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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 Sex has been replaced by a ritual involving pills.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).


Contains examples of:

  • Agony Beam: Inverted. Villain Dr. Durand Durand tortures the heroine by hooking her into a device which plays her sexual responses like organ pipes, the goal being to orgasm her to death. As mentioned further down, it doesn't work.
  • 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 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.
  • Animated Armor: The Black Guards of Sogo are empty suits of armor, as shown when Pygar shoots one into pieces.
  • Anything That Moves: Barbarella is really not choosy about who she sleeps with.
  • 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 dying.
  • Artificial Gravity: She 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. She doesn't decline to try other things too. In one memorable scene, Durand-Durand tries to kill her with his orgasm machine, but she overloads it.
  • 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.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: The only weapon Dianthus could find for Barbarella had to be borrowed from the Museum of Conflict.
  • 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 its 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 that poster up there. 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 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.
  • 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 Durand Durand and he 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 positron ray, which could spell doom for the universe. Its effects are seen at the end of the movie, when he uses it to kill 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.
  • 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 the fur trapper. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 salute is even "love," although they don't practice physical sex any more, considering it to be impractical. Barbarella changes her mind when she meets Mark Hand.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: Duran Duran named themselves after Durand Durand.
  • 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!"
  • Heroic Seductress: Barbarella's tryst with Pygar has the effect of restoring his self-confidence and ability to fly.
  • High-Altitude Battle: Barbarella and Pygar's mid-air battle with the Black Guards air patrol. She's a pretty good shot.
  • Homage: The (in)famous opening scene was the basis for Kylie Minogue's music video for ''Put Yourself in My Place". It was also re-created in Ariana Grande's music video for "Break Free".
  • How Would You Like to Die?: Barbarella wanders into a walk-in suicide booth, which offers world-weary beings a choice of ways to terminate their unendurable existence.
  • Human Aliens: The aliens that Barbarella meets in the uncharted Planet 16 of Tau Ceti look remarkably human.
  • Hunk: Pygar seems to be this and a Pretty Boy at the same time.
  • 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.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: In a subtle way, Sogo, because it's supposed to be a reference to Sodom and Gomorrah, biblical sin cities. The Chamber of Ultimate Solution, being a suicide booth, is also this, as lampshaded by Barbarella.
  • Intimate Psychotherapy: Pygar has lost his ability to fly, but after Barbarella spends a night with him, he's flying around the next day.
  • Kill 'Em All: After he comes to power, Durand Durand uses his positron ray to kill sympathetic characters like Ping and Dildano without much fanfare. Then the Black Queen unleashes the Mathmos to stop him; Sogo is destroyed and everyone in there dies. The only survivors are Barbarella, Pygar and the Black Queen herself.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • Last of His Kind: Pygar is the last of the * Pygar from Barbarella is a simple Winged Humanoid referred to as an angel several times.
  • 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. Demonstrated by Barbarella and Dildano, leader of the Resistance.
  • Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness: Among the softest anyone could find. Other than the very airiest of explanations, expect nothing at all but bizarre fetishy goings-on in bizarre fetishy Space Clothes. Never mind "creative" violation of special relativity and Heisenberg uncertainty, some technologies featured violate basic physics, such as a yacht with wheels that can move by sail-power when there's no wind because there's a fan on it: such a vehicle is possible (as recently demonstrated), but would be hideously inefficient. Point the fan astern and you'll get much better results.
  • 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).
  • 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 and clearly wants this, but Barbarella isn't as generous with her.
  • Robosexual: In the comics, Barbarella believes that robots can be just as good, if not better, lovers compared to humans. She has sex with one robot called Diktor (elements of him can be found in Dildano's character) in the Sogo chapters. There's another chapter where she drives a Fembot to orgasm just by fiddling with her insides.
  • 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.
  • Samus Is a Girl: The infamous opening where no one knows who is in the spacesuit at first.
  • 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.
  • Shameless Fanservice Girl: Barbarella really has no problem with showing off her body.
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: The Icen Forests of Weir.
  • Tap on the Head
    • Barbarella is knocked out by some kids with a crystal, hidden inside a snowball, while she adjusts her tongue box to their language.
    • 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 Kinky to Torture: Barbarella overloads the Excessive Machine.
  • 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 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" whose name can be seen as a Double Entendre.
  • Triang Relations: If Barbarella/Pygar/Black Queen is taken as a love/lust triangle, then it's a type 6.
  • 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).
  • 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 constitutes the entire opening credits sequence.


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