KLAATU YOU (12)
March 18, 2020
One in a weekly series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite pre-Star Wars science fiction movies.
BARBARELLA | d. ROGER VADIM | 1968 vs. SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS | d. MIKE KUCHAR | 1965
Barbarella inspired an epic party for which I bought a pair of silver vinyl pants, festooned my house with yards of mylar, and converted the recliner into an Excessive Machine (a torture device that inspired the orgasmatron in Sleeper). But that was twenty years ago. I needed to refresh my memory for this assignment, so I cheerfully plunked down $3.99 to rent the movie on Amazon, hit play, and waited for the fun to begin. A third of the way in, I got distracted, and by the time I got back to it my rental had expired. I decided to bail on Barbarella and watch Mike Kuchar’s Sins of the Fleshapoids instead.
By all means, watch the opening credits of Barbarella! Watch nineteen-year-old Jane Fonda’s zero-gravity striptease. Admire the see-through plastic and luxurious fun fur of her womblike spacecraft, and wonder why the escape-hatch door is paneled with Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Maybe watch the whole movie, I don’t know, but be warned: it’s slow going after that — sort of a cross between Love, American Style and a minor episode of Star Trek. But whatever you do, when you’re done, please turn immediately to Sins of the Fleshapoids. It covers the same territory (hedonism, empire, animatronic sex) on 0.0001% of the budget and with 1,000% more soul.
Barbarella is camp, or even “camp”: a eurotrash production made with Hollywood money. The reason Fonda is so perfect in the title role is that, even as a teenager, she had the voice of a branch manager in Des Moines. Throughout the movie her frank, befuddled expression seems to say, “Did someone order a pizza?” Fleshapoids, on the other hand, exists in some Jack Smith universe beyond irony. Barbarella has sexy spacesuits designed by Paco Raban; Fleshapoids has togas and flapper dresses and football helmets. The sets are a maze of bed sheets and plastic fruit. One million years in the future, shirtless lotharios lounge about on leopard-skin throws eating Clark bars and bags of Wise potato chips.
Fleshapoids did enough box office as a midnight movie that Mike Kuchar was able to quit the photo-retouching job with which he financed it. Every part of that last sentence sounds as much like science fiction as the log line of Star Wars. But its importance as an underground film cannot be overstated, for without Fleshapoids there would be no Mondo Trasho, no Pink Flamingos. There might not even have been a Young Frankenstein; it’s hard not to see Bob Cowen’s odd, noble, lovestruck Xar in Peter Boyle’s monster. Certainly, without George Kuchar as the petulant Prince Gianbeno, Divine would have had to search elsewhere for his eyebrows.
KLAATU YOU: INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | Matthew De Abaitua on ZARDOZ | Miranda Mellis on METROPOLIS | Rob Wringham on THE INVISIBLE MAN | Michael Grasso on THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN | Gordon Dahlquist on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY | Erik Davis on DARK STAR | Carlo Rotella on THE OMEGA MAN | Madeline Ashby on KISS ME DEADLY | Adam McGovern on SILENT RUNNING | Michael Lewy on THIS ISLAND EARTH | Josh Glenn on WILD IN THE STREETS | Mimi Lipson on BARBARELLA vs. SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS | Vanessa Berry on THE FLY | Lynn Peril on ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN | Peggy Nelson on SOLARIS | Adrienne Crew on LOGAN’S RUN | Ramona Lyons on THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH | Kio Stark on THE STEPFORD WIVES | Dan Fox on FANTASTIC PLANET | Chris Lanier on IKARIE XB-1 | Devin McKinney on IDAHO TRANSFER | Mark Kingwell on THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO | Luc Sante on THE TENTH VICTIM | William Nericcio on DEATH RACE 2000 | Rob Walker on CAPRICORN ONE | Gary Panter on ANGRY RED PLANET | David Levine on THE STEPFORD WIVES | Karinne Keithley Syers on ALPHAVILLE | Carolyn Kellogg on IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE | Sara Ryan on ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN | Lisa Jane Persky on PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE | Adam Harrison Levy on BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES | Gerald Peary on CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON | Susannah Breslin on A CLOCKWORK ORANGE | Seth on WAR OF THE WORLDS | James Hannaham on GOJIRA/GODZILLA | Lydia Millet on VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED | Matthew Daniel on FANTASTIC VOYAGE | Shawn Wolfe on ROLLERBALL | Erin M. Routson on WESTWORLD | Marc Weidenbaum on COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT | Neil LaBute on 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA | Vicente Lozano on DAY OF THE DOLPHIN | Tom Roston on SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE | Katya Apekina on A BOY AND HIS DOG | Chelsey Johnson on THE BLOB | Heather Kapplow on SPACE IS THE PLACE | Brian Berger on THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS | Anthony Miller on THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL.
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