival in 1994, she was asked 'where was her head'? 'I don't know -- up my armpit, I guess,' Fonda responded. 'We all make mistakes. In my case, I keep getting my nose rubbed them.' The evil city Sogo, the city of night is clearly a reference to Sodom and Gomorra and the film, at least in America was perceived every much as a product from hell. Originally released in 1968 before the establishment of the R rating,it initially got an 'M 'for Mature. The following year it was given and R. All the sex scenes were cut out from the 1977 version to get a PG rating and was called 'Barbarella Queen of the Galaxy'. The video and DVD letterbox edition on the market today has the original M rating. In Europe all of the nudity was there from the first release. As a postnote Drew Barrymore is set for a new Barbarella release in 2004 as producer and actor though not a remake, meaning that although Jane Fonda may have regretted the film there is always one more airhead waiting in the wings be Queen of the Galaxy.
This is Moira Sullivan for Movie Magazine International Stockholm Sweden.
More Information:
Jane and Barbarella
France, Italy 1968