|Directed By||Roger Vadim|
|Genre||Erotic science fiction|
|Duran Duran related|
Barbarella is a 1968 erotic science fiction film directed by Roger Vadim and based on the French Barbarella comics from Jean-Claude Forest. Duran Duran took their name from the mad scientist Dr. Durand Durand, a character in the film.
Plot[edit | edit source]
Set in the 40th century, Barbarella follows the adventures of its title character played by Jane Fonda. In the film, Barbarella is assigned by the President of Earth to retrieve Doctor Durand Durand from the planet So Go in order to save the earth. Beyond this premise, the plot is very loose, serving mostly as an excuse for Barbarella to end up in erotic situations. On her quest to find Durand Durand, Barbarella is seduced by a human resident of SoGo, who introduces her to penetrative intercourse (civilized people of Barbarella's society find sexual release through pharmaceuticals), seduces an angel named Pygar, and overloads a torture device (called the Excessive Machine) which kills through sexual pleasure.
Style[edit | edit source]
Barbarella is famous for a sequence in which the title character, played by Jane Fonda, undresses in zero gravity during the opening credits.
The whole film is played in a tongue-in-cheek manner;especially when it comes to the frequent (but not explicit) sex scenes. The most controversial of those scenes involves Barbarella being tortured by the use of a piano-like instrument that delivers sexual pleasure in doses that can be lethal, although Barbarella survives the ordeal and is visibly disappointed when it is discovered she has overloaded the machine.
The film was simultaneously shot in French and English. Some characters' lines were performed by the same actors in both languages; others were not:
- In the French version, Fonda performs her own lines in French.
- Marcel Marceau's lines are dubbed into English.
De Laurentiis returned to camp science fiction (but with far less erotica) with 1980s Flash Gordon.
Cast[edit | edit source]
- Jane Fonda as Barbarella
- John Phillip Law as Pygar, the angel
- Susan Berg as The Great Tyrant (in at least one version of "Barbarella")
- Anita Pallenberg as The Great Tyrant, Black Queen of Sogo (voiced dubbed by Joan Greenwood)
- Milo O'Shea as Durand-Durand
- Marcel Marceau as Professor Ping
- David Hemmings as Dildano
- Claude Dauphin as President Dianthus of Earth
- Ugo Tognazzi as Mark Hand
Reception and influences[edit | edit source]
The film was both a box office and critical failure on its release. 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." Another major critic at the time claimed the film was a "mix of poor special effects and the Marquis de Sade."However, it has gained a cult following since its re-release in 1977 on home video, and has had considerable influence on pop and film culture in the decades following its original release. Jane Fonda has subsequently lamented the fact that she turned down starring roles in two major hit films, Bonnie and Clyde and Rosemary's Baby to stay in France and star in Barbarella, which was being directed by her then husband Roger Vadim.
Sound track[edit | edit source]
The film's score was also popular and obtained a cult following. The music was composed by Bob Crewe and Charles Fox. During his first European tour in 1967 Frank Zappa flew from Copenhagen to Italy to meet Vadim and Fonda in order to discuss the possibility of him composing the music for the film. It never happened, but Frank Zappa remained faithful to his love for sci-fi, and composed several tributes to the genre.
Music[edit | edit source]
In the world of comics, the manga artists collectively known as CLAMP parodied Barbarella in one chapter of their Miyuki-chan in Wonderland, the chapter titled TV no Kuni no Miyuki-chan (Miyuki-chan in TV Land) shows several of the characters (including some female versions) trying to seduce the main character. The manga contains heavy lesbian overtones.
In episode 1 of the anime F3: Frantic, Frustrated & Female, Hiroe finds herself strapped to a chair by a mad scientist in order to test out a sex machine, parodying Barbarella's situation with Durand Durand.
Duran Duran[edit | edit source]
The band Duran Duran takes its name from the mad scientist Dr. Durand Durand. O'Shea repaid the compliment by appearing (as an older version of Durand Durand) in Arena (An Absurd Notion), the band's 1985 concert film. (Though the Arena DVD subtitles spell the villain's name as "Duran Duran".)
Some of the band's early appearances were at a nightclub called Barbarella's, in their home town of Birmingham, England. The band has continually used sound clips from the film in their songs, most notably 1989's "Burning The Ground" and the remixes for 1990's "Violence of Summer (Love's Taking Over)". The band continued the homage to its roots with their 1997 US single, "Electric Barbarella" (released in the UK in 1998).
1980's[edit | edit source]
- When the 1980s girl group Fuzzbox could not get permission to use the Thunderbirds of the British TV series for their song International Rescue. They spoofed Barbarella with Adrian Edmondson playing the Durand Durand character. They also featured their faithful cover version of the theme song on the single's B-side.
- The American pop band The Bongos recorded a song called "Barbarella" on their RCA EP "Numbers With Wings". It became a college radio favorite and dancefloor hit in 1983.
Popular culture[edit | edit source]
Another famous singer to use the iconography of Barbarella in a pop video was Kylie Minogue who recreated the infamous zero-gravity strip-tease in her award winning 1994 video for "Put Yourself in My Place". It was again recreated in the European video for Jem's 2005 single "They".
In 1998, front man Scott Weiland of the bands Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver released a solo album entitled 12 Bar Blues. The hit song from that album which spawned a music video was titled "Barbarella". The lyrics of the song pay homage to several science fiction television shows and movies.
The band Matmos takes its name from the underground fluid creature in the film.
The Finnish rock band The 69 Eyes also recorded a song called "Barbarella" released in Bump 'n' Grind album in 1992. The song's intro starts with Barbarella speaking; that was taken from the original movie.
The psychedelic "blob" patterns that form much of the special effects in the film are created using an oil wheel projector, a popular visual effects device also used in many other '60s movies, as well as in many anti-drug educational films.
Remake[edit | edit source]
A remake of Barbarella is planned. It will be penned by current James Bond writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, and produced by Dino and Martha De Laurentiis. It was recently announced that Sin City director Robert Rodriguez is slated to direct the remake for Universal Studios. The remake of Barbarella was originally planned in the 1990s with Roger Vadim as director, and actresses Sherilyn Fenn and Drew Barrymore were considered for the title role. As of May 2007, it was announced that actress Erica Durance of the WB's Smallville was a front-runner for a 2008 remake. However, subsequent reports have identified British actress Sienna Miller as the favorite to take the role, along with Rodriguez's Grindhouse star Rose McGowan. According to Elle magazine, McGowan has been cast in the title role.
According to the New York Observer, Universal Studios has backed out of funding the movie because of Rodriguez's insistence to cast McGowan in the title role. Executives reportedly do not think that she can carry a movie with a budget close to $100 million. Once Universal learned of Rodriguez's decision to cast McGowan they slashed the budget significantly. Rodriguez denies this, saying, "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." The filmmaker is currently shopping the project around to other studios in the hopes of getting more money. He has cited the fact that most of the movie takes place in outer space as the reason for the rise in budget, and that "we don’t want the movie to look like the original."
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