Monday, December 12, 2005


I saw this in college in the mid-70's at a revival house and remember being quite disappointed. Seeing its stylistic cousin DANGER: DIABOLIK recently made me want to revisit this 60's pop-art comic book film. Though it's not quite a disaster, it's also not as much fun as DIABOLIK; it's not even as much fun as its posters. The movie is set thousands of years in the future when the cosmos has become a peaceful place; war and violence have somehow been banished (the very idea of conflict seems to exist only in the Museum of Conflict), and, as the Beatles once hoped, all you need is love, at least until some nut goes and ruins it all by inventing the deadly Positronic Ray. Jane Fonda is Barbarella, an intergalactic super-heroine who is called upon by the President of Earth to find the renegade scientist Durand Durand (Milo O'Shea) who invented the weapon. Her sketchy, episodic adventures take her first to a planet of odd children who threaten her with mechanical dolls with razor-sharp teeth--they're a little like the scary African fetish doll that goes after Karen Black in the notorious 70's TV-movie "Trilogy of Terror." She has sex with various partners (usually consensually, but rarely with much joy) including the very hairy man who resuces her from the dolls (Ugo Tognazzi) and a nutty inventor (David Hemmings) named Dildano (with a name like that, you just *know* that sex is in the offing). She is flown about by a blind angel (the hunky John Philip Law, star of DIABOLIK) and trapped by an Evil Queen (model Anita Pallenberg, mostly famous at the time as Keith Richards' girlfriend) on a planet which has a core of molten evil, named the Mathmos. She gets tortured on a keyboard-like machine which is supposed to pleasure her to death, but her innocence defies the device. The Mathmos swallows her up, but her innocence causes it to vomit her up, and the angel flies her and the Evil Queen to safety, a somewhat ambigiously happy ending, I guess. The above description may make it sound like trashy, campy SF fun, but it's really kinda draggy. Law is nice to look at, as is Fonda, and the colorful sets and light-show effects may help keep you awake, but otherwise this movie's reputation is quite overblown. [DVD]

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