The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Paramount - 1968
MPAA Rating: PG
Feature running time: 98 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Audio Format(s): English Dolby TrueHD Mono, Spanish/French Dolby Digital Mono
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Starring: Jane Fonda, John Phillip Law, Marcel Marceau, David Hemmings
Directed by: Roger Vadim
Written by: Terry Southern
Region Code: A,B,C
Blu-ray Disc release Date: July 3, 2012
Barbarella is marked by the same audacity and originality, fantasy, humor, beauty and horror, cruelty and eroticism that make comic books such a favorite. The setting is the planet Lythion in the year 40,000, when Barbarella (Jane Fonda) makes a forced landing while traveling through space. She acts like a female James Bond, vanquishing evil in the forms of robots and monsters. She also rewards, in an uninhibited manner, the handsome men who assist her in the adventure. Whether she is wrestling with Black Guards, the evil Queen, or the Angel Pygar, she just can't seem to avoid losing at least a part of her skin-tight space suit!
In the year 40,000, Barbarella, a beautiful, provocative, space traveling heroine is tasked by the President of Earth with tracking down Durand-Durand, inventor of the Positronic Ray, before it falls into the wrong hands. She puts her beguiling sexuality and feminine wiles to good use in an adventure filled with challenges she is quite capable and eager to meet.
Based on Jean Claude Forest’s French comic Barbarella must have seemed pretty far out there when it was released back in 1968. Certainly reflective of the time period with its shaggy style carpeting, psychedelic aesthetics, and cheesy special effects, this is more than your typical 60’s sci-fi adventure. Unfortunately more doesn’t equate to better as this is a pretty bad movie. The funny thing (not funny ha ha) is that it is one of those films that is so overtly bad it kind of grows on you.
I remember the talk around school when I was younger when it would air on cable TV, which is how I first saw it. I never actually watched it from start to finish but have clear recollections of my motivation to see it. Back then Jane Fonda was pretty popular both in films and through her workout videos etc. and seeing her prancing around in those revealing/form fitting outfits was worth sitting through what was even back then to a preteen boy, a terrible movie.
Fast forward thirty plus years and it lands on my doorstep for review. Here I was sitting down preparing to watch Barbarella and deep down couldn’t help but feel a little bit of that preteen nostalgia especially during the opening sequence. The storyline takes place in an alternate time and is elementary and reminiscent of the type that you might expect from a base level comic book narrative. The word “secret” is used countless times to describe everything from clothing to doorways to plans in an attempt to impart a sort of espionage authenticity. Barbarella is the titular heroine who is well equipped in more ways than one as the plot has an air or eroticism that comes attached to the proceedings.
The situations are audacious and the dialogue/character designs are campy but there is a low level of satire that underscores them which sort of makes the overt silliness of it all kind of tolerable. When you add Jane Fonda’s lithe figure in the variety of scantily clad outfits featured throughout, the tolerance level (depending on your point of view) could be even higher. While I appreciated that I couldn’t escape the feeling of interminability that accompanies the droning plot.
Barbarella has amassed a cult following which given its blend of titillation, nostalgia and genre bending is probably understandable. It’s really not a very good movie but I must admit that all these years later its original appeal remains intact. I guess there’s something that can be said for that.
This film contains sexual references, thematic material and brief nudity.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Barbarella comes to Blu-ray Disc from Paramount HE featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 32 Mbps and lossless Dolby TrueHD Mono audio that has an average bitrate of 1.1 Mbps.
Here is another solid catalog release title from Paramount that delivers excellent overall picture quality. Images are resolute with appreciable levels of refinement that bring out discernible detail in the large variety of objects, backgrounds and aliens/people featured in the film. Blacks are nice and deep, contrast is spot on, and shadow detail provides a discerning sense of depth. There are instances where the video takes on a slightly smoother/softer quality but this innate to the photography. “Earth” tones and primary colors are naturally rendered and noticeably delineated. Fleshtones are on target and lifelike in depiction. The video has a noticeable veil of grain that gives it a filmic texture that while obvious is never obtrusive. This is an excellent high definition presentation that appears faithful to the film’s original elements.
The monaural soundtrack is presented in Dolby TrueHD lossless and while it won’t knock your socks off I found it delivered the components of the original recording beautifully. The auditory is clean and free of unwanted clicks, pops or background hiss. Dialogue intelligibility is excellent as it is never lost amidst the other sounds coming through the central channel. There are a few occasions where the low end support adds punch but otherwise things remain in the limited dynamic spectrum provided by the recording. The end result is a satisfying and appropriate audio presentation that compliments the source quite nicely.
- (HD) Theatrical tralier
Barbarella is a campy, silly and dated sci-fi experience that can hardly be taken seriously as a film. That isn’t to suggest that at some level, depending on your point of view, it doesn’t qualify as entertainment. I look at it like it is what it is and if that appeals to you than you’re going to be pleased with its debut on Blu-ray Disc from Paramount Home Entertainment. The faithful high definition video presentation looks terrific and is complimented by the lossless Dolby TrueHD Monaural soundtrack. Bad or not it would be unfair to say that I didn’t get a kick out of Barbarella. If you’re a fan this Blu-ray offering is a must have plain and simple.
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