Thursday, April 9, 2015

Female Comic Strip Character Movie No. 7: BARBARELLA

This is one of the post for this series that I have kind of dreaded, partly because 1) I've had to find time to watch this on a VHS tape I bought years ago 2) I know I'm going to get hate mail from trolls. IF YOUR COMMENT IS NOT ABOUT COMPARING THIS FILM TO THE ORIGINAL COMIC STRIP, IT WILL NOT GET POSTED.

Barbarella is the 1968 adaption of French artist Jean-Claude Forest's (above) famous, erotic, science fiction, comic strip about a sexually liberated female ingenue, who travels the galaxy trying to save the world. The comic strip appeared in 1962. It was later translated into several languages due to the controversy surrounding it. The English translation were sold through Playboy magazine. In all, Forest drew four graphic novels from 1962 to 1982.

Watching this film and looking at the various examples online, I find this film is the opposite of the problem I had with the Friday Foster movie adaption. Friday Foster was a family friendly comic strip turned into a sexually explicit, black exploitation film. The problem with Barbarella is there isn't enough sex to be a competent adaptation of the comic. Jean Claude Forest's original Barbarella strip it is loaded with bare breasts and hairy vaginas. Let's be honest, Jean Claude Forest draws a moist vagina like nobody can. This movie is almost family-friendly. In 1977, after Star Wars was released, this movie was re-released again in an edited PG version. The video versions have always been the original unedited film. Watching it now, I don't know what was edited out to make it PG, because this is almost a G rated film at times.

One thing that I should point out is that this movie over years has become a cult film.  It has its detractors, for the wrong reason and often by people who never watched it. It should be noted that even the stars hated this movie. Jane Fonda hates it, Marcel Marceau hated it, John Philip-Law hated it, David Hemings hated it. Basically everybody that was involved with it hated it later.

If you ever look at the post on Flashbak by Yeoman Lowbrow or Gilligan Newton-John on Retrospace, you'll notice he's also pointed out that the directors have a unique way of covering up the nudity and that's true. In the opening sequence, they use the opening credits and later on a cluster of rayguns. There isn't enough nudity in this movie!

Barbarella is attacked by children with snowball and dolls with razor teeth
Barbarella is put in a cage with mean birds
Pygar saves Barbarella and the Black Queen

The plot line in the film pretty well adhered to the comic strip's storyline in the three pages above. The ending is exactly the way the original comic strip ended. There was an effort to try to duplicate Jean-Claude Forest artwork (He was an adviser) and the world he created. The movie is very good eye candy. However, when you suck the sex out of this it really just becomes another science fiction movie. This film comes off as a cross between the TV shows Batman and Star Trek. Producer Dino DeLaurentis later made the Flash Gordon movie in 1980 and that pretty well copies Alex Raymond's artwork. Forest's style is unusual, so that may have been part of the problem. However, they should get a B for effort. The film has a sunshine pop-psychedelic soundtrack by Bob Crewe, which is augmented by the water guitar work of Vincent Bell.

Something I want to point out is the scientist Barbarella is sent to look for is called Durand Durand with a D at the end of his name. The rock band Duran Duran kind of misunderstood the name and named themselves after it. In the comic strip, he is a bearded man with an eye missing.

Barbarella and Diktor

One thing that's left out from the original story is Barbarella has an affair with a robot named Diktor, who has a drill bit for a penis.

Overall, it's not really that great of an adaption of a comic strip, however, adapting this comic strip to film would be very difficult. It would be an NC 17 or an X rated movie. The rating system wasn't in effect yet when this was made, so you wouldn't even have an X rating. If it had been VERY FAITHFUL to the original Barbarella comics and Jean-Claude Forest, it wouldn't even get made.

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