Barbarella (film)

Barbarella (film)

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Roger Vadim
Produced by Dino De Laurentiis
Written by Vittorio Bonicelli
Clement Biddle Wood
Brian Degas
Tudor Gates
Screenplay by Terry Southern
Roger Vadim
Based on Barbarella by
Jean-Claude Forest
Starring Jane Fonda
John Phillip Law
Anita Pallenberg
Milo O'Shea
Marcel Marceau
Music by Michel Magne
James Campbell (Score)
Bob Crewe
Charles Fox
The Glitterhouse (Songs)
Cinematography Claude Renoir
Editing by Victoria Mercanton
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) 18 October 1968 (1968-10-18) (Italy)
25 October 1968 (1968-10-25) (France)
Running time 98 minutes
Country France
Language French
Budget $9 million (estimated)
Box office $613,285(USA)(1977)
AUD 14,376 (Australia)(1997)
ITL 648,900,000 (Italy)(1969)[1]

Barbarella is a 1968 Franco-Italian science fiction film based on Jean-Claude Forrest's French Barbarella comics. The film was directed by Roger Vadim and stars Jane Fonda, who was Vadim's wife at the time.



In an unspecified future (the video release states it is the year 40,000), Barbarella (Jane Fonda) is assigned by the President of Earth (Claude Dauphin) to retrieve Doctor Durand Durand (Milo O'Shea) from the planet Tau Ceti in order to save the Earth. Durand Durand is the inventor of the Positronic Ray, a weapon. Earth is now a peaceful planet, and weapons are unheard of. Tau Ceti is an unknown region of space, so there is the potential for the weapon to fall into the wrong hands. Donning the first of many outfits (Barbarella is frequently tearing them and changing into something even more provocative each time), Barbarella sets out to find the missing scientist. She crashes on Tau Ceti, on an icy plain.

Barbarella is soon knocked unconscious by two mysterious girls who hit her on the forehead with a snowball with a piece of ice inside and then capture her. Barbarella is taken to the wreckage of a spaceship called the Alpha 1 (presumably this is Durand Durand's ship. Barbarella's own vessel is the Alpha 7). Inside the wreckage, she is tied up and several wild-looking children emerge from within the ship. They set out several dolls which have razor sharp teeth. As the dolls begin to bite her, Barbarella faints but is rescued by Mark Hand (Ugo Tognazzi), the Catchman, who patrols the ice looking for errant children. While taking her back to her ship, Barbarella offers to reward him. Mark Hand asks to make love to Barbarella. She is surprised when she realizes he means "the bed" or "the old-fashioned way". Barbarella reveals that people on Earth no longer have penetrative intercourse, but make love by consuming exaltation transference pills, and pressing their palms together when their "psychocardiograms are in perfect harmony". Hand prefers the bed, and Barbarella agrees, insisting there's no point to doing it that way. Hand's vessel makes long loops around Barbarella's crashed vessel while the two make love (offscreen), and when it finally comes to a stop, Barbarella is blissfully humming. Hand repairs her ship, and Barbarella departs, promising to return, and agreeing that doing things the old-fashioned way is sometimes best.

Her ship burrows through the planet, coming out next to a vast labyrinth. Upon emerging from her ship, she is knocked unconscious by a rockslide. She is found by a blind angel named Pygar (John Phillip Law). He states he is the last of the ornithanthropes, and that he has lost the ability to fly. Barbarella discovers the labyrinth is a prison for people cast out of Sogo, the City of Night. Pygar introduces her to Professor Ping (Marcel Marceau), who offers to repair her ship. Ping also notes that Pygar is capable of flight, but merely lacks the will. Pygar saves Barbarella from the Black Guards who occasionally patrol the labyrinth. Barbarella shows her thanks by making love to Pygar. As she hums to herself in his nest afterwards, caressing herself with one of his feathers, Pygar soars overhead, having regained his will to fly. Pygar flies Barbarella to Sogo, using some of the weaponry Barbarella has brought with her to destroy the city's guards. Sogo is a decadent city ruled over by the Great Tyrant and powered by a liquid essence of evil called the Mathmos. Barbarella is briefly separated from Pygar, and meets a one-eyed wench who saves her from being assaulted by two of Sogo's residents. Barbarella soon reunites with Pygar and the two are taken by the Concierge (O'Shea) to meet the Great Tyrant (who turns out to have been the one-eyed wench). Pygar is left to become the Great Tyrant's plaything, while Barbarella is placed in a cage, to be pecked to death by birds (something Barbarella says is "much too poetic a way to die"). Barbarella is rescued by Dildano (David Hemmings), leader of the resistance to the Great Tyrant. Barbarella eagerly offers to reward Dildano, and begins to remove her torn suit, but Dildano says he has the pill, and wants to experience love the Earth way (literally a hair curling experience for Barbarella). Dildano offers to help Barbarella find Durand Durand in exchange for her help in deposing the Great Tyrant. Barbarella is given an invisible key to the Tyrant's Chamber of Dreams, the only place she is vulnerable.

Barbarella is captured by the Concierge, who announces it is his turn for some fun. She is placed inside the Excessive Machine (sometimes mistakenly called the Orgasmatron), a device played like an organ. As the Concierge begins to play, Barbarella experiences increasing pleasure, and her clothing is expelled from the machine. The Concierge tells her when they reach the crescendo, she will die of pleasure. He then begins to play faster and more furiously, while Barbarella writhes in ecstasy inside the machine. Eventually, the machine overloads and burns out, unable to keep up with her. Barbarella then discovers the Concierge is none other than Durand Durand, aged thirty years due to the Mathmos. Durand Durand traps Barbarella in the Tyrant's Chamber of Dreams, taking both keys and locking them inside. As he prepares to crown himself lord of Sogo, Dildano launches his revolution. Durand Durand uses his Positronic Ray to decimate the rebellion. The Great Tyrant then releases the Mathmos, which consumes all of Sogo and Durand Durand with it. Barbarella and the Great Tyrant are protected from the Mathmos by Barbarella's innate goodness. They emerge from the Mathmos to find Pygar (who, having rejected the Tyrant's earlier advances, had been thrown in the Mathmos, and who was similarly protected by his own goodness). Pygar then flies Barbarella and the Tyrant away from the Mathmos. When asked by Barbarella why he saved the Tyrant after everything she had done to him, Pygar responds, "An angel has no memory."


Fonda as Barbarella in the Excessive Machine



Fonda has lamented the fact that she turned down starring roles in two major hit films, Bonnie and Clyde and Rosemary's Baby to stay in France and star in Barbarella, which was being directed by her then husband Roger Vadim.[citation needed]

Sophia Loren turned down the role of Barbarella.[citation needed]


Barbarella is noted for its title sequence, which features Jane Fonda undressing in zero-gravity.

The whole film is played in a tongue-in-cheek manner, especially when it comes to the frequent (but not explicit) sex scenes. The most controversial of those scenes involves Barbarella being tortured by the use of an organ-like instrument that delivers sexual pleasure in doses that can be lethal, although Barbarella survives the ordeal and is visibly disappointed when it is discovered she has overloaded the machine.

The film was simultaneously shot in French and English. Some characters' lines were performed by the same actors in both languages; others were not. For instance, Fonda is fluent in French and performs her own lines for the French version, while Marcel Marceau's lines are dubbed for the English film.

De Laurentiis returned to camp science fiction, but with far less erotica, with the 1980 cult classic Flash Gordon.


The songs in the film were written by Bob Crewe and Charles Fox. Stylistically, the sound brought together a lounge music aesthetic with psychedelic pop. Bob Crewe himself provided the vocal for the memorable film closer "An Angel Is Love", and several songs were performed by The Glitterhouse, a New York-based psychedelic pop group that was produced by Crewe and recorded for his DynoVoice label. During his first European tour in 1967, Frank Zappa had flown from Copenhagen to Italy to meet Vadim and Fonda in order to discuss the possibility of composing the music for the film, but this did not happen.

Special effects

The psychedelic "blob" patterns that form much of the special effects in the film were created using an oil wheel projector, a popular visual effects device which was widely used for psychedelic light shows at rock concerts in the late 1960s and was also used in many other '60s movies, as well as in many anti-drug educational films.


The film was both a box office and critical failure on its release. Variety's review stated that "Despite a certain amount of production dash and polish and a few silly-funny lines of dialogue, Barbarella isn't very much of a film. Based on what has been called an adult comic strip, the Dino De Laurentiis production is flawed with a cast that is not particularly adept at comedy, a flat script, and direction which can't get this beached whale afloat."[2] Despite this, in the years since its initial release, Barbarella has garnered a cult following. It was re-released from 1977-1980 with a PG rating; the re-release found a bigger audience. Howard Stern talked about watching the film while on LSD in his book Private Parts. The film has garnered a 74% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[3]


A remake of Barbarella has been planned for years, starting soon after plans for a sequel with Fonda fell through in the mid to late 1970s. Original screenplay writer Roger Vadim voiced that he would be open to making a sequel with actresses Sherilyn Fenn and Drew Barrymore as the title role, yet nothing came of it.[4]

The most serious planning of the long proposed remake began in early 2008. This remake would have been produced and released by Universal Studios, with one time James Bond screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade penning the script, and Dino and Martha De Laurentiis heading as producers.[5]

Sin City director Robert Rodriguez was soon after announced as the slated director for the remake.[6] Early candidates for the role of Barbarella were actresses Erica Durance of the WB's Smallville, Sienna Miller, and Rodriguez's Grindhouse star Rose McGowan. Later news articles confirmed that McGowan had been cast as the title role.[7] Universal Studios eventually backed out of the movie with some news sources speculating that it was due to studio executives doubting McGowan's ability to carry a big budget movie and that the studio had slashed the budget after learning of McGowan winning the role. Rodriguez denied this, stating, "Universal had initially signed on for $60 million, but then when we were done with the script it wound up at closer to $82 million."[8]

Due to Universal insisting on lowering the cost of the film and on recasting the role of Barbarella, Rodriguez shopped the remake to other studios in the hopes of gaining a larger budget allowance and retaining McGowan as Barbarella. Rodriguez has stated that the large budget needs stem from the fact that the majority of the movie takes place in outer space, and that "we don’t want the movie to look like the original."[9] Rodriguez said he abandoned the project in May 2009 after he turned down a $70 million budget that required shooting in Germany. Expressing regret for the undone film, he thought he could not be away from his five children for as long as it would take if shot in Germany.[10]

Although later news articles would attach director Robert Luketic to the project,[11] the film had not met its projected release date of summer 2010 and there are no active plans to produce the film.

See also


  1. ^ The Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ "Barbarella – Queen of the Galaxy (France – Italy)". Variety. January 1, 1968. Retrieved 2008-05-17. 
  3. ^ "Barbarella Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-12-24. 
  4. ^ Barbarella at[dead link]
  5. ^ Fleming, Michael (11 April 2007). "'Barbarella' back in action". Variety. Retrieved 2008-05-17. 
  6. ^ "Robert Rodriguez to Direct Barbarella". 2007-05-22. Retrieved 2011-09-26. 
  7. ^ ELLE (2007-09-30). "Breaking News". Retrieved 2011-09-26. 
  8. ^[dead link]
  9. ^ Morgan, Spencer (October 16, 2007). "Barbar-hella! Robert Rodriguez Is Fonda of Rose McGowan in Queen of the Galaxy Role, But Universal Winces". New York Observer. Retrieved 2007-10-17. 
  10. ^ "Robert Rodriguez scraps Barbarella remake". Sampun Wire. 2009-05-07. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  11. ^ Wendy Mitchell (2009-08-06). "New 'Barbarella' expected to be sexy but less campy". Time Inc.. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 

External links

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