Barbarella (Roger Vadim / France-Italy, 1968):

"Geni-us is mysterio-us." Losey's Modesty Blaise is Roger Vadim's basis, his Little Annie Fannie doffs her celestial jumpsuit piece by piece until Jane Fonda emerges like a zero-gravity Aphrodite. (Animated credits flit across the centerfold-widescreen, vainly trying to obscure her saucy bits.) Out of the shag-lined boudoir and into Sogo the City of Night for wide-eyed Barbarella, nothing less than "the loving union of the universe" is at stake, just another day for Earth's "star astro-navigatrix." On the ice planet she's conked out by Cocteau's stone-in-snowball gag (Les Enfants Terribles) and nibbled at by a horde of fanged dolls, in the rocky labyrinth she zings with the sightless angel Pygar (John Phillip Law in loincloth and pinned-on Icarus wings). As the Great Tyrant, Anita Pallenberg rocks a plastic horn atop a raven bouffant and a dubbed-in Joan Greenwood purr; David Hemmings lends Dildano the revolutionary nitwit a dandy air of abstracted buffoonery, a deadpan cracked only by a squeal when smoke arises from his fingertips at the end of a lovemaking session. The heroine meanwhile confronts a chamber filled with marauding parakeets and the absconding scientist Durand Durand (Milo O'Shea), whose mighty Orgasmatron machine short-circuits before her carnal appetites. "This is really much too poetic a way to die." The spaceship's décor (Seurat canvas, moon goddess effigy, lisping computer) is but the tip of Vadim's slapdash pop-kitsch slurry, one tableau after another of Roman clutter strung together by a fetishistic Gallic gaze. In one final hurrah for her kittenish phase, Fonda glides through all this comic-strip salaciousness with frisky aplomb—freshly rogered and ululating to herself under a pile of furs and feathers, nothing is funnier than her mock-bimbo look of surprise. "Vade retro, Earth girl!" The spectacle dissolves in a lava-lamp of The Last Days of Pompeii and The Wizard of Oz, Dino De Laurentiis fuses it back together for Hodges' Flash Gordon. Cinematography by Claude Renoir. With Marcel Marceau, Ugo Tognazzi, and Claude Dauphin.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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