Outer Space Blogathon! The Year was 1968: Barbarella and Space Exploration

The idea of space travel has always been an intriguing idea; but, in the more recent years, this idea has become a fact.  For years, probes and satellites have been sent to Space to study and learn more about Earth’s neighboring planets. Recently, there are constant reports of a project to colonize Mars. Some scientists believe it may even happen by 2030.  An example of how excited people are about this whole idea of space travel, one only has to look at Twitter.

The growing number of accounts devoted to space exploration increases every day. As a matter of fact, a Tweet, on April 12th, celebrated The International Day of Human Space Fight. It celebrates the first manned space flight by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin back in 1961. He was in orbit for 108 minutes with only twelve of his twenty-four rockets. The other twelve exploded at take off. It’s a miracle he made back alive. With the success of Gagarin’s space flight, stories by science fiction writers like Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein and Verne slowly morphed into facts.

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Regardless of the numerous space exploration accounts on Twitter, NASA’s Twitter account is still the best one to give you a front row seat to the wonders of space. They tweet live video of astronauts walking and floating in space; and, by the way, they still use Velcro up there. I know because I heard them asking an astronaut to check his Velcro feed. I had to ask the obvious; so, I tweeted the question: You still use Velcro?  Someone tweeted back that NASA invented it.  I tweeted back: I know but that was over fifty years ago.

I doubt that I will be going to Mars in this lifetime; but, I can still imagine it and enjoy it vicariously by watching Sci-Fi movies. So, I want to thank to Debbie Vega for hosting The Outerspace Film Blogathon. I can read reviews of various space movies and then make a list of one’s I still need to see. There are several wonderful Sci-Fi movies that have been reviewed for this blogathon, just click on the link below to find the ones you would like to watch:

https://debravega.wordpress.com/2018/02/04/announcing-the-outer-space-on-film-blogathon/

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Speaking of great movies about space, I truly enjoyed Sandra Bullock’s Oscar-winning performance in Gravity. However, this is not the movie I chose to review. No, I wanted to review another Oscar-winning actress, Jane Fonda, in a Space movie released during one of the most tumultuous years in American history, Barbarella (1968). This year is its 50th Anniversary since the release. Like all science fiction movies, it helped lead the way in special effects technology while subtlety making social commentary. For this particular film, I believe the social commentary involved the philosophy: Make love and not war. It’s plot driven, like most science fiction movies of that time, by using high-tech gadgets to stop world domination by mad scientist.

Barbarella is based on a comic book character by French creator JeanClaude Forest for the French V Magazine.  It was a series of comic strips from 1962 to 1964.  Then, it was published as a comic book in 1964.  It was considered extremely scandalous at the time.  It was labeled as the first adult erotica in the comic book format. Of course, that is not true; but, it did become infamous from this hoopla. Forest claimed the image of the character of Barbarella was based on French actress, bombshell, Bridgitte Bardot.

This science fiction movie is the first feature film that came from the comics. There were other films like Flash Gordon and Buck Rodgers; but, they were serials. Meaning, they often ended in cliffhangers where you would continue the story in a few weeks in a different film from the series.  Barbarella was directed by Fonda’s French husband Roger Vadim (m. 1965 -1973). Fonda was 30 years old when she made this film. Later, in the same year the movie was released, they had a child, Vanessa, named after actress Vanessa Redgrave. Barbarella did not become a cult classic until it was re-released in 1977.

Barbarella is an intergalactic space agent/spy in the 401st century; yet, her character mirrors 20th century, secret agent, James Bond.  For instance, Bond saves the world from a crazy evil genius while he accommodates women who want sex; and, he has the latest spy gadgets. She travels in deep space in a ship that has an interior completely covered in shag carpet.

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Before Barbarella receives her orders from the President of Earth, she had just awaken from a deep space sleep. While she peels off her space suit, bouncing off shag interior,  She ends up totally naked. It’s at that moment she get the telecommunication.  The communication is similar to a Skype (participants can see each other) When she attempts to cover herself, the President of the Earth tells not to bother because the message is urgent. Of course, he is ogling her. This puts the letter “C” in the word creepy. Obeying orders, Barbarella moves forward to receive the message.

I wonder if Mike Myers was influenced by this movie when he made the Austin Powers swinging 60s movies? There is so much shag and shagging in both movies. The shag or shagging would definitely influenced Powers in being “randy” most of the time; and, Miss Shagwell, herself, (Heather Graham) kind of resembles Barbarella. Oh well, maybe, or maybe not?

As far as shagging goes, Barbarella encounters aliens from various planets who want to have some kind of sex; and, she accommodates them while she is saving planets from total destruction from evil genius Dr. Duran Duran’s (Milo O’Shea) the inventor of the Positronic Ray. This weapon will unleashed evil into the universe.

The kicker is Barbarella comes from Earth where physical sex is obsolete. Centuries ago, people found it messy and too distracting. To have sex in AD 40,001, you match your psychocardiogram (?) with someone else. Then, they take an “Exultation Transference” pellet. As they touch each other’s hands to finger tips, rapture is accomplished within 30 seconds. So, civilized! However, it is probably not as much fun either.

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Unfortunately for Barbarella, just as she begins to appreciate the fun part of having messy and distracting sex, with Mark Hand – the Catchman, (Ugo Taognazzi), she later meet another alien, Dildano (David Hemmings) who insists on taking the “Pellet.” A few other aliens worth mentioning is professor Ping (Marcel Marceau), Pygar (JohnPhillip Law) the Birdman/angel, and The Great Tyrant (AnitaPallenberg).

Pygar is a blind birdman who befriends Barbarella and becomes her flying Uber in order to find Duran, Duran.  While Barbarella and Pygar search for Duran, Duran, Professor Ping tries to fix her crashed spaceship.  During the whole movie Barbarella finds herself in perilous situations.  Luckily, there’s always an escape; until, Duran Duran captures her and places her in the “Excessive Orgasmic Machine.”  This is Duran Duran’s ultimate killing machine: you are “pleasured to death.”  I have to applaud Fonda’s professionalism. Her faked orgasm looked like the real thing.  She didn’t fake an over the top orgasm like a porn star; and, she didn’t fake a funny orgasm like Meg Ryan in Harry Met Sally (1989).

To be honest, I was too young to watch this movie when it first came out 1968. So, I didn’t see it; until, a few years ago on HBO.  In the 21st century, this movie seems pretty tame compared to movies and television shows today.  Even so, I was still a little hesitant to watch it because, quite frankly, I thought it would be a waste of time. Happily, I can honestly say that it wasn’t a waste of time. I laughed all the way through this entertaining film. Yes, it is CAMPY! So campy, that it is listed among The 100 Most Amusing Bad Movies Ever Made receiving the Golden Raspberry Award. 

What possessed a successful actress, like Fonda, to make this movie? Her husband? The part of Barbarella was turned down by several actresses before Fonda accepted it. Sophia Loren and Virna Lisi turned it down. When United Artists offered it to Lisi, she terminated her contract and returned to Italy.

Years ago, I had heard Fonda say that this movie was an embarrassment for her and because of that she never watched it. Like everything else in this life, things change. Just before, she and British actress Helen Mirren presented the 2018 Oscar for Best Actor to Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour), Fonda compliments the production design in the Dolby Theater: How about these sets? Aren’t these great sets? They’re just like the Orgasmatron in Barbarella. That’s what they look like.

Apparently, years after it was released, Fonda finally did watch her movie. In interviews, she claims the film surprised her because she actually enjoyed watching it.  Fonda turned 80 years young this year. She has lived long enough to reflect and examine the decisions and actions she has made in her life. In other words, she has learned a lot and is still learning.  Like all of us, she has made mistakes and through those mistakes, she has made changes to make her life even better.

However, there is probably one mistake that will haunt her to the day she dies. Her misguided trip to North Vietnam near the end of the war. She regrets going there, now. Her intentions were right: Doing what she could to help end America’s longest war and bring our boys home. She didn’t understand, at the time, how her actions would be interpreted by both sides. Since then, she has repeatedly apologized to American service personnel who saw her actions as traitorous. Unfortunately, not everyone wants to forgive.

The events of 1968 forever changed America: The assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and  Robert F Kennedy, North Korea capture of the USS Pueblo with 83 crewmen aboard, protesters at the Chicago Democratic Convention, the Tet Offensive which was a surprise attack on US troops during a truce with North Vietnam, the Olympic protests (fists in the air) that resulted with two American athletes (Tommie Smith and John Carlos) losing their medals, and Richard Nixon wins the Presidential election.  All of this and more happened in the space of one year while at the same time bombs explode on college campuses around the country in protest against the war.

By 1968, seven years had passed since Yuri Gagarin completed his famous space flight. Sadly, 1968 was the year that he was tragically killed in a mysterious Mig 15 plane crash. Yet, despite these numerous sad events, there was still some outstanding successes and accomplishments.

Just to name a few with a “Space Travel” focus,  Apollo 8 will successfully orbit the moon. By 1969, man will walk on the Moon. In addition, Television show, Star Trek, had telecast, before millions of shocked viewers, the first “scripted” interracial kiss in the United States. Captain Kirk will kiss his communication officer, Lieutenant Uhura (William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols).  Remember, this was at a time when most white America was still adjusting to the Civil Rights movement and ending segregation.

Besides Apollo 8 and the first interracial kiss, Space Travel never looked so good as it did with another Sci Fi film released in 1968.  This is the iconic 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was directed by Stanley Kubrick and written by Arthur C. Clarke. This was like no other Sci Fi film before. It was an art film with a philosophical base weaved within the plot. This film gave audiences a more realistic portrayal of space travel that included the dangers and some technological threats.  Because of this, space movies, like Star Wars and Star Trek, were enabled to become big movie blockbusters with huge budgets and mind-boggling technological special effects.

Barbarella is a fun movie. What it lacks in sophistication, it makes up for in its innocent portrayal of an emancipated woman. It also reminds us how far women have progressed and how much farther they need to go. I think science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer said it best: A science fiction writer should try to combine the intimately human with the grandly Cosmic. Barbarella is not a science fiction writer; but, this film definitely combines the intimately human with the grandly Cosmic… to perfection.

REFERENCE LINKS:

https://m.imdb.com/title/tt0062711/

https://debravega.wordpress.com/2018/02/04/announcing-the-outer-space-on-film-blogathon/

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/may/21/jane-fonda-youth-plastic-surgery-sex-cannes

https://m.ranker.com/review/barbarella/541352?ref=wiki_2636556

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/jane-fonda-wish-i-hadnt-31-03-2005/2/

Timeline (2003): History, Quantum Physics, Time Travel and Romance/ A Blogathon

Like most people, I have always been fascinated by the concept of Time Travel. Back in the early 80s, I remember a reading an article written by astronomer Carl Sagen.  He was so excited about the “reality” of sending a letter to anywhere in the world, in mere seconds. Can you imagine sending humans across the universe to a parallel universe or better yet to another era of earth time? I often wondered if he ever thought that the idea of faxing might be the building blocks to actual time travel?

I also wonder if Albert Einstein believed time travel was possible in the 20th century; since, he spent so much of his energy/time and space on this possibility. As a result, he left us with his time-continuum theory/ theory of Relativity. Even today, it is one of the most recognizable or iconic equations of all time: E=MC2.  Basically, this is an equation that symbolizes the conversion of mass into energy and energy into mass by manipulating the travel-speed of light.

As you can probably tell, I am excited about the theme of this blogathon: Time Travel in the movies. I want to thank Rich of Widescreen World and Ruth of Silver Screenings for hosting this event. Please use the link below to find more articles on time travel in the movies:

https://silverscreenings.org/2018/03/09/the-time-travel-blogathon-day-1/

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Why I chose this time travelling movie?

Timeline (2003)

This movie is based on a book: Timeline (1997) by author Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park, Coma, Andromeda Strain, Westwood...). Due to his background in medicine, he immersed his novels with his science and medical knowledge. One of the reasons I choose this movie was because of Crichton’s meticulous approach to details. When he sold the movie rights for this book, it was with the condition, they would use his back drop story.  He had a theory about how time travel might actually be accomplished. He took the idea of faxing to a Time Travel level. Carl Sagan would be proud.

The Movie Summary

Professor Johnson (Billy Connolly) is working at an archaeological dig in France near a medieval castle, Castlegard. He is aided by his assistant, Kate (Frances O’Connor), and his son, Chris (Paul Walker) and his other assistant, Andre Marek (Gerard Butler). The funding of this dig comes from a corporation that is conducting experiments on an accidental “wormhole” it created while attempting to  transport a box through a type of huge Fax machine (Time Machine).

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All reports from the dig-site are sent to this corporation. The CEO, who receives the dig site reports, also directs the transportation project. He  kind of reminds me of Bill Gates type, Dr. Robert Doniger, played by David Thewlis.  At the dig site, Chris is trying to start a romance with Kate.  Marek explains to him about true love. He uses a medieval grave site of a royal couple to help explain the aspects of  true love.

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Later, Kate and Marek are lowered into a “just found” tunnel. They find something that astounds all reason: Professor Johnson’s reading glasses are there. Unbelievably, the eye glasses are six hundred years old. Yet, they recently seen them on him the day before. When they try to locate the Professor, they find that he is missing.  He was last seen going to the Corporate Lab to report dig findings. The three assistants, along with a few other scientists from the dig site, accompanied them to Corporate.

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Frustratingly,  Dr. Doniger gives them his explanation.  Professor Johnson has been transported back in time to 1357 Castlegard, France. He has a “marker” that will direct him back to the 21st century as long as he is at the opening of the wormhole by the designated time. Problem is, he didn’t return. They are not sure what happened to him. The marker only works for a limited amount of time. So, Doniger elicits the help of the three assistants with their co-worker, Francois Dontelle (Rossif Sutherland)  to go on a mission to bring the Professor back. To lead them and protect them, Frank Gordon (Neal McDonough) and a few other Corporate men go with the group.

Already, something about all this feels wrong. Why did Doniger wait to contact them about the missing Professor. They would not have known anything if the Professor had not left his glasses, five hundred years ago, as a clue. Plus, Gordon acts a bit afraid to go. Not quite trusting Doniger, the group agree with the plan to retrieve the Professor.

Sadly, the time machine looks like the transporter from 1960s classic TV show: Star Trek. There we find Engineer Scott “Transporting” Captain Kirk (William Shatner), Mr Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and Doctor McCoy (Deforest Kelly) to the surface of a planet from space. A beam of light is manipulated to transport their bodies through space.

So with earth shattering pain from the transport, the adventure begins. They are transported back six hundred years ago. They arrive in the middle of a war.  This war is the Hundred Years War between France and England. The same war that saw combat action from Richard III, Henry V, and Joan of Arc, although they never actually met on a field of battle or anywhere else. A time period where the Black Plague was prevalent and European men loved cropped hair styles God and obeyed the Church.

Before the Professor can be found and just after they appear in 1357 France, a couple of the Corporate guards are murdered by English soldiers. Marek rescues a boy from English soldiers only to find out the boy is a girl, Lady Claire (Anna’s Friel). Then, the whole group is captured by the English Lord Oliver (Martin Sheen) as French spies. We also learn he is holding the Professor prisoner too. To keep Oliver from killing him, the Professor promised to make him a weapon to defeat the French:  ” liquid Fire” or Greek Fire. This plays havoc on the whole changing the future idea.

Back at corporate headquarters, one of the wounded men is sent back. Unbeknownst to them, he had pulled the pin to a grenade (illegally brought to the past) while he was fighting the English for his life. Right after the body is transported, the grenade in his hand blows up in the time machine.  So, Doniger is busy trying to repair the damage before the time will expired to bring the group back.

The group escaped Lord Oliver but get separated. Marek rescued Lady Claire again. Professor Johnson, Chris, and Kate are captured again. After all these rescues, Marek  and Lady Claire begin to fall in love.  They have some cute courting miscommunication even though Marek is the only one who speaks her archaic French language (Occitan). They are eventually found by her brother, Prince Regent, Lord Arnaut (Lambert Wilson).

When Marek leaves the French camp to find his friends, he becomes captured again by the right hand man of Lord Oliver, Sir Dekere.  As a prisoner, Marek is reunited with his friends who are also prisoners.  Soon they learn, that Sir William Deker (Marton Csorkas) is really William Decker from their time. He was left behind and assumed dead. He is convinced that the group is there to kill him. He explained that he has Time travelled several times.  He reveals to the group a secret. A secret that Dr. Doniger wants to kill him for in order to ensure his silence. The secret: Each time you go through the transport, your cellular atoms mutate. Due to the internal damage, you will eventually die sooner than you normally would.

Dr. Doniger really wants this rescue mission to fail; and, he sabotages the efforts to fix the time machine before the wormhole appears again. Not wanting to spoil the interesting ending, I will leave the summary here.

Personally, I enjoyed the movie. I don’t know anyone who didn’t like this movie. However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its flaws or that there are people who hated it. Crichton hated the movie so much that he refused to sell any more movie rights for his books. However, after he died of cancer in 2008, his estate did sell his friend, Steven Spielberg, the rights to Pirate Latitudes.

 So, what happened to this “could have a great movie?”

It is directed by Richard Donner (Lethal Weapon [1 – 4], Superman (1978), Goonies (1985), Scrooged (1988)…) The cast is exceptional: Sir Billy Connolly, David Thewlis, Gerard Butler, Paul Walker, Frances O’Conner, Michael Sheen, Anna Friel, Neal McDonough, …. It had a generous budget of 80 million dollars. By all rights this movie should have been a huge hit with some sequels.

Again, it has a great story, an excellent director, cast and crew and mucho money.  So, what happened?

First: It was a disaster at the box office. The first week it opened it made a little over 8.4 million dollars. It grossed not quite 20 million in the USA. In the international market it made 43.9 million. In other words, it lost money.

Second: The hype was overwhelming….people wanted to see this movie. Yet, release dates kept changing. Donner had to ‘re-cut this 136 minute movie to 116 minutes. The studio sent this movie back four times for edit/cuts. Of course, details of the story were cut out of the film.  These details helped audiences understand the story; and, allow it to be believable. As a result, it became an action movie and the valuable concepts and plots were lost on the audience.

Third: Possibly, the heart of the movie was removed. At the beginning of the film, Billy Connolly had a prologue that explained his character’s disappearance. This was vital to the story: and helped introduce the plot. Instead, the movie starts with some guy in a robe running around in the desert/forest. One minute he is in a forest running from a knight on horseback. Then, he is struck down by sword. Then, he falls in the middle of the road in the desert. A car stops to assist. We don’t know the guy; and, he dies in the emergency room. Some suits show up to retrieve his medical records and x-rays. The attending doctor says there are abnormalities in the x-rays. For me, this was too soon for a such a small clue for me to use later. Of course, I completely forgot the scene because it is not memorable.

Fourth: Historically the film is inaccurate. There was no Battle of Castlegard.  The language was neither French or English.  It was before Shakespeare and after Chaucer.  In the book, Crichton gave each of them a high-tech ear translator. This was not done in the movie. The language barrier was not appropriately addressed. On top of that detail, the shields had emblems of countries and regions that did not exist in 1357.  Canada is one and Germany is another country.

Last Thoughts

Again, I thought Timeline was an enjoyable movie. No, it does present a reliable theory concerning Time Travel or its impact on society. If there was a perspective about Time Travel in this film, it might be that time travel should not be attempted. What good can come from tinkering with the past? Besides, according to this movie, the human body was not made to withstand the subatomic makeover from travelling the speed of light; with or without a wormhole. It is sad that the movie was edited and cut to its death. This promised to be a great movie; but, was reduced to enjoyable in 116 minutes.

Presently, quantum physicists are still working on the possibility of time travel.   What I do know is that six years ago, college students were able to bend light from another room. At this rate, who knows if space and time travel is not only possible but may actual happen in our near future. Honestly, didn’t we just send a Tesla car into space blasting David Bowie’s Space Oddity on the radio. On second thought, maybe there are travels that we, as humans, will find beyond of our realm of attainable possibilities.

 

REFERENCE LINKS:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.rogerebert.com/reviews/amp/timeline-2003

http://www.michaelcrichton.com

https://illinois.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/phy03.sci.phys.fund.sagantime/sagan-on-time-travel/#.WqRhUshOm2c

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0300556/

https://www.bing.com/search?pc=ASWI&form=AMZNS2&q=wormholes+definition+astronomy