Now that Hollywood is once again considering a remake of “Barbarella,” it’s that perfect time to re-visit Roger Vadim’s wonky science fiction mind fuck. Jane Fonda fresh off of beginning her Oscar caliber career took a break to headline what is one of the trippiest science fiction adventure films ever produced. Decades later it’s shocking how much “Barbarella” was a precursor to magazines like “Heavy Metal” allowing the writers to build a world and an engaging heroine, while also fully embracing the inherent sexuality of the narrative.
In the year 40,000AD, when evil scientist Durand Durand creates a deadly weapon with the potential to cause mass devastation, the President of Earth dispatches Barbarella to hunt him down. Crash-landing in an icy wilderness somewhere within the Tau Ceti planetary system, Barbarella is rescued by Mark Hand and guided is by the blind angel Pygar to Durand’s lair in Sogo. It’s a city of corruption and debauchery, where an encounter with the Great Tyrant Black Queen and her minions throws her mission into jeopardy.
“Barbarella” is first and foremost exploitation, but it’s wonderful, groovey exploitation that very much embraces the sixties in every respect. Everything from the theme song, to the set pieces, to the characters and even the character sub-plots are all radical and filled with bold stark colors. “Barbarella” despite being a time capsule o the 1960’s has barely aged and in effect it’s allowed audiences to gaze in sheer awe at the sexual energy that Jane Fonda unleashes for movie fans. Fonda is just a relentlessly sexy woman here and doesn’t hesitate to lure us in by beginning the entire film with a mischievous strip tease while floating in mid-air.
It’s only one in a slew of truly memorable and bizarre elements of Roger Vadim’s psychedelic science fiction masterpiece. There are so many interesting and colorful side characters, as well as Anita Pallenberg who is also unbearably sexy as the villainous Black Queen who not only poses a threat to Barbarella, but a sexual tension that cuts like a knife. Roger Vadim directs a unique supporting cast that includes Milo O’Shea as Durand Durand, Ugo Tognazzi, Marcel Maraceau, and John Phillip Law, just to name a few. Jean-Claude Forest’s “Barbarella” is a timeless classic and I eagerly await news on the planned remake.
The Limited Edition Blu-Ray from Arrow Video includes a Brand new 4K restoration from the original negative by Arrow Films, a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Tula Lotay, a double-sided fold-out poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Tula Lotay, Six double-sided collector’s postcards, and an Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Anne Billson, Paul Gravett, Véronique Bergen and Elizabeth Castaldo Lundén, and select archival material. Disc One includes the feature film with the original lossless English mono audio, plus remixed Dolby Atmos surround and lossless French mono (featuring the voice of Jane Fonda).
There’s an audio commentary by film critic Tim Lucas, as well as alternate opening and closing credits, and the isolated score. Disc Two includes extras such as Another Girl, Another Planet, an appreciation of Barbarella by film critic Glenn Kenny, Paul Joyce’s behind the scenes featurette, Barbarella Forever! There’s Love, a two-hour in-depth discussion between film and cultural historians Tim Lucas & Steve Bissette on the impact and legacy of Barbarella, Dress to Kill, a 30-minute interview with film fashion scholar Elizabeth Castaldo Lundén on Jacques Fonteray’s world-changing costume designs.
Framing for Claude is an interview with camera operator Roberto Girometti; Tognazzi on Tognazzi with actor/director Ricky Tognazzi who discusses the life and work of his father and Barbarella star Ugo Tognazzi. An Angel’s Body Double features actor Fabio Testi who discusses his early career as a stuntman and body double for John Phillip Law on Barbarella; Dino and Barbarella is a video essay by Eugenio Ercolani on producer Dino De Laurentiis. There’s also the original trailer for “Barbarella,” a slew of US TV and Radio Spots, as well as an Image Gallery.