Barbarella: The Silly, Sexy, and Sci Fi Side of the Sixties

Posted by Michael Pinto on Oct 10, 2009 in Cinema, Comic Books |

Barbarella poster from the 60s

On this day in 1968 the French erotic science fiction film Barbarella was released in the United States. The film failed on pretty much every level as the critics hated it and it made no money at the box office, however thanks to the wonders of home video Barbarella became a cult hit in 1977 when it was re-released.

Barbarella: An autographed photo of Jane Fonda

What makes the film unique to me is that it’s the first film that tries to put together sex with science fiction, and while it fails on a number of levels (like the flat attempt at humor in the film) the campy awkward quality of it makes it somehow endearing and even charming. I think it’s for that reason that there has been talk of remaking it in recent years, and in a post-modern cinematic era we seem to appreciate camp just a little bit more as an art form.

Barbarella started life as a Comic Book

Although I think the core magic of the film owes a great deal to the innovative French comic book by the same name. Created by Jean-Claude Forest Barbarella first got started in 1962 which all ready makes it very ahead of its time as it pre-dated the sexual revolution.

Jane Fonda as Barbarella featured on the cover of Penthouse

Of course just six years later when the film came out the world had changed, or at least on the surface it seemed to have changed. It’s important to keep in mind that while a small group of hippies was rediscovering “free love” in the 60s that America was still quite a conservative country which was best represented by the notorious Nixon phrase “the silent majority” which captured the other side of the era. However by the disco days of 1977 that initial splash from the 60s had rippled out into every corner of suburbia.

A Japanese Poster for Barbarella

In my own humble opinion in the right hands a remake of Barbarella could be an amazing film. Imagine if you would an an animated anime film from Japan based upon a French comic book? Or think of the fun that a director like Luc Besson (who did The Fifth Element) might have with a classic story like Barbarella. Of course this is best case thinking, the sad reality is that in the wrong hands Hollywood could easily ruin what might make a remake so cool by playing it too safe. If that’s the case I’ll gladly cherish the 1968 campy original:

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