Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Based on Jean-Claude Forest’s erotic comic serial, Barbarella was a commercial and critical failure upon its 1968 release, but enjoyed a revival in the late ‘70s among lovers of trash cinema. It has since become the role that defines Jane Fonda’s career and continues to cast a long shadow in the world of cult cinema. So, how will the nanobots judge this futuristic tale of a comely earth woman copulating her way across the alien world of Tau Ceti in search of the rogue scientist Durand Durand? There’s only one way to find out.
  • Space suit strip tease set to what sounds like a poor man’s Tom Jones: about as sexy as it sounds. =-18pts 
  • In the future, taking a video call from your boss in the buff isn’t awkward at all. = -2pts 
  • The President of Earth addresses all of the movie’s exposition straight to Barbarella’s rack. = -12pts 
  • For finally understanding where Duran Duran got their name from. = +20pts 
  • Holy sixties, we just realized the interior of Barbarella’s spacecraft is lined floor to ceiling with shag carpet. = +14pts 
  • If the planet’s surface is cold enough that a ship can crash land on a frozen lake without breaking through, why is everyone dressed like it’s the middle of June? = -8pts 
  • Actual line of dialogue: “Wait, let me adjust my toungbox.” = -10pts 
  • The preferred form of conveyance on the frozen wastes of Tau Ceti is a sleigh DRAWN BY A GODDAM ICE-MANTA. = +15pts 
  • Next time you close your eyes, this is what you’ll see. = +25pts 
  • Barbarella rescue #1: Saved from killer dolls by a traveling band of child slavers. =-3pts 
  • The leader of the child slavers forgot the mask to his Wookie costume. = -1pt 
  • Apparently in the year 40,000, only the poors have penetrative intercourse. On a side note, why did every dystopian future to come out of the ‘60s and ‘70s revolve around a world where people stopped having sex? Was that really something we were all worried about back then? = -30pts 
  • Holy cow, the head child slaver has a wookie suit underneath his wookie suit. = +2pts 
  • Wookie-suited child slaver schools Barbarella in the pleasures of a good old-fashioned game of hide the salami. = -25pts 
  • It’s been, like, 20 minutes and Barbarella has already had more outfit changes than a Lady Gaga concert. = +18pts 
  • Also, this is the second time in that same time frame that she’s been knocked unconscious. Barbarella really sucks at her job. = -50pts 
  • Blind angel Pygar abuses his disability to cop a feel on Barbarella. Not cool, dude. = -25pts 
  • Professor Ping played by legendary mime, Marcel Marceau! = +10pts 
  • Any “professor” who needs to don his head beaker and stare at your chest in order to determine that you’re a human female is probably not the best guy to help you repair your spaceship. = -16pts 
  • Barbarella Rescue #2: Pygar uses Barbarella’s gun to shoot the leatherman that ensnares her with a whip. Barbarella is officially less capable of taking care of herself than a blind dude. = -12pts 
  • Three guesses as to how Barbarella solves Pygar’s “morale problem” and helps him regain the power of flight. = -11pts (Answer: She bangs him.) 
  • Barbarella Rescue #3: Barbarella saved from back-alley rape in the city of Sogo by a bisexual, one-eyed battle prostitute. = +24pts (Hey, at least it was another lady this time.) 
  • Barbarella Rescue #4: Barbarella and Pygar freed from the Chamber of Ultimate Solution by Sogo’s Concierge. = -48pts 
  • For finally understanding where Matmos got their name. = +15pts 
  • The bisexual one-eyed battle prostitute was actually Sogo’s Tyrant in disguise! = +20pts (Suck it, glass ceiling.) 
  • Barbarella rescue #5: Barbarella escapes from the humming bird execution chamber by a secret chute operated by resistance movement. = -96pts (On a related note, the Tyrant needs to have a serious conversation with Sogo’s city planners). 
  • The head of the revolutionary forces is named Dildano. = +25pts 
  • We finally get to see the pills in action. = -60pts 
  • Aaaaaaand ten minutes after getting sprung from the bird chamber, Barbarella gets captured again by the Concierge. Is captivity her mutant power or something? = -42pts 
  • The Concierge hooks Barbarella up to a giant synthesizer that will kill her with ecstasy when the tune his tune reaches its crescendo. = +14pts 
  • Barbarella’s capacity for pleasure burns out the Orgasmic Death Piano. Aside from the areal battle, this is the only scrape she’s gotten herself out of in the entire movie. = -36pts 
  • The Concierge (who turns out to be the rogue scientist Durand Durand) betrays Barbarella and locks her in the Tyrant’s chamber of dreams, where they will both be devoured by the Mathmos, proving once again that Barbarella is the Michael Jordan of getting captured. = -32pts 
  • As the Mathmos pours up from beneath the city of Sogo to devour its inhabitants, it forms a bubble around Barbarella and the Tyrant to protect itself from Barbarella’s innocence. = +25pts 
  • Pygar rescues the Tyrant, along with Barbarella because “Angels have no memory.” So angels = goldfish? = -4pts 
  • The Barry Manilow-esque closing theme plays for a full 56 seconds after the credits are over. = -14pts
Total Score = -343pts
Available on: Netflix streaming, midnight screenings, flower-child nostalgia

As a work of science fantasy, Barbarella is predictably (and hilariously) awful. Where the movie gets more interesting is the examination of its sexual politics. The fact that Barbarella, who hands out sexual favors like thank-you notes, still escapes being devoured by the Mathmos at the end due to her “innocence” feels progressive even by today’s standards. However, her inability to go ten minutes without getting knocked unconscious or captured and her constant dependence on the intercession of strange men (whom she is then obligated to have sex with) kind of makes it hard to view her as any kind of feminist icon. In that regard, Barbarella is a film that’s every bit as emblematic of the ‘60s as Easy Rider.

Score Technician: Joe Hemmerling

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