Barbarella (film)

Barbarella is a 1968 erotic sci-fi film directed by Roger Vadim and based on the French Barbarella comics from Jean-Claude Forest.


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 non-explicit) sex scenes. The most controversial of those scenes involves Barbarella being "tortured" by use of a machine that gives sexual pleasure in doses that can be lethal.

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 also dubbed into English.

De Laurentiis returned to camp science fiction (but with far less erotica) with 1980's Flash Gordon.


Reception and influence

The film was both a box office and critical failure on its release, but now it is considered to be both imaginative and influential. Variety claimed 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 [by Jean Claude Forest], 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. Movies including Austin Powers and Conan the Barbarian can be seen as being influenced by the film.



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.


One of the film's biggest realms of influence has been on the world of music. 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 2008 the indie pop singer Lights made a Barbarella-themed music video for her song "Drive My Soul".

A company in the UK sells lava lamps and oil projectors under the name Mathmos.

From 1984 to 2002, a nightclub located in downtown Orlando, Florida was called Barbarella, inspired by the film.

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, one of the most influential British acts of the 1980s, took their name from Barbarella character Durand Durand. They have frequently referenced the movie and character (see below).
  • When the 1980s girl group Fuzzbox could not get permission to use Thunderbirds 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.
  • In 1989, synthpop duo Erasure sampled dialog from the movie on the single B-side release of "Drama!" (from the album "Wild!") called "Sweet Sweet Baby."


In 1992, Techno producers Sven Väth and Ralf Hildenbeutel recorded an album entitled The Art of Dance under the alias Barbarella. The singles from this album, a few of which were very popular among electronic music enthusiasts, took their inspiration from the film, and included titles such as The Future, The Spaceship, The Mission, and The Secret Chamber of Dreams, as well as 5 tracks that were named for some variation on the name Barbarella.

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.

The British band Jamiroquai also mentions a "baby Barbarella" in their hit 1996 song Cosmic Girl.

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 (as does the lava lamp manufacturer Mathmos).

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.

Duran Duran

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, 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". The band continued the homage to its roots with their 1997 US single, "Electric Barbarella" (released in the UK in 1998).

Stephen Duffy, an original member of Duran Duran, released a solo song titled "Barbarellas" on his 1998 I Love My Friends album.


Rock-funk artist Prince also has a history of referencing and being inspired by the film Barbarella. His song Endorphin Machine from The Gold Experience album clearly relates to the sexual torture machine Durand Durand uses on Barbarella in the movie. There are even sketches of the Endorphin Machine showing it to be nearly identical to the device in the movie. His Love Symbol album contains between song segues about the adventures of a reporter (played by Kirstie Alley) trying to interview Prince. In one such segment his voice is distorted; he explains he is using a "tongue box", a device found in Barbarella (which is mentioned by name). Also, his band "The New Power Generation" contained for many years a keyboard player who used the pseudonym "Tommy Barbarella", which was certainly approved of by, and probably chosen by, Prince himself.

Special effects

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.


A remake of Barbarella is currently being 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."

See also


External links

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