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Viking Night: Barbarella

By Bruce Hall

July 5, 2011

You just can't buy cool jumpsuits like that anymore.

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I owe all seven of my faithful readers an apology. This is not supposed to be Mystery Science Theater 3000, but three out of the last four weeks it’s kind of worked out that way. But sometimes that’s the deal with cult movies. These are films known by many, but often loved only by a strange and devoted few. But just as with people, the quantity of love you get isn’t nearly as important as the quality, and in that regard movies and people aren’t really all that different. Good, bad or in between, you can always find someone somewhere who loves them - and trying to figure out why is what we do here at Viking Night. It’s not easy to sit through everything but it’s almost always fun - even the worst movies contain something of value so while I can’t always recommend what I see, I almost always come away with a degree of understanding.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to understand much of anything about Barbarella. This is one of the most unique and visually unforgettable adventures you will ever see, and yet it’s propelled by one of the most uniquely forgettable stories ever written. And it revolves around one of the most spurious cinematic characters ever created. That’s kind of a shame, because the movie is actually peppered with some pretty cool ideas, and Jane Fonda really does somehow rise above it all. It’s not a “bad” film so much as it is a one of a kind product of its time, a shagadelic calling card from a place and time now as alien as the very depths space itself. More important, it’s (technically) the first feature film based on a graphic novel and like many such things, it is a love letter from a talented nerd to a woman who doesn’t, and couldn’t possibly EVER exist.




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Barbarella *the movie* is based on a series of comics first published in the early '60s, about a futuristic space explorer who travels the galaxy in a spectacularly plush starship encountering one lusty, madcap adventure after another. Our title character is commissioned by the President of Earth to locate a missing (and completely insane) scientist named Durand Durand. Durand is in possession of a devastating experimental weapon that could plunge the galaxy into war, wiping away thousands of years of universal harmony in one stroke. So, Barbarella is instructed to use her “incomparable talents” to find Durand and retrieve the weapon before it’s too late. She tracks the wayward researcher to the Tau Ceti system, where her ship crashes following an unusually sexy malfunction. For some inconceivable reason, Barbarella is immediately attacked by a group of feral children armed with metal, fanged, animatronic dolls. She is rescued by a hairy guy in a land yacht who forces her into sex in exchange for fixing her ship - which immediately crashes again after he leaves. I know, it sounds like a raw deal. But the hirsute grifter has taken the girl’s virginity, opening up a whole new world of possibilities in her mind.


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