Barbarella (1968)

I remember seeing the first part of this on TV a long long time ago, long enough that I can’t even approximately date when it was (though I suspect it was probably my late teens), up to the bit where Barbarella gets attacked by the dolls with the razor-sharp teeth… I think I probably tuned out then mostly cos it was fairly late at night (I was far less of a night owl then than I am now), but also because, frankly, it wasn’t exactly grabbing me. I mean, yeah, Jane Fonda with her kit off behind the credits and all that, but eh. Anyway, now I’ve seen the whole thing, and my “eh” response then strikes me now as having been, you know, not entirely wrong. Apparently Barbarella was a commercial and critical flop in its time and only acquired the cult following it now has many years later, and I can kind of see why… Variety‘s original review of the film noted that the film wants to look like a big film (and there were some obviously massive stages used to film the production) despite the fact that a lot of the production detail and effects are actually kind of shoddy, which seems fair, but I think the review really nails it when it describes Fonda as “antiseptic”. That was a big problem for me; it’s not that I don’t find Jane Fonda attractive or anything like that, but I didn’t exactly feel “sex kitten” radiating from her in this case despite the story’s determination that she is one… It’s always interesting to look at (filmed by Claude Renoir) in spite of its problems, but on the whole it’s really just not that good; potentially a case where a remake (one having been mooted for years), if done right, could actually improve upon the original…

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