Blu-ray Review: Barbarella



Every few years a rumor flows that a hot starlet will go into orbit headlining a Barbarella remake. There’s a quick buzz about how she’d look as an intergalactic vixen changing out of her spacesuit in zero gravity. Can she match Jane Fonda’s sizzling deep space stripping? Studio producers begin pricing homes in Malibu for the sure fire hit. What few people seem to realize is that the original film was a box office dud upon arrival in 1968. The movie has gained a cult audience over the years with its futuristic visuals and groovy soundtrack. It’s the perfect home video to have running when you’re good and tipsy. The perfect has been perfected with the Blu-ray release of Barbarella.

Barbarella (Jane Fonda) receives the assignment to rescue the lost scientist Durand Durand (Milo O’Shea) from the planet Tau Ceti. This proves to not be a simple task when her ship crashes upon arrival. This is an icy planet populated by cold hearted people. She quickly encounters two sweet girl. But the twins are part of a demonic children tribe with cannibal dolls that want a piece of Barberella’s flesh. She’s rescued by a very hairy guy (La Cage aux Folles‘s Ugo Tognazzi) and his leathermen guards. She asks what he’d like for his reward and he desires to make love to her. She points out that on Earth they now use pills and just touch hands. He introduces her to old fashioned method. She’s impressed.

Eventually she makes her way to the main city. Outside is a giant maze that contains the doomed citizens that are vanishing or turning to rock. Her guide through the weirdness is Pygar, a blind angel (Diabolik‘s John Phillip Law). Even with huge wings, he lacks the ability to fly. After a battle with more leathermen, she has sex sith Pygar. This pleasure inspires him to flap away. He can now carry her to the elevated city which is one big opium den full of creepy folks. Can she find Durand Durand inside the debauchery ruled by The Great Tyrant (Anita Pallenberg)? Will she be overwhelmed by the carnality and forget her mission? Does it really matter as long as the good freakiness rolls over your eyes?

The film has aged well as a cult artifact of the ’60s. It even gained a joke as Barbarella keeps wanting to find what sounds like Duran Duran. She’s a groupie. The lavish Italian production looks even more expensive now. The special effects remain solid with the higher resolution. Pygar’s wings are more realistic than today’s CGI attachments. The soundtrack mixes the psychedelic with the science fiction. Pallenberg is the perfect evil to play against Fonda’s naive goodness. While this wasn’t a box office smash, it’s not a forgettable mess. Easy to see why some short memory studio executives think it’s worth remaking. But what’s the point of a new Barbarella? The Blu-ray brings out all the details of a special time when excess could be achieved on screen. The old Barbarella remains better than any newfangled adaptation can achieve.

The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The transfer is stunning. The production design and wardrobe dazzles in 1080p. Such outrageous textures are given detail on the screen. The audio is Dolby True HD. The track is crisp and clean with a good mix between score and dialogue tracks. There’s also dub tracks in French and Spanish. The subtitles are in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

Theatrical Trailer (3:21) teases with all the pleasing moments. Perhaps the film didn’t do well at the box office since audiences swore they already saw the film after this trailer?

Barbarella is a magnificent overload of space vixen action. The Blu-ray brings out all the finer qualities of the campy film. This is the perfect entertainment for when you want to go out of this world.

Paramount Home Entertainment presents Barbarella. Directed by: Roger Vadim. Starring: Jane Fonda, John Phillip Law, Anita Pallenberg, Milo O’Shea and Marcel Marceau. Written by: Terry Southern & Roger Vadim. Running time: 98 minutes. Rating: R. Released: July 3, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.

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