Barbarella (1968), a campy psychedelic romp produced by Italian Dino de Laurentiis, directed by French eroticist Roger Vadim, adapted from a risqué French comic strip by American satirist Terry Southern, and featuring an international cast, was Buck Rogers reworked as a sex kitten in space for the 1960s culture of free love and pop art.
Jane Fonda is the shagadelic space-age heroine, a galaxy-hopping agent and adventuress ready to make love and war with equal fervor, and she opens the film with a teasing zero-gravity strip tease just barely obscured by the credits. The rest of the film, an odyssey to rescue a missing scientist and his newly-developed weapon, mixes Flash Gordon and the Marquis de Sade with director Roger Vadim’s love of undressing beautiful women on the screen: psychedelic fantasy posing as science fiction with Fonda (who was married to Vadim at the time) as an innocent who embraces sex without self-consciousness and approaches every situation with a wide-eyed naïveté.
It’s pure adolescent fantasy, like a pulp paperback cover populated by Hugh Hefner’s stable of playmates, and somehow it still manages to remain PG! Vadim’s fantastic imagery is still retro-cool, a triumph of set design and wild color over story and character, but his special effects have all the sophistication of a fifties B-movie in fetish gear and pop-art color. John Phillip Law shows off his physique as a blind, blond angel, Anita Pallenberg (her voice dubbed by the purring Joan Greenwood) is the sadistic Black Queen, and David Hemmings, Milo O’Shea, and Marcel Marceau co-star.
Rated PG, believe it or not.
On Blu-ray and DVD and on SVOD through Amazon Video, iTunes, GooglePlay and/or other services. Availability may vary by service.
On Blu-ray and DVD with no supplements beyond the trailer