Directed By: Roger Vadim
Starring: Jane Fonda, John Phillip Law, Anita Pallenberg
Tag line: "The space age adventuress whose sex-ploits are among the most bizarre ever seen"
Trivia: Sophia Loren turned down the title role
Mere seconds after it begins, Barbarella, a 1968 sci-fi / adventure from producer Dino De Laurentiis, grabs your undivided attention: as the credits flash on-screen, the film’s star, Jane Fonda, does a striptease while floating weightless in the air, shedding her spacesuit, piece by piece, until she’s wearing nothing but a smile. In the long history of science fiction films, you’d be hard pressed to find an opening scene more enticing than this one.
At the request of Earth’s president (Claude Dauphin), the sexy, somewhat naïve explorer Barbarella (Fonda) heads to the Tau Seti region of space to track down a lost scientist named Durand Durand. The inventor of the positronic ray, perhaps the most powerful weapon in the universe, Durand Durand and his ship disappeared somewhere in the vicinity of Tau Seti, and Earth’s government is holding out hope that: 1. He’s still alive, and 2. His deadly invention hasn’t fallen into the wrong hands.
Soon after reaching her destination, however, Barabrella’s ship crash-lands on a remote planet, where she’s assisted by (and has sex with) a variety of men, including a heroic hunter (Ugo Tognazzi); a living, breathing angel named Pygar (John Philip Law); and Dildano (David Hemmings), a revolutionary intent on ending the reign of The Great Tyrant (Anita Pallenberg), a gorgeous. sultry monarch who rules this planet with an iron fist. But as Barbarella soon discovers, there’s someone more devious than The Great Tyrant lurking behind the scenes, and she receives the shock of her young lifetime the moment she realizes who that person is!
I bet it would be a blast to watch Barbarella back-to-back with 1980’s Flash Gordon, yet another space adventure produced by Dino De Laurentiis. Both films feature colorful set pieces and garish fashions (Barbarella’s ship has brown shag carpeting… on the floor, walls, and ceiling!), but more than that, the two movies are entertaining as hell. Fonda is positively stunning as the title character, who finds herself dealing with one crazy situation after another (aside from being attacked by porcelain dolls, Barbarella flies through the air in Pygar’s arms; is locked in a cage with hundreds of angry parakeets; and is placed inside an orgasm-inducing piano that doubles as a torture device). Though the ending is a bit of a downer (for most of the characters, anyway), I guarantee you’ll have a great time watching this movie.
That said, I was surprised to learn that Barbarella received a PG rating (Parental Guidance suggested) as opposed to an R (Restricted to those under 17) in the United States. While the nudity is, for the most part, harmless, there’s plenty of sexual innuendo scattered throughout that, at the very least, might confuse adolescent viewers (even a scene where Barbarella and Dildano take a pill and join hands, which, at that point in the future, is the accepted form of sexual contact, gets pretty damn hot).
But never mind: even without the sex, Barbarella is a visual delight, not to mention a whole mess of fun.