Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Review of Barbarella on Blu-Ray

Barbarella, Queen of the Galaxy

Blu-Ray Review

It's a wonder, Wonder woman
You're so wild and wonderful
'Cause it seems whenever we're together
The planets all stand still

But first,
In the beginning God created the restrictive Hays code for movies. Well, it wasn’t in the beginning, but the Hays Code was instituted in 1934 and, like the Comics Code which was modeled after it, highly censored movies. It didn’t just limit sex, profanity and violence, but the type of stories the studios could tell.

By 1968, the incredible success of TV, now in virtually every home, the movie industry began to suffer. They could no longer just put out a product people could see for free and home. They had to be widescreen and in color and they had to show things that you could not see at home. Movies such as Blow-Up and The Pawnbroker were showing that the Hayes system, if continued, would bankrupt the industry. So it had to change.

Coupled with the break-up of the studio monopoly system in the late fifties and the loss of total censorship the studios were looking for new ways to make movies and the 1960s was a very creative era. But it’s new ratings system, first “G, M, R and X” would go through a lot of changes too.  In fact it was far more lenient then than it is today.  In fact, Barbarella, a film about the search for sex and reasons to be nude was rated PG and was a part of a new wave of movies.

Barbarella psychadela
There's a kind of cockle-shell about you
(Barbarella Ba-ba-barbarella)
Dazzle me with rainbow colors
Fade away the duller shade of living

I did see the movie in 1968. Being a fan of comics, and knowing Barbarella was based on a French comic, I went for the same reason every comic book loving guy went, to see Jane Fonda naked. Seeing any women naked on the big screen was rare then, but it got better.  45 years later it is still the highlight of the movie and, perhaps, the only reason to want to see it. This is not, however, the version I saw all those years ago. I cannot tell you if this is the European or uncut version, but there is much more nudity here than on its initial American release.

The movie opens with Fonda in a big, bulky spacesuit doing a striptease to a great opening soundtrack. This is the only time in the movie that she will wear a practical spacesuit. She will have several tight fighting costume changes throughout.  Barbarella is given a mission by the leader of Earth, to find Duran Duran (played by Milo O’Shea Milo O’Shea) on the planet Tau Ceti. He has developed a weapon, in a universe of universal piece. Once there, Barbie is routinely captured by men and women who want to make love to her. Her ally is an angel played by John Phillip Law and they routinely save each other. She is often attacked by dolls and birds, which bite the heck out of her and she does nothing. It’s weird, but she heals quickly!

Get me up high, teach me to fly
Electrify my life with starry lights
Above the stratosphre, bring your dearness near
Till the dawn comes tumbling down
(Don't make a sound--shhh)
Every word we need comes from the sky
Can't you read my eyes saying "love"

Now, the illogic here is that everywhere she goes there are weapons and she even carries one! So what makes this weapon so special? It the Positronic Ray! Duran Duran must have been reading Ray Bradbury stories.

The  was released the same year as 2001: A Space Odyssey and was just a couple of years away from the Star Trek show.  But the bad and cheap special effects, along with the shallow and silly plot and really bad dialogue make it closer to the original Flash Gordon serials.  The angel flew with those 1936 special effects, with obvious blue screen background.  Nothing was convincing and, after the opening sequence, nothing was very pretty. Again, except for the sex, everything here could have been out of the Flash Gordon serial.

This comes out very strongly on the Blu-Ray. The actual picture here never looked better, there were great skin tones and all the scenery looked accurate.  So it looked real cheesy, and, for me, after the half hour, not in a fun sort of way. There was less here than meets the eye.  The soundtrack was monaural, but sounded fine. I liked the soundtrack better than the movie.  Sadly, other than trailers there were no bonus features.

Not fun, I'd give this disc a D

Woah you give me a cold shoulder
Still I'm dyin' girl to hold you and make love
Barbarella psychadela
Never can a fella name or call you
(Barbarella Ba-ba-barbarella)

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