The year is 40,000 AD. Peacefully floating around in zero-gravity – and taking her clothes off to what sounds like Herb Alpert and his Tijuana Horns – sexy 41st Century astronaut Barbarella is suddenly interrupted by a video call from the boa-clad President of Earth and Rotating Premier of the Sun System, Dianthus.
A renegade scientist called Durand Durand, is threatening centuries of universal peace with his Positronic Ray, and Barbarella is the one chosen to find him and save the stars and mother planet. (and yes, that is where the 80s group got their name)
Barbarella instructs her ship’s computer (“Alfie”) to fly her craft Alpha 7 into temporal space (?) and wake her up in 154 hours.
She settles into a see-through bed (affording us a few more glimpses of her breasts) but is shortly woken by Alfie who instructs her to “insert nourishment” and promptly crashes the craft . . .
Barbarella is met by a pair of “cute little girls” who promptly knock her out with a snowball, tie her up and take her off on a set of ski’s towed by a manta ray (!).
In the burned-out shell of Durand Durand’s spaceship, she finds herself the entertainment for a group of feral kids and their walking dolls with razor-sharp steel teeth and spring-loaded mouths.
The dolls start to bite through her flimsy fishnet clothing (and bits of her body) but all too soon she is rescued by a macho type in a fur suit with a big whip (Ugo Tognazzi). He is a ‘catcher’.
After bonking Barbarella in his sail-powered sled he fixes her spacecraft and she heads off in search of Durand Durand.
Unfortunately, she crashes again moments later, but luckily she activates the Terrascrew (!) and goes subterranean. In the labyrinth of the City of Night, she meets Pygar (pictured below), a handsome angel who has unfortunately lost the will to fly.
Pygar (John Phillip Law) is also blind – which gives him a chance to run his fingers over her body -oo-er missus! – and is cared for by a chap called Professor Ping (played by Marcel Marceau in a distinctly non-miming role).
During a raid on the labyrinth, Pygar rescues Barbarella from the Black Guard and after bonking Barbarella – her standard method of repaying those who save her life apparently – he regains the will to fly.
He flies Barbarella to the City of Night where she is promptly kidnapped. Fortunately, she is saved by a beautiful woman with an eye patch (and a handy knack with a knife). She calls Barbarella “Pretty pretty” but Barbarella does not want to play and runs away . . .
She escapes smack bang into the Chamber of Ultimate Solution where she is invited to “Select from three exciting and surprising forms of death” hidden behind three doors.
Should she fail to choose, she will be given to the Matmos – A lake of living energy in liquid form which thrives on evil, upon which the entire city is built.
Fortunately, she is rescued by the Concierge to the Great Tyrant. Coming face to face with the Great Tyrant, Barbarella discovers it is the “little one-eyed wench” with the knife (Anita Pallenberg – dubbed by Joan Greenwood).
Barbarella still doesn’t want to play so she is thrown to the birds where more pecking of the clothes and skin ensues. Luckily she is rescued by Dildano (David Hemmings), Head of the Revolutionary Forces.
Dildano and Barbarella have pill-based “virtual” sex before she heads off and finally discovers the scientist Durand Durand (Milo O’Shea) – and gets laid by an organ (an actual organ, with pedals and keys) – a machine designed to kill its victims with sexual pleasure.
The Tyrant frees the Matmos (apocalypse) but Barbarella survives as the Matmos creates a bubble with our heroine inside it “to protect itself from her innocence”. She is so good that she makes the Matmos vomit and Durand Durand and the city (and all in it) are destroyed.
Pygar flies off into the sunset with Barbarella under one arm and Anita Pallenberg under the other (no wonder he looks happy) and that’s that.
Jane Fonda delivers all her lines with wide-eyed amazement, like a sexually liberated version of Dorothy Gale in an erotic Oz.
As a sex object, Fonda is at the absolute top of her game in Barbarella – fortunately, she constantly finds herself in situations during her mission where it is necessary to lose at least part of her (already scant) clothing.
The film was made during a long-term love affair between Fonda and director Roger Vadim, and it shows in every frame.
It’s a wonder, wonder woman
You’re so wild and wonderful
cause it seems whenever we’re together
the planets all stand still
there’s a kinda cockle shell about you
John Phillip Law
The Great Tyrant (Black Queen)
Marie Therese Chevallier
Dianthus, President of Earth