Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Based on a French comic strip by Jean-Claude Forest, the 1968 Jane Fonda vehicle BARBARELLA is a psychedelic, interplanetary fantasy that's full of bizarre characters, sexual innuendo, imaginative visuals, and even a couple of cool, science fictional ideas. Now, Paramount has brought the colorful Roger Vadim opus to high definition Blu-ray disc.
Barbarella (Jane Fonda) is an Earth agent in the peaceful and physically chaste 41st Century. After a tantalizing zero-gravity striptease, she is given a new assignment by the President of Earth: travel to the planet Lythion and track down the rogue scientist Durand Durand (Milo O'Shea), who has done the unthinkable: he's created a weapon. Arriving on the strange planet, the naive Barbarella encounters a wide variety of unusual characters: from a pack of vicious children with carnivorous playthings, a blind angel - complete with working wings - named Pygar (John Philip Law, DANGER: DIABOLIK), an eccentric professor named Ping (Marcel Marceau), and an inept revolutionary (David Hemmings, DEEP RED, THIRST), before ultimately tracking Durand Durand to the decadent city of Sogo (where "a new sin is invented every hour"), and meeting its seductive, bisexual ruler, The Great Tyrant (Anita Pallenberg). Can Barbarella overcome all of the obstacles in her way - not to mention her burgeoning sexuality - and complete her assigned mission?
As directed by Vadim (PRETTY MAIDS ALL IN A ROW), BARBARELLA is luscious eye-candy, with a decidedly Sixties European "mod" aesthetic to its production design, costumes and special effects. The Tudor Gates (TWINS OF EVIL) screenplay is deliberately camp and coy, with intentionally silly dialogue that is rife with clever wordplay, subtle (and not-so subtle) satire, and sly innuendos. (I keep finding myself surprised by the fact that a lot of modern viewers don't seem to pick up on the fact that the movie is supposed to be a silly, sexy lark....)
The films' special effects are low-tech but visually appealing, and the huge sets are opulent, outrageous, and utterly over-the-top. The best special effect of all, though, is the curvaceous, 31 year-old Fonda, who was married to Vadim at the time. She plays her character with a charming semi-innocence in (and out) of a variety of revealing, futuristic apparel, delivering her absurd dialogue with complete conviction (which makes it all that much funnier).
Paramount's Blu-ray edition of BARBARELLA is fairly bare-bones affair, but does offer a remarkable, virtually immaculate, 1080p high definition, 2.35:1 widescreen transfer with razor-sharp detail, brilliant color and rock-solid blacks. This is undeniably the best the film has ever looked on home video; far superior to the previous DVD edition. The Dolby TrueHD Mono audio track is crystal clear and devoid of hiss. The one extra on the disc is the film's entertainingly trippy U.S. theatrical trailer.
BARBARELLA is a delightful Sixties cinematic artifact, full of color, imagination, and tasteful naughtiness. It's never looked better than it does in this new HD edition, and if you're a fan of the film and own a Blu-ray player, you'll really want to pick this up. Especially as it retails for less than $15 bucks.
BUY: Barbarella [Blu-ray]