Monday, September 6, 2010

“Decrucify the Angel…or I’ll Melt Your Face!”

Welcome to the final entry into
Ivanlandia’s The 47th Minute Project--
On January 16th, we posted this frame (above), and it was correctly guessed as the 47th minute of Barbarella!

It’s been fun working on the 47th Minute Project, but with the moving of the Embassy, as well as other stuff, like the death of my Endpoint column (sniff!), I’ve lost interest (for now) in 47th minutes.
But who knows?

Barbarella (1968)
Directed by Roger Vadim
Produced by Dino De Laurentiis
Screenplay by Terry Southern and Roger Vadim
In collaboration with Claude Brule, Vittorio Bonicelli, Clement Biddle Wood, Brian Degas/Tudor Gates, and Jean Claude Forest
Based on the comic book by Jean Claude Forest
Cinematography: Claude Renoir
Production designer: Mario Garbuglia
Editor: Victoria Mercanton
Special effects supervisor: August Lohman
Optical effects: Charles Staffell
Special animation effects Gerard Cogan, Thierry Vincens-Fargo
Cast: Jane Fonda (Barbarella), John Phillips Law (Pygar), Anita Wallenberg (The Great Tyrant), Milo O’Shea (The Concierge/Duran Duran), David Hemmings (Dildano), Marcel Marceau, Ugo Tognazzi
98 minutes/released by Paramount

Why is Barbarella a favorite of The National Film Board of Ivanlandia?
The flick’s got a very unique ANTI-REALISM that I find very appealing.
The movie is also witty, kinky, weird and very stylish:
It has a gentle loving spirit--without hammering you over the head about it--the flick is all about “love.”
It’s a groovy, psychedelic love universe, baby.

And the perfs are all top-notch, perhaps helped by so many actors being dubbed in later (a good dubbing job can hide a multitude of sins), but
acting kudos are especially for Jane Fonda, who’s very game throughout the flick--the movie only succeeds because of her deft balancing of virtue and naivite, as well as some great comic timing/delivery.

I like how her introduction to “barbarian sex” turns Barbarella into a little horndoggette, but she’s still focused on her mission to find Duran Duran--she’s like James Bond: love ’em and leave ’em--but with a smile, natch!

Barbarella may be naïve, but the film’s most innocent character is Pygar, the blind angel (angel is love, angel is blind, love is blind? Angel has no memory: love always forgives?), who even saves the evil queen.

And the casting of Anita Pallenberg was very cool (even though she’s dubbed), bring a cache of decadence to the Tyrant of Sogo: meow!

Barbarella was re-released in 1978 or ’79 (during the winter shared by the two years) to cash in on Star Wars mania, when there wasn’t enough product to satisfy the masses--
Around this time Starcrash,
Message From Space and
Laserblast were rushed out,
and Paramount took their sexy space adventure out of the vaults (home video wasn’t the behemoth it later became, and some movies, like 2001 or James Bond flicks, as well as Disney’s collection, were routinely re-released at second run theaters),
gave Barbarella a new Boris Vallejo poster and the subtitle, “Queen of the Galaxy.”
(As well as removing the wings from the angel, Pygar: huh?!?)

That’s when I first saw the movie, at the now-no-longer-a-movie-theater Oceana Theater in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.

Even as a kid, I liked the flick’s cool/weird/sexy design and the rampant anti-realism in style and content.

Psychedelic star-swirls were
a change of pace, and a breathe of fresh air (to me) after the dirty-space-junk look of Star Wars, Space: 1999, 2001, Silent Running, etc.--not that I don’t love that look, but I’ve always appreciated “different” views of space:
A sort of Anti-Realistic artistic interpretation of the whirling cosmos--

Dino De Laurentiis routinely eschews the “realistic hardware” look of movies like Star Trek or Star Wars--
In Dino’s Barbarella, Flash Gordon and Dune, space has the pallete of a madman--Barbarella’s universe is a lavalite!
But if anything, Barbarella owes more to the De Laurentiis-produced/Mario Bava-directed super-their cult favorite Danger: Diabolik!, than to any space operas---which may mean that Barbarella is more of a spiritual parent of Star Wars than 2001 (let’s face it, Star Wars is goofy space fantasy, while 2001 is a thoughtful mediatation on the development of human evolution)--
And two of Diabolik’s screenwriters contributed to Barbarella’s script (Tudor Gates and Brian Degas)!

The very Italian production designof Barbarella reinforces the fever-dream atmosphere--like The Kuchar Brothers with unlimited funds! But why not? It’s life in the year 40,000!
[Seeing this during it’s orginal 1968 release must’ve been wild; director Roger Vadim really knows how to use the wide-fram Panavision screen, and it’s a visual feast.]
Although campy, it’s never condescending, neither to the audience or to its characters.

Barbarella’s plot is a simple structure (very Perils of Pauline; but where Barbarella saves herself as often as she‘s saved by others) that allows a lot of strange details to be hung on it,
from Jane’s witty, almost post-modern asides (“What a poetic way to die”) to all the costumes and situations (a giant hookah containing “Essence of Man,” with Jane’s awesome “Hmm…not bad” expression after trying a puff)

And it has a very happy ending: The Angel, the Great Tyrant and Barbarella, a trio of beauties flying into the universe for a groovy and cosmic menage a trois: Wow!

Barbarella has a pace that is its own, and yet, even when things seem to stop cold--like the endless trippy effects during the Queen’s Dream Chamber--I cannot complain: I’m absolutely enthralled by this movie.
Barbarella is not just a movie, it’s an experience!

Barbarella wasn’t a financial or critical hit, but it most definitely is a
Cult movie
And as such, has its share of dedicated followers.
For an incredible essay/tribute to Barbarella, go HERE at Dreams Are What Le Cinema Is For

And for the Ultimate Movie Guide to Barbarella (a truly impressive piece of work and dedication), go HERE to the studs at Black Hole Reviews!

“You are so good, you made the Matmos vomit.”


  1. Not sure how I missed this great site all this time! I thought I had seen most of the "Barbarella" stuff online. You really have some terrific images and, as a fan myself (thanks a heap for the link to my blog...that was very nice of you) I like your take and witty observations on the film. Hope you don't mind if I list this site on my own.

  2. Ken, link away, please!
    Glad you like my take on "Barbarella"--a flick I hope never gets remade.
    BTW, while doing the R&D on my recent "The Wild Angels" post, I read an interview with Charles B. Griffith where he claims to have done a bit of rewriting on the Barbarella script for Vadim, usually dialog written the night before the scenes were to be shot. More madness in the stewpot!
    Thanks for reading,