Barbarella (Jane Fonda) is on a 41st century mission to stop the evil scientist Durand Durand (Milo O’Shea). Yes, this is where Duran Duran got their name. And possibly their hairstyles.
Barbarella blasts off with one of the breast – sorry – best opening scenes of all time, in which Fonda undresses upside-down. That’s good filmmaking. She then jets across the galaxy in her Yellow Submarine-style spacecraft having a variety of sexcapades, which combine psychedelia with sexploitation. Psexploitation, if you will.
Based on a French comic, this 1968 sci-fi comedy captures the ’60s zeitgeist through its lava lamp visuals, poppy psychedelic soundtrack and sexually liberated heroine. She’s like James Bond with bigger boobs – with the possible exception of Daniel Craig. Fonda is charmingly clumsy as the sexiest spaceship captain since James T. Kirk, hardly wearing a selection of stunning costumes designed by Paco Rabanne. Hilariously, they’re destroyed in every scene as nakedly blatant excuses to have more costume changes than a Cher concert.
As well as boasting wonderfully colourful production design, Barbarella is notably progressive. Hedonism and fetishism are given an equal crack of the whip, thanks to the movie’s space-age hookahs and hookers, Leather Men and of course the Orgasmostron. It’s like Woody Allen’s Sleeper on acid, or Alice in Wonderland in Space. With its hookah-smoking caterpillar and proportion-altering mushrooms, Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel found a renewed place in ’60s culture. I think it officially replaced the Bible in San Francisco.
Whether you’re interested in the ’60s or kitsch sex comedy, Barbarella has something for everyone; an acid trip, a space opera and a sex fantasy all rolled into one very funny adventure – even funnier if you imagine they’re talking about Duran Duran throughout the film.
With its eye-popping sets, pansexual characters and laugh-out-loud comedy, Barbarella is campy fun and completely nuts – and like the magazine, it has its share of topless women. It may be mad as a box of space frogs, but it’s easy to see why people are still Fonda this movie. It’s the tits. And the jokes, and the visuals.