Outer Space Blogathon! The Year was 1968: Barbarella, Space Exploration And War

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.


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:



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.


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.


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.