A while back, I saw
Ed Wood's "Plan 9 From Outer Space" and came away thinking
how justified the claim of "Worst Movie Ever Made" was.
Everything about that film was bad, and it single handedly redefined
how wrong things could go when trying to tell an effective story.
However, my opinion of it changed after seeing "Barbarella."
Make no mistake; "Plan 9" is still awful. However, I eventually
came to see that, for all its shortcomings, it at least managed
to stay true to what it set out to accomplish: to give a social
statement in the guise of a science fiction story. Had the makers
of "Barbarella" even attempted to do this, it might have
been an enjoyable and campy romp.
Unfortunately, this was not the case. In my humble opinion, "Barbarella"
ranks right up there with "Plan 9," and not in the way
you might be thinking; at least the latter was so bad that it
was good. "Barbarella" was just plain bad, from the
very first frame to the last.
This erotic science fiction/fantasy-based on the stories of Jean-Claude
Forest is one of Jane Fonda's earliest film roles. Maybe she wanted
to get this film out of her system before tackling more serious,
or at the very least, less ridiculous projects. I would certainly
be embarrassed if I were in her place, especially since she has
gone on to become a highly respected actress (with a couple of
Academy Awards to show for it). In all likelihood, she was cast
only because she was at that time married to the director, Roger
Vadim. I suppose everyone has to start somewhere (but at least
it should be somewhere worthwhile).
The plot is simple, if even relevant. In the incredibly distant
future, Barbarella, the "Queen of the Galaxy," is recruited
to track down the brilliant earth scientist, Durand Durand (Milo
O'Shea), and recover a secret weapon of his design. During her
quest, she crash-lands on a planet ruled by the Great Tyrant (Anita
Pallenberg), a dominatrix type woman who constantly refers to
Barbarella as "Pretty, Pretty." Barbarella also meets
Pygar, a blind angel played by John Phillip Law (who was obviously
picked for his looks rather than his talent). From there, it goes
from one silly, half naked escapade to the next, culminating in
an ending so excruciatingly ill-conceived, it's not even funny.