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Barbarella (Limited Edition) (4K UHD Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film
The Video (Overall)
HDR Effect
The Audio
The Supplements
Overall

SUMMARY

An astronaut in the 41st century has campy sexual adventures while searching for a villain named Durand Durand.

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Roger Vadim’s (…and God Created Woman) Barbarella might be today more famous (or infamous) for its, at the time, shocking opening title sequence with Jane Fonda performing a striptease in zero gravity as the credits swirl around to barely cover her naughty bits. It is also the film that gave eighties “new British Invasion” band Duran Duran its name (spelling slightly altered). Barbarella, however, is firmly rooted in the campy European comedies of the time and is less shocking from the Euro-perspective than it is (or was) from across the other side of the pond. While it is hardly epic or groundbreaking, its sugary atmosphere, naiveté, and almost innocent exploration of sexuality are infectious. Fonda, in the role as the sweetly enticing Barbarella in a futuristic, shaggy carpet-lined spaceship, is joyous to watch as she moves from one candy-colored setting to the next in search of the galactic threat Durand Durand, — like a futuristic Alice in a modern Wonderland — all the while finding out about the joys of physical, sexual pleasure, being from an Earth where the act has long since been replaced with pills. Although this may very well rank for all time on many critics worsts lists, it is one of the best “worst” films ever done, especially if approached with the right state of mind and keeping in mind the historical context. It may be campy and mildly erotic, but it never takes itself too seriously or crosses the line into sleaze, such as other films that have come along over the years like Showgirls.

  • Jane Fonda in Barbarella (1968)
  • Jane Fonda and Anita Pallenberg in Barbarella (1968)
  • Jane Fonda in Barbarella (1968)
  • 
Jane Fonda and Milo O'Shea in Barbarella (1968)
  • Jane Fonda and John Phillip Law in Barbarella (1968)
  • Chantal Cachin in Barbarella (1968)
  • 
Jane Fonda and David Hemmings in Barbarella (1968)
  • Jane Fonda in Barbarella (1968)
  • Jane Fonda in Barbarella (1968)
  • Jane Fonda in Barbarella (1968)
  • Barbarella (Limited Edition) (Arrow Video -- AV541)
  • Barbarella (Limited Edition) (Arrow Video -- AV541)
  • Barbarella (Limited Edition) (Arrow Video -- AV541)

The Video

Barbarella arrives on 4K Ultra HD in a brand new 4K restoration from the original negative by Arrow Films. The film is presented on disc in a 2.35:1 HEVC 2160p (4K UHD) Dolby Vision encodement. This is and has always been a fairly grainy film, with scenes where there are dupes used for in-camera visual effects showing even more grain and softened details. That said, the grain structure looks very natural throughout this transfer and there are no issues with blocking, smearing, or noise. The real upgrade with this new 4K release over previous Blu-ray releases, especially the 2012 Blu-ray restoration from Paramount, is the vibrancy of the colors and additional gradients that are visible in the image. True to its comic book roots, the colors look bold and truer to life. Barbarella’s ship now has a redder look versus a darker, almost salmon color before. The yellows are hot mustard yellow versus pale yellow now, and this continues through all the colors. The specular highlights bring just a slight bit more sheen and sparkle to her glitzy garments.

The Audio

Barbarella gets a new Dolby Atmos remix and a remixed French LPCM 1.0 remix that features Jane Fonda’s voice. The original English mono mix is also included in LPCM 1.0. At first listen, the Atmos mix does seem to add much, but when comparing it to the English 1.0, there are big differences. The sound effects are much cleaner in the Atmos mix where they clip and sound harsher in the original mix. I wonder if the sound effects were replaced with new sounds for the remix. The overhead channels carry mostly ambience and some mild bleeps and blips of the sounds of the computers and spaceships, but they do become more active in Chapter 7 around the 00:50:53 mark when a ‘voice of God’ effect is used as the female computer voice speaks to Barbarella. Overall, it is a very decent upgrade for a film from this era.

The Supplements

Barbarella is appropriately given a release in gorgeous packaging with a lot of collectibles befitting its comic book origins and the eye candy cinematography and production designs of the film. There is a separate bonus Blu-ray packed with interviews and a video essay, booklet, poster, and more. Plus we get the magnificent audio commentary from Tim Lucas.

Limited Edition Features:

  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Tula Lotay
  • Double-sided fold-out poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Tula Lotay
  • Six double-sided collector’s postcards
  • Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Anne Billson, Paul Gravett, Véronique Bergen and Elizabeth Castaldo LLundén,
  • and select archival material
  • Alternative opening and closing credits (in 4K with Dolby Vision)

Bonus Features:

  • Commentary by Tim Lucas
  • Isolated Score Track
  • Alternative Opening Credits (4K; DV; 00:02:21)
  • Alternative Closing Credits (4K; DV; 00:01:16)

Blu-ray Bonus Disc:

  • Another Girl. Another Planet (1080p; 00:23:03) – An appreciation by film critic Glenn Kenny
  • Barbarella Forever! (1080p; 00:14:54) – Behind the scenes featurette featuring rarely seen footage shot by Paul Joyce in Rome, 1967
  • Love: Tim Lucas and Steve Bisette on Barbarella (1080p; 01:53:20) – a two-hour in-depth discussion between film and cultural historians Tim Lucas & Steve Bissette on the impact and legacy of Barbarella.
  • Dress to Kill (1080p; 00:31:30) – Elizabeth Castaldo Lundén discusses costume designer Jacques Fontenay’s creative input into the unique look of Barbarella.
  • Framing for Claude (1080p; 00:17:12)  – Camera operator Roberto Girometti talks his career and his work on Barbarella under cinematographer Claude Renoir.
  • Tognazzi on Tognazzi (1080p; 00:21:56) –Actor/director Ricky Tognazzi discusses the life and work of his father and Barbarella star Ugo Tognazzi.
  • An Angel’s Body Double (1080p; 00:24:26) – Actor Fabio Testi discusses his early career as a stuntman and body double for John Phillip Law on Barbarella.
  • Dino and Barbarella (1080p; 00:14:27) – Video essay by Egenio Ercolani discussing the role of pioneering Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis in the creation of Barbarella.
  • Promotional Material:
    • Trailer (1080p; 00:03:21)
    • US TV Spot (1080p; 00:00:55)
    • US Radio Spots (1080p; 00:02:55)
  • Image Gallery (1080p)

The Final Assessment

Barbarella is campy cult classic that is amusing, mildly arousing, and gloriously silly. Kylie Minogue, Katy Perry, and Ariana Grande have all made hit music videos that pay tribute to Barbarella and Duran Duran took their name from the film’s villain. Barbarella stars Jane Fonda in all her youthful beauty reveling in the camp, the costumes, and the eye-catching sets. Arrow Video has brought out all the stunning visuals in their new restoration with a colorful, organic transfer.


Barbarella (Limited Edition) is out on 4K Ultra HD November 28, 2023, from Arrow Video


  • Rating Certificate: Approved
  • Studios & Distributors: Marianne Productions | Dino de Laurentiis Cinematografica | Paramount Pictures | Arrow Video
  • Director: Roger Vadim
  • Written By: Jean-Claude Forest | Terry Southern | Roger Vadim
  • Run Time: 98 Mins.
  • Street Date: 28 November 2023
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Video Format: HEVC 2160p (4K UHD)
  • HDR Format: Dolby Vision (HDR10 Compatible)
  • Primary Audio: English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Compatible)
  • Secondary Audio: English LPCM 1.0 | French LPCM 1.0
  • Subtitles: English SDH
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An astronaut in the 41st century has campy sexual adventures while searching for a villain named Durand Durand.Barbarella (Limited Edition) (4K UHD Review)