Barbarella (film)

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French theatrical poster
Directed by Roger Vadim
Produced by Dino De Laurentiis
Written by Vittorio Bonicelli
Clement Biddle Wood
Brian Degas
Tudor Gates
Screenplay by Terry Southern
Roger Vadim
Based on Barbarella 
by Jean-Claude Forest
Starring Jane Fonda
Music by Maurice Jarre (score)
Bob Crewe & Charles Fox (songs)[1]
Cinematography Claude Renoir
Editing by Victoria Mercanton
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • 18 October 1968 (1968-10-18) (Italy)
  • 25 October 1968 (1968-10-25) (France)
Running time 98 minutes
Country France
Language French
Budget $9 million[2]

Barbarella is a 1968 French-Italian science fiction film based on Jean-Claude Forest's French Barbarella comics. The film stars Jane Fonda in the title role and was directed by Roger Vadim, who was Fonda's husband at the time.

The film was not popular at its release, but received greater attention afterward with a 1977 re-release. It has since become a cult film.


In an unspecified future (the video release states it is the year 40,000), Barbarella (Jane Fonda) is assigned by the President of Earth (Claude Dauphin) to retrieve Doctor Durand Durand (Milo O'Shea) from the Tau Ceti region. Durand Durand is the inventor of the Positronic Ray, a weapon. Earth is now a peaceful planet, and weapons are unheard of. Because Tau Ceti is an unknown region of space there is the potential for the weapon to fall into the wrong hands. Donning the first of many outfits, Barbarella sets out to find the missing scientist. She crashes on the 16th planet of Tau Ceti, on an icy plain.

Barbarella is soon knocked unconscious by two mysterious girls who hit her on the forehead with a snowball and then capture her. Barbarella is taken to the wreckage of a spaceship called the Alpha 1. Inside the wreckage, she is tied up and several children emerge from within the ship. They set out several dolls which have razor sharp teeth. As the dolls begin to bite her, Barbarella faints but is rescued by Mark Hand (Ugo Tognazzi), the Catchman, who patrols the ice looking for errant children.

While taking her back to her ship, Barbarella offers to reward Mark and he asks to make love to her. She reveals that people on Earth no longer have penetrative intercourse, but make love by consuming exaltation transference pills, and pressing their palms together when their "psychocardiograms are in perfect harmony". Hand prefers the bed, and Barbarella agrees. Hand's vessel makes long loops around Barbarella's crashed vessel while the two make love, and when it finally comes to a stop, Barbarella is blissfully humming. Hand repairs her ship, and Barbarella departs, promising to return, and agreeing that doing things the old-fashioned way is sometimes best.

Barbarella's ship burrows through the planet, coming out next to a vast labyrinth. Upon emerging from her ship, she is knocked unconscious by a rockslide. She is found by a blind angel named Pygar (John Phillip Law). He states he is the last of the ornithanthropes, and that he has lost the will to fly. Barbarella discovers the labyrinth is a prison for people cast out of Sogo, the City of Night. Pygar introduces her to Professor Ping (Marcel Marceau), who offers to repair her ship. Ping also notes that Pygar is capable of flight, but merely lacks the will.

After Pygar saves her from the Black Guards, Barbarella shows her thanks by making love to him. As she hums to herself in his nest afterwards, Pygar soars overhead, having regained his will to fly. Pygar flies Barbarella to Sogo, using some of the weaponry she brought with her to destroy the city's guards. Sogo is a decadent city ruled over by the Great Tyrant and powered by a liquid essence of evil called the Mathmos.

Barbarella is briefly separated from Pygar, and meets a one-eyed wench (Anita Pallenberg) who saves her from being assaulted by two of Sogo's residents. Barbarella soon reunites with Pygar and the two are taken by the Concierge (Milo O'Shea) to meet the Great Tyrant (Van Pallengerg again). Pygar is left to become the Great Tyrant's plaything, while Barbarella is placed in a cage, to be pecked to death by birds (something Barbarella says is "much too poetic a way to die").

Barbarella is rescued by Dildano (David Hemmings), leader of the resistance to the Great Tyrant. Barbarella eagerly offers to reward him. As she begins to remove her torn suit, Dildano says he has the pill, and wants to experience love the Earth way. Dildano offers to help Barbarella find Durand Durand in exchange for her help in deposing the Great Tyrant. Barbarella is given an invisible key to the Tyrant's Chamber of Dreams, the only place she is vulnerable.

Barbarella is captured by the Concierge and she is placed inside the Excessive Machine. As the Concierge begins to play, Barbarella experiences increasing pleasure, and her clothing is expelled from the machine. The Concierge tells her when they reach the crescendo, she will die of pleasure. He then begins to play faster and more furiously, while Barbarella writhes in ecstasy inside the machine. Eventually, the machine overloads and burns out, unable to keep up with her. Barbarella then discovers the Concierge is none other than Durand Durand, aged thirty years due to the Mathmos.

Durand Durand traps Barbarella in the Tyrant's Chamber of Dreams, taking both keys and locking them inside. As he prepares to crown himself lord of Sogo, Dildano launches his revolution. Durand Durand uses his Positronic Ray to decimate the rebels. The Great Tyrant then releases the Mathmos, which consumes all of Sogo and Durand Durand with it. Barbarella and the Great Tyrant are protected from the Mathmos by Barbarella's innate goodness. They emerge from the Mathmos to find Pygar. Pygar then flies Barbarella and the Tyrant away from the Mathmos. When asked by Barbarella why he saved the Tyrant after everything she had done to him, Pygar responds, "An angel has no memory."


Fonda as Barbarella in the Excessive Machine


The film was both a box office and critical failure on its release.[3] Variety's review stated that "Despite a certain amount of production dash and polish and a few silly-funny lines of dialogue, Barbarella isn't very much of a film. Based on what has been called an adult comic strip, the Dino De Laurentiis production is flawed with a cast that is not particularly adept at comedy, a flat script, and direction which can't get this beached whale afloat."[4] Despite this, in the years since its initial release, Barbarella has become a cult film.[3] After the blockbuster success of Star Wars, Barbarella's original "Suggested for Mature Audiences" theatrical version was re-edited to remove or mask any nudity, and re-released in 1977 with a PG rating and advertised as "Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy"; the re-release found a bigger audience.[citation needed]. The film has garnered a 74% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[5]

The film earned $2.5 million in North American theatre rentals in 1968.[6]


A remake of Barbarella has been planned for years, starting soon after plans for a sequel with Fonda fell through in the mid to late 1970s. Original screenplay writer Roger Vadim said that he would be open to making a sequel with actresses Sherilyn Fenn or Drew Barrymore in the title role, but nothing came of it.[7]

The most serious planning of the long proposed remake began in early 2008. This remake would have been produced and released by Universal Studios, with one time James Bond screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade penning the script, and Dino and Martha De Laurentiis heading as producers.[8]

Sin City director Robert Rodriguez was soon after announced as the slated director for the remake.[9] Early candidates for the role of Barbarella were actresses Erica Durance of the WB's Smallville, Sienna Miller, and Rodriguez's Grindhouse star Rose McGowan. Later news articles confirmed that McGowan had been cast as the title role.[10] Universal Studios eventually backed out of the movie with some news sources speculating that it was due to studio executives doubting McGowan's ability to carry a big budget movie and that the studio had slashed the budget after learning of McGowan winning the role. Rodriguez denied this, stating, "Universal had initially signed on for $60 million, but then when we were done with the script it wound up at closer to $82 million."[11][unreliable source?]

Due to Universal insisting on lowering the cost of the film and on recasting the role of Barbarella, Rodriguez shopped the remake to other studios in the hopes of gaining a larger budget allowance and retaining McGowan as Barbarella. Rodriguez has stated that the large budget needs stem from the fact that the majority of the movie takes place in outer space, and that "we don’t want the movie to look like the original."[12] Rodriguez said he abandoned the project in May 2009 after he turned down a $70 million budget that required shooting in Germany. Expressing regret for the undone film, he thought he could not be away from his five children for as long as it would take if shot in Germany.[13]

Although later news articles would attach director Robert Luketic to the project,[14] the film had not met its projected release date of summer 2010 and there are no active plans to produce the film.

Director Nicolas Winding Refn is currently attached to the project.

Video Releases[edit]

Barbarella was first released for the home video market on VHS, Betamax, CED disc, and Laserdisc. The early video releases are the "Queen of the Galaxy" 1977 edit. Later video release versions on VHS, Laserdisc (Widescreen version), DVD and Blu-ray disc, although using the 1977 artwork, the "Queen of the Galaxy" name, and the 'PG' rating on the packaging, the film in those releases is the original 1968 version.

The DVD and Blu-Ray releases currently available are identical, featuring the film and the 1968 theatrical trailer as the disc's only bonus feature.

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Music" on the website
  2. ^ "Barbarella". The Numbers. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d Akbar, Arifa (2 December 2012). "Barbarella, the queen of cult sci-fi, is reborn for the 21st century". Irish Independent. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  4. ^ "Barbarella – Queen of the Galaxy (France – Italy)". Variety. 1 January 1968. Retrieved 17 May 2008. 
  5. ^ "Barbarella Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 24 December 2010. 
  6. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1968", Variety, 8 January 1969 p 15. Please note this figure is a rental accruing to distributors.
  7. ^ "Barbarella". Archived from the original on 7 March 2009. Retrieved 30 May 2012. 
  8. ^ Fleming, Michael (11 April 2007). "'Barbarella' back in action". Variety. Retrieved 17 May 2008. 
  9. ^ "Robert Rodriguez to Direct Barbarella". 22 May 2007. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  10. ^ ELLE (30 September 2007). "Breaking News". Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  11. ^ Matt Holmes (18 October 2007). "Universal not Fonda of Rose as BARBARELLA". Retrieved 30 May 2012. 
  12. ^ Morgan, Spencer (16 October 2007). "Barbar-hella! Robert Rodriguez Is Fonda of Rose McGowan in Queen of the Galaxy Role, But Universal Winces". New York Observer. Archived from the original on 19 October 2007. Retrieved 17 October 2007. 
  13. ^ "Robert Rodriguez scraps Barbarella remake". Sampun Wire. 7 May 2009. Retrieved 13 August 2010. 
  14. ^ Wendy Mitchell (6 August 2009). "New 'Barbarella' expected to be sexy but less campy". Time Inc. Retrieved 13 August 2010. 

External links[edit]