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Film / Barbarella

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Barbarella was originally a French erotic science fiction comic book series by Jean-Claude Forest, but the title is better known, at least outside France, for the 1968 film adaptation produced by Dino De Laurentiis, directed by Roger Vadim, and starring his wife at the time, Jane Fonda, in the titular role.

The film is set in the distant future, estimated to about the 401st century. Planet Earth has been united under a Republic, wars have been abolished, and weapons exist only in museums. Sex has been replaced by a ritual involving pills. But Dr. Durand Durand (Milo O'Shea), a scientist, starts developing a new weapon.

He and his spaceship vanish in the vicinity of an uncharted planet in the Tau Ceti system. Barbarella is sent to retrieve him. The local culture introduces her both to various horrors and to the joys of real sex. She has to face the evil Black Queen (Anita Pallenberg) of the city SoGo, the so-called City of Night, with the help of a blind angel (John Phillip Law).

On October 11, 2022, it was announced that Sydney Sweeney was set to star in and executive produce a remake of the film.

Contains examples of:

  • All There in the Manual: The planet the movie takes place in is only identified as Planet 16 of the Tau Ceti system. The comics do give it a proper name, which is sometimes noted in summaries of the movie: Lythion. As well as naming the planet, the DVD case says the movie's set in the year 40,000.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The Sogoites, who are led to do evil and all kinds of depravities by the Mathmos, which feeds on evil. There are good Sogoites as proven by Professor Ping and Dildano, but those get expelled from the city and dealt horrible fates.
  • And That's Terrible: Durand Durand explains that his positronic ray causes targets to be "deminimalized to the fourth dimension". Barbarella says "But that's monstrous!" This is a necessary use of the trope, because who knows what "deminimalized to the fourth dimension" entails.
  • Angelic Aliens: Pygar is a simple Winged Humanoid who is referred to as an angel several times.
  • Animated Armor: The Black Guards of Sogo are empty suits of armor, as shown when Pygar shoots one into pieces.
  • Apocalypse How: The Black Queen causes one by siccing the Mathmos on Durand Durand, which results in the destruction of the city of Sogo and everyone living in it.
  • Artificial Gravity: Barbarella switches it on after her zero-gravity striptease.
  • Betty and Veronica: Barbarella's four suitors; the angel Pygar and the rebel Dildano are safe, harmless and have values similar to her own (as in, Pygar is the perfect pacifist and Dildano wants to reform Sogo to be like Earth), while Mark Hand the catchman and the Black Queen are more rough and dangerous, expose Barbarella to new things and don't subscribe to or understand Earthling views.
  • Big Electric Switch: In the revolutionary headquarters in the city of Sogo, several pieces of equipment are activated by electric knife switches, including a secret door.
  • Black Comedy Rape: Durand Durand forces Barbarella into the Excessive Machine, which would count as rape given it's a sex machine. What's worse is that the machine is supposed to kill, so she was going to be raped to death. Lovely. However, Barbarella proves to be Too Kinky to Torture and exhausts the machine.
  • Boldly Coming: Barbarella, the pretty blonde envoy of an Earth that left behind such outdated concepts like violence or physical sex, gets used to both rather quickly after being introduced to them on a more... uhm, barbaric planet.
  • Bowdlerize: After the success of Star Wars in 1977, Paramount edited the film in order to obtain a PG rating and re-released it. U.S. home video releases are uncut but still sport a PG rating.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": In the evil doll kid's hangout (the remains of Durand Durand's crashed space ship), there's a bunch of blue bunnies. Not seen in the film but in promotional photos are some blue goats & an anteater).
  • Changing Clothes Is a Free Action: Justified/played straight with Barbarella. She doesn't only spend the movie going through an Unlimited Wardrobe, but gets put into dozens of situations that justify the wardrobe change.
  • Chariot Pulled by Cats: Barbarella is rescued from the feral children of Planet 16, and gets a ride to the city of SoGo on a sled pulled by something like a stingray. The ground is presumed to be dry ice, as there's a constant mist six inches deep. How this critter gets traction enough to pull Barbarella around, and see where it's going amid the fog goes unexplained.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: The Excessive Machine is a subversion. While getting strapped to an orgasm-inducing machine sounds awesome, this machine's real purpose is to orgasm the person to death.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: Barbarella as she appears in the comics was drawn with Brigitte Bardot in mind.
  • Covers Always Lie: There are lots of things wrong with the film's poster. No moons are visible from Lythion in the movie, Barbarella never wears that particular outfit, that rocket-like spaceship is nowhere to be seen, Pygar is missing his wings and the Black Guards are black, not that gold-ish color.
  • Creepy Doll: In a scene, razor-toothed killer dolls attack Barbarella. They belong to a group of feral children, led by...
  • Creepy Twins:
    • The first people she meets on Tau Ceti. They knock her out with a loaded snowball, tie her up and take her away on a sled pulled by a stingray.
    • The whole gaggle of feral kids is made up of pairs of twins.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: The rest of the universe apart from Lythion has been at peace for centuries.
  • Darker and Edgier: The movie, in a way. In the comic, many of the good SoGo folks in the Labrynth (and Professor Ping) survive and succeed in escaping the Labrynth whereas in the movie they all get zapped to the Fourth Dimension by Durand Durand's positronic ray. In fact; The whole "Saving the Labrynth People" subplot is a huge failure and everyone is dead except for Barbarella, Pygar and The Black Queen.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The Black Queen says to Barbarella: "You're very pretty, Pretty-Pretty."
  • Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: Barbarella hums her eponymous theme song after having sex with Mark Hand and Pygar.
  • Dilating Door: Played for Laughs. At some point Barbarella is wearing (little more than) an animal-skin suit with a long tail. The tail gets trapped in the closing iris valve.
  • Disco Tech: Dr. Durand Durand's Excessive Machine resembles an organ and plays music.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: The Black Queen/Great Tyrant because the real Big Bad is the concierge, who's actually Durand Durand, and is also The Starscream. If anything, the Black Queen is the real heroine, or at least an Anti-Hero with a Pyrrhic Victory due to letting loose the Mathmos, which destroys the evil city, Durand Durand and saves the Queen, Barbarella and Pygar.
  • Disintegrator Ray: The reason Barbarella is looking for Durand Durand is that he invented a positronic ray, which could spell doom for the universe. Its effects are seen at the end of the movie, when he uses it to kill Professor Ping and Dildano.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Barbarella objects to sex because "it was proven to be distracting!" among other reasons. After experiencing it, she admits that they were certainly right about that part.
  • Do You Want to Copulate?: Mark Hand flat out states that he wants to make love to the heroine, but she comes from a society where sex is more like a Mind Meld, so her objections are based on the fact that their psycho-cardiograms aren't in confluence and he doesn't have the right pills. Hand isn't impressed and insists they do it the old fashioned way.
  • Down the Rabbit Hole: Barbarella feels a lot like a sexy sci-fi version of Alice in Wonderland, considering it involves a naive young woman going on an adventure in a nonsensical (to her) realm full of strange sights and people. One can also draw parallels between the Tweedle twins and Stomoxys and Glossina, the White Rabbit and Durand Durand, and more obviously the Queen of Hearts and the Black Queen.
  • Easy Evangelism: Despite never having sex before and firmly believing in the pill's practical applications, it does not take much probing for Barbarella to sleep with Hand. By the time she finds someone who wants to have future pill-sex over the old-fashioned type, she seems almost disappointed by it.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Mathmos is a living, shapeless mass of energy inhabiting the lake below Sogo, and it demands that people commit evil deeds so it can feed on them.
  • Electric Instant Gratification: The so-called "Excessive Machine", that can kill people with intense pleasure.
  • Enemy Mine: Barbarella and her nemesis the Black Queen team up to take down Durand Durand after he locks them in the Chamber of Dreams and usurps Sogo's throne from the Queen.
  • Enfant Terrible: The weird kids with their killer dolls.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Although getting to Tau Ceti takes about one week, the meat of the movie is Barbarella's adventures in Lythion, and those take place in two days tops.
  • Fantastic Drug: Barbarella runs into a group of women smoking from a giant hookah containing a guy who's either drowning or boiling. The redheaded one offers Barbarella a whiff and tells her it's called essence of man. We don't see the effects, though the women look pretty out of it.
  • Feathered Fiend: The Black Queen tries to kill Barbarella by trapping her in a cage filled with vicious man-eating songbirds.
  • Fetish-Fuel Future: While Earth has removed physical sex as the core foundation of propagation and has been replaced with a future psychic-sex pill, the taboo of nudity is completely gone and Barbarella's official uniform has a partially-translucent top. The fact that the communication screen on Barbarella's ship takes the form of a half-naked statue of the Greek goddess Artemis probably counts also.
  • Forced Orgasm: Barbarella falls into the clutches of Durand Durand, who places her in his fiendish Excessive Machine, a device designed to orgasm the victim to death. However, Barbarella proves to be Too Kinky to Torture, overloading the machine and exhausting the villain.
  • Four-Philosophy Ensemble: As it happens, Barbarella's suitors are four. Mark Hand is the Apathetic, Pygar is the Realist, the Black Queen is the Cynic and Dildano is the Optimist.
  • Free-Love Future: Their standard greeting is "Love", although they don't practice physical sex any more, considering it to be distracting and pointless. Mark Hand convinces the heroine otherwise.
  • Free-Range Children: An extreme example. The custom of Sogo regarding raising kids is to dump them in an icy wasteland til they're of "a serviceable age", as Mark Hand explains to Barbarella after rescuing her from such children. Little wonder Sogoites are so messed up.
  • Future Food Is Artificial: After waking up from artificial sleep, Barbarella drinks a purple liquid as nourishment. It tastes foul if her reaction is anything to go by.
  • The Future Will Be Better: Barbarella has to have the concept of "war" spelt out for her as the universe has been at peace for centuries, and is puzzled as to why Durand Durand would invent a weapon. As the inhabitants of Tau Ceti are in a primitive state of neurotic irresponsibility she's given a Ray Gun to defend herself, but the only one Dianthus could find for her had to be borrowed from the Museum of Conflict.
  • Gainax Ending: Durand Durand is defeated, good. So Barbarella, Pygar and the Black Queen fly away to... somewhere... with no real hint at what they are planning to do after everything that went down. And when Barbarella asks Pygar why he saved the Black Queen, he cryptically answers that angels have no memory. The end.
    • It should be noted that that scene is an almost exact match to the last scene in the comic.
  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: Duran Duran named themselves after Durand Durand (having begun their career playing in a club called Barbarella’s).
  • Good Old Ways: Once Barbarella has experienced physical sex for the first time, she's quite enthusiastic for more, and is disappointed when Dildano insists on doing it the more advanced way.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: As the Excessive Machine breaks down and catches on fire, having proven itself inadequate to keep up with Barbarella's sex drive: "Look! Energy cables are shrinking! You've turned them into faggots!"
  • High-Altitude Battle: Barbarella and Pygar's mid-air battle with the Black Guards air patrol. She's a pretty good shot for someone who's never handled a weapon before.
  • Homage: The (in)famous opening scene was the basis for Kylie Minogue's music video for "Put Yourself in My Place" and re-created in Ariana Grande's music video for "Break Free".
  • Human Aliens: The aliens that Barbarella meets in the uncharted Planet 16 of Tau Ceti look remarkably human.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: When the city starts to sink into a pit of sentient, liquid evil at the end of the movie, said liquid evil specifically protects Barbarella because her purity and innocence would hurt it.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: After removing her spacesuit in the opening scene, our heroine gets a call on her Video Phone from the President of Earth which she answers while still naked. She does offer to put something on but he tells her not to bother as he has an urgent matter of state to discuss. Yeah, right.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: In a subtle way, Sogo, because it's supposed to be a reference to the biblical sin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Chamber of Ultimate Solution, being a suicide booth, is also this, as lampshaded by Barbarella.
  • Instant Costume Change: After her naked conversation with the President, our heroine steps into a chamber and instantly emerges in tight-fitting Space Clothes.
  • Intimate Psychotherapy: Pygar has lost his ability to fly, but after Barbarella spends a night with him, he's flying around the next day.
  • Killer Rabbit: Early in the film, Barbarella is menaced by a group of dolls whose mouths show very pointy teeth. The scene ruins her clothes and leaves her bleeding. Later in the movie, she is nearly killed by vicious killer budgies (parakeets) with similar bloody effects.
  • Kiss of Life: The Black Queen (the perv!) suggests that Barbarella reanimate Pygar with a mouth-to-mouth when they find him after being vomited up by the Mathmos. It's subverted as Barbarella tries something completely different and much more platonic: move his wings up and down. It works.
  • Ladyella: Barbarella herself.
  • Lampshade Hanging: "What's that screaming? (pensively) A good many dramatic situations begin with screaming." This leads to her finding Pygar being tormented by the Sogoites, who cheer and laugh at him in turn. Though given all of the other stuff that goes on in SoGo, it would probably be more surprising if somebody in it wasn't screaming at any given time.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Barbarella and the Black Queen; with Barbarella being naive, innocent and kind, and the Black Queen being evil to the core and debauched.
  • Locked in a Room: Barbarella and the Black Queen get stuck in the latter's Chamber of Dreams by Durand Durand, resulting in their most positive interactions in the movie. They'd have "bonded" even more if a certain deleted scene had been retained.
  • Mental Affair: The "Earth Way" of having sex. You take an Exaltation Transference Pill and touch hands for one minute until "full rapport is achieved". Demonstrated by Barbarella and Dildano, leader of the Resistance.
  • Mooks: The Black Queen has the Black Guards, spooky, robot-like Stormtrooper figures that are nothing but leather Animated Armor. Also involves a bit of Double Entendre in that they are described as "Leathermen" and have whips for hands.
  • Mr. Fanservice: John Phillip Law as the angel Pygar, a handsome, tall, blond, blue-eyed shirtless ornithanthrope.
  • Ms. Fanservice:
    • Most of the film, but most famously the scene where Barbarella takes off her spacesuit in zero gravity. Vadim was quoted as explaining why he put this under the opening credits: "Lots of men will only watch the film to see Jane Fonda naked, so I put that at the start so they don't have to sit through a load of science fiction."
    • Essentially, the entire plot consists of a string of ridiculous situations contrived to provide thinly-veiled excuses for Jane Fonda to take all her clothes off (or have them forcibly removed). However, when you have a leading lady with a body like Jane Fonda, you really don't need much of a plot.
    • Also, the Black Queen and many extras in very sexy clothing (or none at all).
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer shows Durand Durand playing "Ode to Joy" while torturing Barbarella in the Excessive Machine. In the movie, the music he plays is an original composition (and at the start of the scene you can hear the first bars of "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor").
  • No Sex Allowed: Downplayed. In Barbarella's time, physical sex has mostly been replaced with a ritual involving so-called 'Exaltation Transference Pills'. Sex isn't banned so much as highly discouraged by scientific findings, as she mentions in an aside that the very poor who can't afford the pills still practice physical sex. When she tries the old style though, she's quite pleased.
  • Now or Never Kiss: When Barbarella and Pygar are trapped in the Chamber of Ultimate Solution, Barbarella decides to try her luck with one of the three doors. Knowing they may die, she kisses Pygar. It's the only kiss in this entire sex-laden movie.
  • The Nudifier: The Excessive Machine removes the victim's clothes first.
  • Ominous Music Box Tune: When the biting dolls are edging in on Barbarella, the BGM sounds like a music box version of the movie's eponymous song for a few beats.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: The Excessive Machine, with Durand-Durand playing it.
  • One World Order: Dianthus is the President of Earth and the Rotating Premier of the Solar System (whatever that means).
  • The Only One: Parodied when Dianthus has to send Barbarella on the mission because the universe has been at peace for so long they no longer have armies or police, "and I can't spare the Presidential band!"
  • Only One Name: Everybody, except Durand Durand, and the Black Queen, who just plain has no name.
  • Orgasmatron: The Excessive Machine is designed to cause orgasm after orgasm in the victim.
  • Out with a Bang: The Excessive Machine causes its victims to die of pleasure.
  • Overly Long Name: A Running Gag involving a secret password in Dildano and Barbarella's rebellion operation, involving the name of a certain town in Wales.
  • Parrot Exposition: Barbarella could give the entire Metal Gear series a run for its money.
  • Perfect Pacifist People: In Barbarella's time, the entire known universe will have been pacified for centuries and weapons are things seen only in museums. Barbarella and the president simply can't understand why anyone would want to invent a weapon.
  • Please Put Some Clothes On: Subverted. Barbarella takes a videophone call from the President of Earth while she's naked. She says that she'll "slip something on", but the President (of course) tells her not to bother.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Dildano and his secret base of operations. His "Earth Hand/Pill-Sex" scene with Babs could be counted in the film's funny moments.
  • Protagonist Title: Barbarella is the heroine.
  • Punny Name: A character is called Dildano.
  • La Résistance: Dildano leads one in Sogo that seeks to overthrow the Black Queen and presumably start a regime that's more similar to Earth's (i.e. more peaceful and less evil).
  • Repetitive Name: Durand Durand.
  • Rescue Sex:
    • With three different people over the course of the movie. Dildano explicitly states that he rescued Barbarella just so he could get this (though, to her disappointment, he means the mental connection practiced on Earth).
    • Subverted with the Black Queen, who saves Barbarella from two assailants and clearly wants to spend some sensual time with Barbarella in return, but Barbarella isn't as generous with her.
  • Role Called:
    • In the US, the film was marketed as Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy.
    • In Spain it's Barbarella, the Space Venus and in Finland it's Barbarella, Planetary Queen.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Just about everyone. Barbarella is always very polite and formal and spouts a lot of sci-fi babble, while Pygar and the Black Queen are flowery to the point of Shakespeareanism sometimes.
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: The Ice Forests of Weir.
  • Space Clothes: The heroine and her extensive wardrobe, which comes in handy as so many of her outfits—often made from perspex, plastic, fur, chainmail, or vinyl—get destroyed during the course of the movie. The citizens of Sogo favor bondage-themed outfits, featuring leather and chains.
  • Tap on the Head: Barbarella is knocked out by some kids with a crystal hidden inside a snowball. She's later knocked out again by some falling rocks.
  • Teleportation: The "Atom Transmitter" that Dianthus uses to send Barbarella equipment.
  • Threesome Subtext: Barbarella, Pygar and the Black Queen flying away together at the end, with the usually stoic Pygar having this huge smile on his face.
  • Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: The city is swallowed by the Mathmos... except for Babs. The Black Queen (who gets saved by being — nudge nudge — close to her) explains that it can't stand the taste of her innocence.
  • Torso with a View: A labyrinth prisoner that Professor Ping points out to Barbarella appears to have lost nearly all of his torso as punishment, yet he's still perfectly able to walk around.
  • Torture Is Ineffective: Due to an inept torturer in this case. Who knew women could actually survive multiple orgasms? Durand Durand sure didn't.
  • Torture Technician: Dr. Durand Durand's hobby, and one shared by the majority of Sogoites, it seems.
  • Translator Microbes: Barbarella's wrist-mounted "Tongue Box".
  • Waking Up Elsewhere: At some point Barbarella wakes up after getting knocked out and thinks she's dead. Not surprisingly, since the first person she sees is Pygar the angel (or ornithanthrope).
  • We Will Have Euthanasia in the Future: Barbarella wanders into a walk-in suicide booth, which offers world-weary beings a choice of ways to terminate their unendurable existence.
  • Wham Shot: After the Excessive Machine scene, the camera focuses on Barbarella's Durand Durand-detector on the floor. The concierge accidentally steps on it, activating it and it starts flashing, revealing that the concierge is Durand Durand.
  • Yandere: The Black Queen, apparently. After Barbarella rejects her advances, she aims a knife at her, though she doesn't go through with it.
  • You Can Leave Your Hat On: Barbarella stripping off her spacesuit in zero-gravity constitutes the entire opening credits sequence.


Video Example(s):


The Excessive Machine

It's not excessive enough for Barbarella.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / Orgasmatron

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