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 | J.C. Gabel on INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS | Alison Fensterstock on ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW | Wayne Chambliss on THEM! and PHASE IV | Neil LaBute on 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA | Kevin Obsatz on DEATHSPORT | Erin M. Routson on WESTWORLD | Shawn Wolfe on ROLLERBALL | Chelsey Johnson on THE BLOB | Heather Kapplow on SPACE IS THE PLACE | Marc Weidenbaum on COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT | Katya Apekina on A BOY AND HIS DOG | Tom Roston on SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE | Vicente Lozano on DAY OF THE DOLPHIN | Seth Mnookin on NUDE ON THE MOON | Anthony Miller on THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL.
CARBONA YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2020): “Sex Bomb” | “Going Underground” | “Soft South Africans” | “Typical Girls” | “Human Fly” & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) punk singles. KLAATU YOU (2020 weekly): ZARDOZ | METROPOLIS | DARK STAR | SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS | SOLARIS | & dozens of other pre-STAR WARS sci-fi movies. CONVOY YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2019): THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE | ROLLERBALL | BLACK SUNDAY | SORCERER | STRAIGHT TIME | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) action movies. SERIOCOMIC (2019 weekly): LITTLE LULU | VIZ | MARSUPILAMI | ERNIE POOK’S COMEEK | HELLBOY | & dozens of other comics. TUBE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2018): LOONEY TUNES | THREE STOOGES | THE AVENGERS | ROCKY & BULLWINKLE | THE TWILIGHT ZONE | & 20 other Fifties (1954–1963) TV shows. WOWEE ZOWEE (2018 weekly): UNISEX | UNDER THE PINK | DUMMY | AMOR PROHIBIDO | HIPS AND MAKERS | & dozens of other Nineties (1994–2003) albums. KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2017): THE KILLERS | BANDE À PART (BAND OF OUTSIDERS) | ALPHAVILLE | HARPER | BLOW-UP | & 20 other Sixties (1964–1973) neo-noir movies. #SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST! & dozens of other squads. GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) new wave singles. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other Thirties (1934–1943) fantasy novels. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.