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Jane Fonda as Barbarella – Sexy but Awful

Barbarella – love it or hate it – gave us Jane Fonda as a dazzling, hedonistic, interstellar voyager in the 41st century. After flaunting her sex appeal and 60s inspired groovy aesthetic in zero gravity, our eponymous heroine lands on an icy planet in search of finding n individual by the name of Durand Durand, a scientist in Sogo, the City Of Night – a fabulously flamboyant place where a new sin is invented every hour.

There she discovers the Orgasmatron – an organ that doubles as an execution device that can bring about a victim’s death by an excess of pleasure. She also finds the Chamber of Dreams in the possession of a powerful lesbian queen, and a group of ladies smoking a hookah that can be used to dispense the Essence of Man – whatever that’s supposed to mean.

Barbarella Film

Barbarella’s clumsy plot raises many questions and very few answers. The one thing that can we can be sure of when watching this surrealistically absurd film is that the future is apparently very sexy but also quite deranged. In fact, the forthcoming world is painted as something of a science-fiction fan’s nympho-maniacal nightmare.

To be fair, very few people actually consider Barbarella to be a particularly good film. It’s slow, unsteady, ridiculously and thoroughly cheesy, and full of moments and dialogue that are sure to make you cringe. That being said, some consider its outlandish, campy aesthetic to be somewhat endearing in the ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ kind of sense. It’s enjoyed cult classic status for decades and understandably so.

Director Roger Vadim is Fonda’s husband at the time. The film that the couple collaborates on isn’t exactly Academy Award material, it leaves behind a legacy. We’re willing to bet that quite a few people still have sexy pin-up posters of Jane Fonda as Barbarella on their walls to this day. There’s no denying that the film made a powerful statement concerning sexual liberation. That detail is pretty self-evident – but we’re going to dig a little bit deeper and see what it was about Barberalla that struck a chord with audiences and how it impacted culture for years to come.

Along the way, we’re also going to touch on some little-known facts that even die-hard fans might not be familiar with. Stay tuned to find out how Barbarella was conceived and which celebrities owe their signature looks to the film.

Critics Weren’t Too Kind To The Film

Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader had this to say about Barbarella.

Quote: The film is ugly on so many levels -from art direction to human values – that it’s hard to know where to begin – End Quote

Variety Magazine echoes those sentiments by saying that despite having a bunch of polish and a few humorous one-liners. Barbarella isn’t even much of a film.

It’s true that the special effects were definitely dazzling. The film’s opening scene is undeniably iconic and most critics agree. It starts off with more promise than it is capable of delivering. Jane Fonda strips out of her spacesuit and arouses the viewer with her playful, sensual little tease. The plot quickly takes a nosedive and the film becomes a tortuous, tangled, convoluted mess.

Sex appeal and flashy effects aren’t enough to save the film from the harsh criticism it deservedly received.

Barbarella: A Setback For Science Fiction

For years science fiction was considered to be comic book filler. Buck Rogers was stereotyped as being the kind of entertainment that only younger audiences would enjoy. No one was really taking sci-fi seriously. How could they? It was all fantastical fluff.

Then, Stanley Kubrick brought us 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968. Charlton Heston stars in Planet of the Apes in that same year. Audiences were beginning to look at science fiction a bit differently. Maybe it could be a serious platform to deliver poignant reflections on humanity and society. Perhaps it wasn’t just a genre for daydreaming adolescents.

But then came Barbarella. The special effects may have looked flashy but they lacked imagination and artistic vision. Fonda’s sex appeal was exploited for the sake of exciting the younger pubescent audience. Substance and story substitute for cheap thrills and lost meandering in a hyper-sexualized glittery environment. It makes no attempt at delivering any redeeming contributions of social or artistic value.

It is a mess – and in many ways, it is a slap in the face. For those that try so hard to bring science fiction into the mainstream.

Even Jane Fonda knew that it had missed the mark. In her memoir, she notes that it can be a ‘strong, feminist move’ for her but it feels short.

80s Pop Band Duran Duran Borrowed Their Name From The Film

Barbarella is tasked with finding Dr. Durand Durand and bringing him back to earth. But the Doctor has plans of his own. He is the villainous operator of the excessive pleasure machine. It’s an execution device that he places our voluptuous protagonists into with the intent of killing her for sexual pleasure. She overheats the machine – essentially out-sexing it – and emerges refreshed and enlivened.

Durand has no interest in coming back to earth with Barbarella. He’s too preoccupied with seizing control of Sogo from the Black Queen – played by Anita Pallenberg

Alice Cooper’s Look Is Inspired By The Film As Well

The aesthetic look of Vincent Furnier, aka Alice Cooper, inspires by Barbarella. It isn’t the titular character’s appearance that captures the band’s imagination. It is the Black Queen that catches their eye.

Anita Pallenberg wore long black leather gloves with switchblades that extended from them. Alice knew that he had to adopt that bit into his wardrobe. In addition to borrowing from Barbarella, Alice Cooper also cites Emma Peel from The Avengers and Bette Davis from the 1962 horror film Whatever Happened to Baby Jane as inspiration for his singature look.

Based On A Comic Book Character

Barbarella was based on a comic book series that was created by French artist Jean-Claude Forest. It was first serialized in the French men’s magazine V in 1962. The comic attempts to capture the sexual revolution that is happening through the lens of a science-fiction superhero.

The comic strip was collected into a stand-alone book in 1964 and subsequently created a bit of controversy by conservative critics that deemed the book’s erotic material to be offensive.

Jeane-Claude Forest passed away in 1998.

Hey, quick side-note, if you’re enjoying this video so far make sure you give it a like and subscribe to our channel and keep watching to find out what other sultry films Jane Fonda got naked for. Vi

Forest Had Brigitte Bardot In Mind

When designing his comic book’s sex-kitten heroine, Jean-Claude Forest drew upon French actress and sex symbol Brigitte Bardot for inspiration. In fact, she was such a universal symbol of sex appeal in her day tha it would have been difficult for a French artist at the time to conjure up a hedonistic, pleasure-seeking, sensual character without incorporating some elements reminiscent of Bardot.

When director Roger Vadim and producer Dino De Laurentis was casting for Barbella, they initially didn’t have Vadim’s wife in mind. Their first pick was actually Bardot. Some other names on their list included Italian’s Vima Lisi and Sophia Loren. Raquel Welch was also offered the role but she decided to pass on the film as well. She went on to star in Myra Breckinridge – another sexploitation film that is known for being just as bad as Barbarella.

Jane Fonda Dubbed Herself

When films are dubbed for international audiences, typically another actor is brought into the studio to record dialogue for other regions. Jane Fonda is actually fluent in French, so for the french release, she dubbed her own voice.

There Was Almost A Sequel

Even though the film did poorly at the box office and was met with rather dismal reviews, there were talks to make a sequel or reboot film for years.

The first proposed sequel was planned in late 1968. Robert Evans suggested that the second film would be called Barbarella Goes Down and would have the title character diving into some kind of undersea adventure. Jane Fonda’s daughter was even suggested as the main star.

Even though that project never got off the ground, Vadim spent a great bit of his life trying to get a sequel to the film made, but he died in 2000 without seeing his dream come true.

Sin City director Robert Rodriguez also discussed remaking the film in the early 2000s, but when the budget exceeded $80 million, Universal Studios withdrew from talks.

In 2012, rumors began circulating that a TV series based on the film was in the works buy by 2016, the project had been abandoned.

The Epitome Of Jane Fonda’s Sex-Kitten Phase

Fonda is a woman of many different faces. Throughout her career, she has had so many different looks and phases. In 1968 she was going through her sex-kitten phase. She had starred in a number of risque films that helped her earn that reputation. One of those films was La Ronde which was also directed by Vadim, In the film, she appeared in a nude scene and that image was used in posters and promotional material for the film. The image was even slapped across the side of a large building in Times Square.

Jane Fonda also did a nude scene in the film The Game is Over – also directed by Vadim – and leaked photos from the film’s production were published in Playboy.

Buck Henry Missed Out On All The Orgies

Jane Fonda and her husband Roger Vadim rented a villa right outside of Rome while filming the movie. They would often have over guests in the evenings where rumor has it, Fonda and Vaidm along with celebrities like Gore Vidal, Joan Baez, and others would engage in wild drug-fueled orgies.

Buck Henry, who was writing the screenplay for Catch-22 at the time told Vanity Fair that he stopped by to see what all the hype was about but when he got there he couldn’t keep his eyes off Jane. To him, she was unobtainable. She was beautiful and sexy but he wasn’t invited to engage in any ‘festivities’

So whether or not the rumors are true, we might not ever know – but one thing is for sure, Jane Fonda was destined to be a movie star.

Barbarella certainly Is a polarizing film. It certainly has received its fair share of scathing reviews but to this day something about it continues to lure in curious viewers.

Are you a fan of Barbarella or are you in the camp of people that think that it’s a giant pile of sequin-studded glistening intergalactic garbage​? Let us know what you think in the comments section.

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