Barbarella, psychedella, shagadella
A Zen look at sex & fantasy
After viewing Jane Fonda in her absolute prime as the epitome of innocence and sex in the 1968 movie Barbarella, I noticed a very Zen-like flavor coursing through this film. Sure, there was the typical good vs. evil, but the polarity was never more obvious and obscured than the comparison between Barbarella and the great tyrant, played by the exquisite Anita Pallenberg.
The movie starts out with a zero gravity striptease involving Barbarella and a very stylish space suit of French design complete with transparent wings, tasseled boots and mercury helmet. Claude Dauphin is the president of the Earth and rotating premier of the sun system who orders Barbarella to locate the young scientist, Duran Duran, inventor of the positronic ray, and bring him back before he causes too much mischief. Apparently, the universe has been pacified for centuries and Duran Duran's weapon could shatter the loving union of the universe. Since they don't know anything about Tau Seti, the system where Duran Duran landed, the inhabitants could still be in a primitive state of neurotic irresponsibility. The president makes things clearer. It could cause war... bloody conflict between entire tribes, and since Earth doesn't have any armies or police and the president can't spare the presidential band, only Bar can go, after she's equipped with some very cool weapons on loan from the Museum of Conflict.
She crash-lands on Tau Seti and is attacked and kidnapped by children and tortured by dolls with tiny bear-trap teeth, who manage to rip parts of her already miniscule space suit to bits. She's rescued by Mark Hand the catch man, who has sex with her. He fixes her spaceship in reverse and causes her to crash-land in the Labyrinth, where she meets Pygar, the blind angel, who has sex with her. He flies her to Sogo, city of night, where she runs into two guys who want to have sex with her. The Great Tyrant, disguised as a one-eyed wench, kills the two guys before they have sex with her and offers to have sex with her. Meanwhile Pygar is about to die by the hands of the Sogo citizenry. Luckily, they escape by entering the Chamber of Ultimate Solution, where they will die if not for the concierge, who introduces them to the Great Tyrant, who crucifies the angel and feeds Barbarella to the birds. She escapes through a trap door and meets Dildano, the leader of the revolution, who has sex with her. She meets up with the Concierge, who sorta has sex with her by putting her in his orgasmatron, which induces multiple orgasms until death results. Instead, she fries the machine and learns the Concierge is really Duran Duran, aged from exposure to the Mathmos and the evil of Sogo. He tricks her into entering the Great Tyrant's Chamber of Dreams, along with the Great Tyrant, where there's no way out because Duran Duran has the only 2 chamber keys. Duran Duran vows to return to Earth as its conqueror after he lays waste to the Labyrinth using his positronic ray, which sends everything irretrievably to the 4th dimension. Barbarella and the Great Tyrant are saved when the Mathmos, the liquid, living, lava lamp-like, pure evil entity below Tau Seti's surface, is released because B is so good the Mathmos vomited her and the Great Tyrant up on shore along with Pygar, the blind angel. It seems only these three survived.
OK, so it seems this movie is just a futuristic sex romp with Bar getting tied up and abused by children, dolls, birds, evil tyrants, and every guy she meets along the way. Typical formula stuff. But I noticed a few scenes where a semi-bright Zen light emerged to remind me this was no ordinary French 60's design, Euro trash, hippy, sex romp. This was the real deal... A perfect blending of Eastern philosophy, Western science and '60's European counter-culture.
I consider Pygar one of the more interesting characters, not just because he was a blind angel but more so because he was firmly fixed in the now. When Barbarella first met him he was laying his hands on her Earthy mammaries to Tom Jones music. (Not Tom Jones from "What's New Pussycat" fame but the movie staring Albert Finney) When Bar asked Pygar what happened to his eyes, he said he got caught in a magnetic storm and landed on this planet and was carried to Sogo where his eyes were destroyed, and was sent to the Labyrinth to perish. "That's terrible," says Bar. "It doesn't matter", says Pygar, "It's in the past." (Talk about being firmly entrenched in the now.) When he was flying Bar to Sogo he mentioned he'd land in a back street, because "To be seen with an angel in Sogo would be anathema." This shows although he would most certainly be put to a most horrible death by entering Sogo, he was more interested in the safety of his well-proportioned passenger.
see Barbarella in action
Besides, I must have seen a zillion movies but never have I heard the word anathema used by anyone, let alone a blind angel. And when Dildano said, "A life without cause is a life without effect," I realized he wasn't your run of the mill alien. This guy really has something to say!
At the end there was only Barbarella, Pygar and the Black Queen, aka the Great Tyrant, left after the Mathmos vomited them on shore. As Pygar flew away with a babe representing extreme good and extreme evil under each arm, Bar asked why he saved her after all the awful things she'd done to him. He answered, "Because an angel has no memory." Another reference to being in the now. There were other interesting oddities in this movie, like Bar's constant wardrobe changes, which all occurred after sex. It's interesting to note all her lovers had spare clothes laying around that not only form-fitted her perfectly proportioned female anatomy, but came apart easily. A mark of a truly French innovation designed for a loving universe. BTW why do all these guys have women's clothes in their closets? Is it a French thing?
Professor Ping (Marcel Marceau) is another character that most resembles the Uncle Hoo-Ha in everyone's family. When Bar asked him how long it will take to fix her spaceship he replied, "Hours, days, weeks. Genius is mysterious." He also made a point in explaining why everyone eats orchids in the labyrinth. "Orchids have very little food value, and they're extremely difficult to cultivate in this climate. It amuses the Great Tyrant to resent the expense of feeding orchids to slaves." When Duran Duran unleashed his positronic ray on the Labyrinth, sending everyone irretrievably to the 4th dimension, I felt a tinge of sorrow as professor Ping vanished. I guess a mime IS a terrible thing to waste.
Bar's sexual exploits in the film could be compared to a gladiator before he enters the arena or Sylvester Stallone getting fit before he goes into the ring at the end of each Rocky movie. Perhaps drinking a half dozen eggs and running through Philly has the same impact on Rocky Balboa as multiple orgasms has on Barbarella. Keep in mind, Barbarella has never had real sex until she gets laid by Chewbacca. Sex to her, and everyone on Earth except the very poor, consists of taking pills and holding hands for 3 minutes or until full rapport is achieved. Bar got her first orgasm shortly after her first penile penetration just minutes after she crashed on the ice planet. After that she banged everyone who said hello to her. She was like a sexual athlete training for the multiple orgasm gold and surviving Duran Duran's orgasmic depleater machine. All that training paid off, and just like Rocky, she kicked ass and left Duran Duran's machine a limp fagot of scrap. I shudder to think what a virginal Jane Fonda would look like after that episode. But then again, I can't imagine a virginal Jane Fonda. Can you?
Another more interesting aspect of this plot is how Barbarella managed to almost completely eliminate evil without doing anything at all. As soon as she landed on Planet 16 she set in motion events that could not be reversed. An antigen is any substance that causes your immune system to produce antibodies against it. An antigen may be a foreign substance from the environment such as chemicals, bacteria, viruses, or pollen. With the universe being pacified for centuries, Sogo was the perfect place for a character like Duran Duran to gravitate to. He and his positronic ray could be compared to a universal cancer seed, whose only purpose is to destroy positive life. He seemed to be perfectly happy being the number 2 bad guy in the baddest place in the universe but it was Barbarella that enabled him to take over Sogo and find a reason to use his positronic ray to quell the revolution Bar helped to stimulate. He was more amazed than anyone that his invention actually worked! Her presence could be compared to an antibody attacking an antigen, where Duran Duran is the antigen.
It's interesting how this theory is prevalent in a vast majority of movies and TV shows, only no one seems to make the connection. "Have Gun, Will Travel," "Planet of the Apes," "The Matrix," The Wizard of Oz," all have a singular entity called upon as an antibody to fight the antigen du jour against incredible odds. Many times the messiah of choice didn't want anything to do with this scenario. Just the action of being there created a domino effect of events that couldn't be predicted or prevented. It had to run it's course. Jesus was one such man. I'm sure the last thing he wanted was to die a horrible death in the name of love but his death unleashed a philosophy so revolutionary that Mohammed saw fit to counteract it with an antibody of his own. This brings up the question of who is the antigen and who is the antibody? In Sogo they practiced sex but not love. On Earth they practiced love and not sex. Keep in mind that although Bar's contact managed to destroy Sogo, she didn't have one bit of negativity in her. She was the picture of pure love and innocence on a mission to bring back the antigen back into the fold. Jesus was pure love as well. Does it make sense to assume Jesus was the antibody? Mohommed, on the other hand, was by no means love-based. His whole being was based on conquest, rape, enslavement, murder, robbery... actions and attitudes most commonly associated with evil. One must conclude Mohammed was antigen to the Jesus antibody in a tail-wagging-the-dog sort of way. Therefore, Love is antibody, anti-love is antigen.
Barbarella's ability to combine her love-based innocence with sex proved to be an irresistible force. After all, it's far easier for Barbarella to adapt to sex than for the citizens of Sogo to adapt to love. Sogo never stood a chance.
Note the similarities between Barbarella and a typical antibody. Bar is on the left.
I tend to think movie makers, novelists and artists all have this plot line in them but don't realize it. It just comes out as easily as puss forms around a splinter. An inherent understanding of universal cause and effect and the public confirms this truth with ticket sales and profits. We gravitate to this antibody vs. antigen scenario like moths to a flame but rarely do we understand it at a conscious level. The business end, the producers, just see it as a plot line that works. A businessman doesn't need to know if a movie is good or bad. All that matters is ticket sales and profits. That's why sequels are a favorite of Hollywood producers. It's simply a carbon copy of a movie that made them a lot of money in the past. That's why Drew Barrymore got the movie rights to Barbarella. We gravitate to that plot line and confirm it with ticket sales and Drew sees a natural winner here. (yeah, right)
Which leads me to Ted Turner, Jane Fonda's ex -hubby, (Jane, his wife!) who thought it was a great idea to colorize every black and white movie on Earth. He threw a fit when he couldn't colorize Citizen Kane, which proves to me what a total ass he was. Way to go Orson for iron-cladding your masterpiece.
Jane, stop this crazy thing!
What strikes me the most in this hedonistic space romp is the similarity between Barbarella and some religious emissaries in recent Earth history, showing one person CAN make a lasting and permanent change. One such emissary is Aaron Spelling. Keep in mind, Los Angeles, where the ultimate fight between good and evil is dispatched with reckless abandon every day, is actually the City of Angels.
Shades of The Mod Squad! (470k.WAV)
One black, one white, one blind.
Aaron Spelling, creator of TMS, was named after Moses' older brother, the first high priest of the Jews and forerunner to Jesus. It's a little known fact that Moses had a speech impediment and Aaron did his talking for him. Aaron was also the guy who thought it was a good idea to build a golden calf to worship after Moses left to talk to God in the form of a burning bush. And everything Aaron Spelling touched in The City of Angels turned to gold. Moses spent 40 years in Sinai with Jethro before he lead the Exodus out of Egypt. Jethro was also the name of Jed Clampett's nephew, who helped pack up their stuff and move to Bev-er-ly. Hills that is. Swimming pools, movie stars... The promised land. It's no mistake Sogo, the sin city of the Tau Seti star system, has its roots in Sodom and Gomorrah, two Earth cities destroyed by the powers of goodness. There were a couple of angels who allowed Lot to get out of Dodge before all hell broke loose, but after it was over, and Lot's wife turned to salt, his two daughters thought it would be cool to bang dad after slipping him a Mickie. I wonder if Bar and the Great Tyrant took advantage of the blind angel after they all got back to the orange shag sex chamber, just like Lot's girls did to dad. (Pygar, try this Romulan ale)
The similarities between The Mod Squad and Barbarella are nothing short of spiritual. Both have hip music, ultra hip costumes and super hip mentors. The dialog is equally cool. B... "Let me adjust my tongue-box" TMS..."You're sitting on my hotplate, man."
But I digress...........