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Barbarella, a 41st century earthling, is sent on a mission by the president of Earth to find Durand Durand, a scientist who has disappeared with an all-powerful weapon.
For more about Barbarella and the Barbarella Blu-ray release, see Barbarella Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on June 19, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Jane Fonda, David Hemmings, John Phillip Law, Anita Pallenberg, Milo O'Shea, Marcel Marceau
Director: Roger Vadim
» See full cast & crew
Barbarella Blu-ray Review
Shag carpet never looked so shaggy as it does on Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, June 19, 2012
Boy oh boy is Barbarella a really bad movie. But it's also quite the campy little venture, a movie styled around its decade rather than its decade weaved into the movie. There's the "make love not war" mantra that runs through it, the "free love" angle, and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of shag carpet and plastic faux future fixings that once passed for "modern" and now look downright silly. And even beyond the rubbish sets and psychedelic offerings, it's clear that Barbarella is destined for camp greatness even in its opening moments when the sexy heroine -- in front of the floor-to-ceiling shag carpet backdrop -- performs a zero-gravity striptease, removing first her gloves, then her leggings, and all the way to a liquid-filled helmet before the breasts-exposed reveal (and the movie is rated PG) of the title 1960s gal who takes an interstellar phone call from Earth's President (who is also the "Rotating Premier of the Sun System"), dressed as fully as she was the moment she was born. With all this goodness, just forget the story -- it's absurd -- and never mind the absence of any good acting. With all of that and a character named "Dildano" and future-tech called "tongue boxes," who needs good writing or a plausible plot to make a fun movie?
Space traveller Barbarella (Jane Fonda) is summoned by Earth's President with an urgent request: she's to track down a dangerous rogue scientist named Dr. Durand Durand (Milo O'Shea) on the planet Tau Ceti. He's developed a weapon -- a "Positronic ray" -- in a galaxy of peace, a "pacified" universe where conflict and outright war are but bad memories from centuries past. Tau Ceti is part of a little-known system where a weapon might become a dangerous instrument, not a mere historical curiosity. Barabrella, equipped with her own small arsenal retrieved from a museum, sets out to apprehend her target with only a fuzzy photograph, a general description, her wits and wiles, and her body to aid her journey. What she encounters is a world she's never known. She befriends kindly allies and battles dangerous enemies, experiences the pleasures of sexual intercourse performed "the old fashioned way," and finds herself on an adventure of a lifetime that only a woman of her beauty and intergalactic skills could survive.
Barbrella isn't a movie, it's an experience. It's a crazy sort of time travel vehicle that transports audiences to some alternate dimension -- surely there's no time such as this -- where 1960s stylings meet interstellar travel in the whatever century this is, a century where nourishment comes in the form of a bad-tasting liquid (they still haven't discovered a good-tasting protein mix?) and sex is enjoyed through the swallowing of a pill and the touch of a hand (even Demolition Man, the near-future movie where Taco Bell reigns supreme, had a better -- and touchless -- alternative to that). It's also the quintessential dime store Science Fiction trash story, where randomly mixed letters ("Pygar," "Mathmos") become proper nouns and the why and how behind the technology doesn't matter, but the look does. And does it look awful. There are almost no straight lines except on plastic sheets and bulky buttons. Even the original "Star Trek" looked galaxies better than this, thanks in large part to Gene Roddenberry's assemblage of a world and a story; Barbarella is merely a shaggy-carpeted brothel in the shape of a Science Fiction movie. In fact, if there was anything beyond a few bare breasts and a whole of of suggestive dialogue and behavior, this would be a porn film, and given the poor acting and cheap sets, one cannot help but think the movie was meant to be a porn film but edited down for mass consumption.
But there's also a movie to review here, not merely set dressings and styles. Sadly, for as terrible (in a fun sort of way) as the ancillary elements may be, the story is just awful in an unfunny, drag-down, will-this-ever-end sort of way. The plot is mostly coherent but it never really goes anywhere. The characters are shockingly flat and absolutely uninteresting. The action scenes show little spunk, and moments of supposed danger are about as exciting as watching paint dry while on sleeping pills; in one scene, where Barbarella's shaggy carpet spacecraft crashes, she merely pounds on some controls with about as much urgency as when she casually walks into the changing room. The movie goes from entertaining and grossly over-the-top with all the 60s stylings to flat-out boring; Barabrella's writhing about in ecstasy following her various sex-capades represent the movie's full output of energy and movement. All the sets away from Shaggycraft appear just as phony if not more so, all obviously poorly-designed soundstage enclosures that feel cramped even if the artwork around the edges suggests distance. Then there's just the flat-out weird elements, the horned stingray-like creature that pulls a dog sled, people painted and posed as if part of rock formations, and an attack by killer dolls that was probably the inspiration for Puppetmaster. This movie is really quite bizarre; maybe it works better while under the influence of something other than shock at the awfulness of it all and the awe at all that shaggy carpet confined to one tiny place.
Barbarella Blu-ray, Video Quality
Barbarella may be silly, and it might look awful in a general sense, but there's no denying the film's Blu-ray debut is a winner. This is a dazzling 1080p presentation. The movie looks almost brand new, in fact; remove all the period-inspired uglies and this thing might have been made in 2008, not 1968. Fine detail is extraordinary, and the image is remarkably crisp and stable, accentuated by a fine layer of grain. Skin textures, clothing materials, and the shoddy set design elements look fantastic. Even seams in backgrounds and the cables hoisting up Barbarella's star craft as seen in chapter six are plainly visible thanks to the boosted resolution on Blu-ray. Colors are steady and accurate, from Pygar's dull white wings to the mossy greens of his nest, from the ugly brown shaggy carpet inside Barbarella's ship to its pink exterior. Black levels are fine, and flesh tones appear true. The image is absolutely free of banding, blocking, edge halos, or other such issues. A few optical shots look a bit fuzzy, and the occasional white speckle pops up, but this is otherwise a proficient, nearly perfect Blu-ray transfer from Paramount.
Barbarella Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Barbarella blasts onto Blu-ray with a fairly energetic and clear Dolby TrueHD mono soundtrack. The track enjoys precious little range, but the lack of spacial immersion doesn't hinder the presentation, instead giving it something of an old-world charm. Music can be slightly muddled at times, but generally the track delivers lively and clean notes that flow with little hindrance into the front portion of the soundstage. Highs prove fairly crisp, while the low end delivers some surprisingly stronger elements. A few effects seem to extended beyond the track's limited range thanks to a good sense of natural reverberation accompanying a few shots. The film's generic 1960s Sci-Fi bleeps and bloops sort of sound effects play with adequate precision. Dialogue enjoys a clean, smooth delivery and a true cadence. This is a good track and probably a best-case scenario sort of presentation for the film in question.
Barbarella Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Unfortunately, the only supplement included with this Blu-ray release of Barbarella is the film's theatrical trailer (1080p, 3:21).
Barbarella Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Barbarella looks really dated, but in fairness it's been fifty years since the thing was released; what will Minority Report or the new Star Trek look like to people who watch them forty or fifty years from now? The answer is probably not nearly as ridiculous as this. Not only does the movie look bad, it looks cheap. There's no imagination to it, and there's almost less thought in the construction of the plot. Barbarella is a mess of a movie, but then again nobody really watches this for the story, do they? No, Barabrella is one of the ultimate party movies, a shining example and at the top of the heap of the "so bad it's good" style of motion picture. And with that zero-G striptease, super-hairy sex fiends, pleasure machines, a character named "Dildano," and the namesake of an 80s band playing the villain, who can resist? Paramount's Blu-ray release of Barbarella features very strong video and good audio but, regrettably, no meaty supplements. Fans of the movie, oddball cinema, Jane Fonda, the 1960s, Duran Duran, and shag carpet should all make this a priority buy. Recommended for the fun of it.
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