Monday Movie Review – Barbarella (1968)

barbarella movie

I was going through the selection of available movies on Netflix when I stumbled across Barbarella. I thought to myself “Hey, this is a famous campy movie. I could totally review this and it would be hilarious.” Oh, to be so innocent and naive again. If only I had known the incredibly boring horrors that awaited me. Though I don’t think any amount of forewarning could adequately prepare me for the soul draining combination of being sleepy, having a low tolerance for stupid bullshit, and watching this movie.

The movie starts off with a zero gravity strip tease from the least sexy spacesuit imaginable. From this point on our heroine will spend as much time as possible getting out of the clothes that she happens to be wearing at the time. Which is all well and good. I understand that this was a film that was made for the purpose of being sexually charged and being upset at that would be like being angry at a horror film for having monsters constantly showing up. However, the way in which it approaches sex and nudity is so incredibly dull and nothing sexier than a kiss on the cheek actually occurs on camera (though there is still plenty of nudity). Anyway, she is sent by the president of Earth to find a scientist on some remote planet and “sexy” hi-jinks ensue.

I’ll give it to Jane Fonda in this, she at least seems like she’s trying to have fun with her character even if that character is “a klutzy airhead that has a lot of sex”. I can even forgive the incredibly terrible set design because it’s 60’s sci-fi and it ends up being more amusing than anything else. For example, the inside of Barbarella’s ship is floor-to-ceiling shag carpet and I kind of love that. There are a couple things that really wreck this movie. One is the pacing. We spend so much time just looking at things and scenes tend to last an interminable amount of time. Scenes that sound cool when you describe them are actually tedious to watch. Barbarella fights a squadron of evil jets while being carried by an angel and shooting laser beams. Sound interesting? Well, it isn’t. Pay attention, I just mentioned this. Not your best effort. See me after class.

The other thing that made me dislike the movie was the soundtrack. At first the campy, jazzy music was fun and totally appropriate to the beginning of the film but it just ends up becoming this palpable, oppressive thing. Every scene is awash in music that sounds like it was pulled from the nightmares of someone forced to watch, unblinking, the Benny Hill show until the sweet embrace of unconsciousness overtook them. Is it a tender moment between two characters? Better play acid pop. Is it a tense showdown? Better wheel out of that synthesizer the Devil gave me last week. Is it a scene of the destruction of an entire people and their way of life? LET’S GET GROOVY! There is no escape from the psychedelic fun-coaster.

The movie does have some genuinely funny moments in it and, generally, at least appears to want to be a sex comedy. Most of the humor is through the absurdity of the situations that happen but even when something does come along that elicits a laugh, the movie then spends about three times as long on the stupid gag than absolutely necessary. There is a lot of useless filler in Barbarella that could have easily been excised to make it…not, good, certainly but…I don’t know. Tolerable? In all, this movie left me literally yelling “WHY?” at the screen while the credits started to roll by. I give it a 1.5 out of 5 with that .5 coming from the inclusion of a sci-fi sex-piano that gives orgasms while spitting out clothes.

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