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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 2/22/01

Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy
1968 (1999) - Paramount

review by Dan Kelly of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy

Film Rating: B

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B/D-

Specs and Features

98 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, film-themed menu screens, scene access (19 chapters), languages: English and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: none, Close Captioned

Barbarella is one of the big hallmarks of grade B cinema. It has everything drive-in fans have come to love - unnecessary nudity, low production values, absolutely horrible special effects, scary dolls with sharp teeth and horny old men with obscenely furry chests. The funny thing is, for the period this movie was made, it was relatively big-budgeted. You have to wonder, looking ahead to the award-winning films that Jane Fonda would go on to make, what made her choose this role. I don't know how she managed to walk through this movie and still look like she's taking it seriously. But she did... even while doing a zero-gravity strip routine. Needless to say, the film wouldn't be the same without her in the lead role.

Barbarella lives in the future, the year 40,000 to be exact. This is a future of peace, love, hallucinogenic drugs and shag-carpeted walls. Since she is a "five star, double rated, astronavigatrix," the president (of the world, universe, solar system?) enlists her help in locating Duran Duran, the inventor of the positronic ray. It seems that he was abducted and taken to Tau Ceti while on his way to the North Star.

The actual rescue of Duran Duran from Tau Ceti is not the centerpiece of the story in Barbarella, rather it is her journey there. She crash lands on a planet, where she uses her God-given assets to help her along. It's on Tau Ceti that she discovers the joys of lovemaking that employs actual human contact and not sensation through a pill. Later, she encounters Pygar, a winged man without sight who lost his ability to fly. She needs him to get to the city of Sago, which is high on a hill. Through the miracle of sex, the power of flight is restored in Pygar, and he helps her gain access to the city.

Barbarella is a fun movie, if you're not looking to answer the questions of the universe. It dwells too long in its campiness at times, and this really makes the movie drag out longer than it should. But if ever there were a movie of pure eye candy, this is it. The sets are a visual wonder unto themselves. The set designers obviously made no attempt to hide the fact that these are sound stages. If you thought the sets on the original Star Trek series were something, get a load of these. No words can express how kitschy, provocative and alluring the costumes are. Never has one person seemed so naked in a costume than Jane Fonda in this movie.

It saddens me (yes, I'm being dramatic) that they're considering remaking this movie with Drew Barrymore in the lead role. I hope the rumors are false. Drew's cute, likeable and she's shown her willingness to disrobe, but I think a role like Barbarella requires a higher level of... tackiness. I present to you my choice for the role of Barbarella - Samantha Fox. Okay, so she hasn't proven her acting ability any more than she has her singing ability, but let's make it a comeback vehicle for long-lost 80's pop stars. Or better yet, just don't remake it.

Paramount has prepared an adequate looking anamorphic transfer of Barbarella for this DVD. The print shows its age sometimes and exhibits some flaws (minor scratching) on the source print. But the color palette is broad and vibrant, and DVD is the perfect format in which to display it. Colors are solid with minimal bleed, but are prone to occasional artifacting. The mono sound mix gets the job done, but will not knock your socks off. All sound sources are intact, and dialogue is always clear and decisive, with no hissing, scratching or popping to which older soundtracks are prone.

The only extra on the DVD is the theatrical trailer, which is shown in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. It too is enhanced for widescreen sets - a nice touch. All things considered, the trailer is in pretty good shape. What's missing from this disc are subtitles. Paramount usually includes one or two sets of subtitles, but not so with this disc. It is Close Captioned, so if you really need to see the witty and winning dialogue, it's there.

Barbarella is definitely not for everyone. More than anything else, the movie is an excuse to laugh at the expense of others. It wasn't until I prepared to write this review that I actually paid attention to the plot, but that's not what matters in this movie. As far as camp value goes, it's almost near the top of the list with another classic from Paramount, Mommy Dearest. No other movie has provided as much inspiration for drag queens and go-go dancers as Barbarella. The inspiration could be just the reverse, but if cleavage, knee-high hooker boots, big hair and outrageous outfits are your cup of tea, by all means get this DVD. Either that... or make a trip to Dollywood.

Dan Kelly
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