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France/Italy 1968
Directed by
Roger Vadim
98 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars


Clearly Roger Vadim had no problem exploiting the allure of Jane Fonda in this campy, hippified sci-fi fantasy although why Fonda, albeit that she was married to the director, obliged, is anyone’s guess.

Penned by Vadim with Terry Southern (who apparently contributed on only two scenes) and based on a comic strip by Jean-Claude Forest, it has Fonda’s Barbarella, a kind of free-loving, space-age special agent from Planet Earth in pursuit of Durand-Durand (Milo O’Shea) who has gone over to The Dark Side and developed an ultimate weapon called the positronic ray. Well., don’t worry about the story as it’s plain nonsense.

There are two main reasons to watch the film. One is for the extended sexual fantasy of coupling with Fonda, which constitutes about 50% of the film’s charms (although Vadim sadly taints the film with a Hitchcockian sadism, notably in the scene in which Barbarella is locked in cage with hundreds of ravenous budgerigars). The other is for its fabulously over-the-top production design, a cornucopia of 1960s psychedelic kitsch and tin-pot Lost In Space-type props wrought out of plywood and papier-maché, topped off with ultra-lame easy listening pop ditties performed by Bob Crewe and His Generation.

Fonda was soon to become one of Hollywood’s most politically articulate voices and also the star of fine films such as They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969) and Klute (1971) but this is the film that made her into a pop culture icon.

FYI:  The film no doubt is the source of the name of 1980s pop band, Duran Duran.




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