Jane Fonda-Barbarella

Blu-ray Review: Barbarella

So bad it’s good…almost. An adaptation of Jean-Claude Forest’s popular series of adult science fiction comics, Barbarella (subtitled Queen of the Galaxy) isn’t so much a movie, as it is an experience. The opening scene sets the tone: Barbarella, played by the ravishingly beautiful Jane Fonda, performs a weightless striptease in the cabin of her spaceship. Surprisingly, the film has a PG rating despite Fonda and others being naked, or practically so, in nearly every scene.

The plot, what little there is of it, is of little consequence. In the year 40,000, Barbarella gets an urgent call from the President of Earth (Claude Dauphin) asking her to track down a rogue scientist named Dr. Durand Durand (Milo O’Shea) —or or Duran Duran, as it’s commonly spelled and where the Brit pop group got their name—on the planet Tau Ceti. The doctor has developed a weapon—a “Positronic ray”—in a galaxy where conflict and war are fuzzy memories from centuries long ago. Armed with an array of phallic shaped weapons from a museum, Barbarella sets out on her mission. What she finds is a world she never knew existed. Along the way, she finds allies and battles enemies. She meets a fellow named Mark Hand (Ugo Tognazzi) who teaches her not to make love with the use of pills, but the old fashioned way. John Phillip Law appears as the blind angel Pygar, who has lost his will to fly; and David Hemmings takes a comic turn as Dildando, an inept revolutionary.

Jane Fonda-BarbarellaIn some (albeit, limited) circles, director Roger Vadim (Jane Fonda’s husband at the time) is considered part of the French New Wave, but he’s hardly in the same class as Godard or Truffaut. He shows little visual, or dramatic flair, though an apparent obsession with the penis is obvious. Mike Myers might have looked at Barbarella when planning the Austin Powers movies and thought, “Let’s do a satire of the sixties, like this. We’ll have lots of shag rugs, girls and sex, but it will be funny!”

In the case of Barbarella, everything from the script (written by Terry Southern) to the colors is gaudy. From the outside, our heroine’s spacecraft looks like a plastic, blow-up toy. I’m not sure how to describe the outside, but one thing is certain, it doesn’t look like a spaceship. Barbarella is camp at its best. At one point, she’s attacked by man-eating dolls! And she announces a universal greeting of “Love” while clutching an armful of weaponry. Barbarella is so corny it deserves to be seen by all adult film fans at least once. Now that Paramount has released it on Blu-ray, Barbarella has likely earned a spot on my “Best-Worst Films of All Time” list, and will be viewed once every eighteen months or so.

Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, Paramount has delivered a stunning 1080p transfer. Fine detail is so good it looks like the movie was made this year, instead of 1968. Skin tones, textures, costumes and the shoddy set design all look fantastic. Colors are amazingly accurate and bold. Black levels remain consistent throughout. There are no digital anomalies to speak of and a slight grain gives the proceedings a filmic appearance.

The Dolby TrueHD mono soundtrack isn’t particularly immersive but it doesn’t hamper the viewing experience. In this case, it makes it feel like we are in the era of the 60’s that’s being satirized. While the music can sound a bit muddled on occasion, dialogue remains crisp and clear throughout the presentation.

English, English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles are included.

The only special feature included is the film’s theatrical trailer (1080p, 3:21).

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