Barbarella Psychedella!

Barbarella was directed by Roger Vadim and premiered on October 18th, 1968. Starring Jane Fonda, John Phillip Law, Anita Pallenberg, Milo O'Shea and Marcel Marceau. Screenplay by Roger Vadim & Terry Southern. Music by Charles Fox.

President: Your mission Barbarella: find Durand-Durand.

Barbarella is a psychedelic fantasia of pop-art sensibilities and adult fairy tales, interwoven with all the genre cliches of space opera, and with a chief protagonist who is a sex kitten to die for. If that all sounds confusing - it is.

Based on a comic strip from the 1960s, which was originally intended as an antidote to the rather brash adventures of Flash Gordon, Barbarella is a blend of genres, from soft porn to high space adventure.

The plot of the movie, such as it is, follows the eponymous heroine (Fonda) of the fortieth century as she journeys to Tau Ceti in search of the mad scientist Durand-Durand (Milo O'Shea) and his deadly 'positronic ray'. Much of what takes place is an exercise in displaying the scantily clad Fonda.

The Great Tyrant: Guards! To the Mathmos with this winged fruitcake.

It took seven people to construct the screenplay for the film, and the result is a cornucopia of different ideas and notions. We see a community of feral children with malicious dolls, we see the blind angel Pygar (John Phillip Law), we see bizarre sex in a variety of different positions and techniques, and we see gadgets such as lurid spacecraft, deadly ray guns and a rather exciting 'excessive pleasure machine'. Indeed, Barbarella's quest is as much about her search for the ultimate orgasm as it is about Durand-Durand.

Joan Greenwood dubbed Anita Pallenberg (The Great Tyrant)..

Durand-Durand was the inspiration for the name of the 80's pop group Duran Duran.

The zero-gravity striptease during the opening credits was achieved by having Jane Fonda lying on a sheet of plexi-glass with a painting of the interior of the spaceship underneath the glass, The camera filmed her from above giving the impression she was floating.

Barbarella is a visual feast, and Fonda is suitably camp and sensuous in the lead role. The film was directed by Roger Vadim who was Fonda’s husband at the time. The supporting cast do what they have to, but this is really about making Fonda into a star. Released the same year as Kubrick's 2001 A Space Odyssey the special effects in Barbarella are laughable in comparison but are a good part of it's camp appeal.

Barbarella is surreal and bizarre, and very much a product of its time. Its vision of a decadent future, full of free love and high adventure stems directly from the optimism of the decade in which it was written and filmed. Barbarella should perhaps be more properly considered a fantasy, but its enduring appeal and sheer unconventionality make it worthy of repeated viewing.

The film was released on Blu-ray in 2012.

The Critics Wrote -

“Comic-strip buffs, science-fiction fans and admirers of the human mammae will get a run for their money.” (Time)

"Jane Fonda, that well-known heavenly body, has furthered the cause of science by performing the first striptease in Space...

The fact that the whole film is so outrageous that you find yourself chortling, cannot save it from turning out as a twisted tale which makes the activities of the Marquis de Sade look like good clean fun." (John Smith, Sunday Mirror)

"A special kind of mess... All the gadgetry of science-fiction ... is turned into all kinds of jokes, which are not jokes, but hard-breathing sadistic thrashings, mainly at the expense of Barbarella, and of women." (Renata Adler, New York Times)

"Jane Fonda comes across as an ice-cold, antiseptic, wide-eyed girl who just can't say no. Fonda's abilities are stretched to the breaking point along with her clothes." (Variety)

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Comments 19 comments

FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

I haven't seen this film yet. I'm not sure I'd be able to watch it without thinking about what was happening in Jane's life at the time-she felt as if she couldn't tell Roger Vadim no. The background of the making of this film is even odder than the film is.


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

Nice hub Steve. I have seen this movie a few times. I always associated the look of the film with the 1980s Flash Gordon. One of the few times that I thought Jane Fonda looked sexy was in this role. I think it has been a major influence on lots of filmmakers. I agree that a remastered Blu-Ray is one to look forward to...great photos as usual in this hub. Voted up and awesome.

P.S. I see you found the share button...I saw the hub earlier tonight and at first I thought it was a new hub...and when I did not see it under your latest tab...I thought don't tell me it got tagged duplicate...he is going to be pissed.


icciev profile image

icciev 5 years ago from Kuwait

I were have no idea before about this, thanks for this nice overview. voted up


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Hoho I didn't know about the share with followers button until you showed me Conanson. I'm still trying to find my way around here 8 months later. I'm glad you're around to help. :)

Flora, Barbarella is worth a look just to see what European sci-fi was like in the sixties. Another fun French movie to look out for and released the same year is Danger Diabolik, directed by the legendary Mario Bava and starring Barbarella's Pygar, John Phillip Law.

Flora, Bruce thanks for visiting and commenting. Bruce appreciate the vote, and the help.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

icciev thanks for popping in to my Barbarella hub, much appreciated.


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

You are welcome ...I am here to help...lol. I hope you see the power of the share button...8 months of 0 comments...hit the share button and you are up to 6 comments and counting.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Yep and 30 views over night, not bad. I'm tempted to update and augment some of my other old hubs too. [wink]


juliafranceschini 5 years ago

Nice hub. I saw this movie a few months ago and the aesthetics still stick with me. I love sixties decadence and all Barbarella's flashy costumes. Further, I love the evil lady villain character The Black Queen of Sogo. She was so sexy and her voice was perfectly dramatic. Thanks for the Duran Duran info too, I forgot about that connection.

Great pictures.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks for commenting Julia. This was one of my first hubs, Barbarella's a lot of fun probably more so now than it was then. :)

It's hard to believe a remake hasn't appeared in all these years.


stugod profile image

stugod 5 years ago from Bradford

This was a truly fantastic film, Way ahead of it's time. I remember it mainly for one reason though as any man my age would he he. What did they call the little Irish guy in it. ???


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Durand Durand played by Milo O'Shea?

He tried to torture Barbarella with his sex organ aka the Excessive Machine (see picture above) which is supposed to kill it's victim by pleasure overload, it blows a fuse on Fonda.

Thanks for commenting.


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

I remember the Excessive Machine scene very well...I think when I saw the movie as a teenager I did not fully understand the scene...but now that I am an old man....I understand so much more.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Hello Cogerson I see you won the bet with your wife. :)

Yep Barbarella seems a lot naughtier now than when we first saw it as kids. :)

And Durand Durand playing his sex organ is even funnier now decades later...

Thanks for popping in to my only soft porn hub to date.


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

Barely. It was actually pretty hard, if I knew I was going to do abstain from HubPages for an entire day...I would have checked out HubPages Saturday night....so I would not have ignored some of the comments on my hubs for almost 48 hours....for some reason...I feel rude when I do not respond quickly to a comment....part of the addiction. It is always a pleasure to revisit this hub as it is easily the sexiest Jane Fonda every was...at least in my opinion.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

She was pretty wasn't she? And she still is, did you see her at the Oscars last year? What a yummy mummy... or should that be yummy granny? ;)

Yes this was before she went all Hanoi Jane on everyone and broke her daddy's heart.


Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 4 years ago from Essex, UK

I remember watching this film late at night close to the TV - I was at that age when I was old enough to stay up after my parents had gone to bed, but maybe not really old enough to be watching soft porn at home. Hence being close to the TV (It wasn't so I could get a closer look - it was so I could switch over quickly if either of them came down stairs!!!)

At the time I thought Barbarella was incredibly risque and sexy, but now it all seems a bit tame and oh so camp. A comedy romp. But Jane Fonda was gorgeous!

There were actually some clever and chilling ideas - notably those vicious dolls with the mechanical clamping teeth - but I guess most people remember Barbarella for the opening striptease in zero gravity.

It was, when all is said and done, just adult male fantasy and a bit of fun, which no one should take too seriously even in these politically correct times.

Good hub Steve.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks Greensleeves, appreciate the comment. I grew a few inches the first time I saw Barbarella as a youngster, if you get my drift. I'm surprised they haven't attempted to remake it decades later. According to IMDB there is a Barbarella in development for 2014, hmmm.


Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 4 years ago from Essex, UK

Hmmm indeed - I wonder if it would be as free-spirited as the original? Somehow I can't see it working in the same way unless it has the same carefree hippyish atmosphere about it.But it'd be intriguing to see how a remake or a new Barbarella adventure is handled.

Incidentally, Steve on a different matter - just reading through the other comments, I read the exchange about the 'share button'. Am I right in thinking we are free to dust off our old hubs and introduce them to recent new 'followers' by clicking this? I just clicked it on one of my hubs to share it, and there was a brief warning from HubPages about it not being advisable to share pages too often. Do you know if it's acceptable or do HubPages penalise in some way if you share your own pages like this? Any advice would be appreciated. Alun


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Greensleeves or should I call you Alun? I know what you mean about Barbarella, a remake wont have the same campy appeal. But I'm still interested to see who they have in mind. I think sharing wont get you into trouble unless you over do it, I got that same message when I shared a hub a few weeks ago.

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