Vanity Fear

A Pretentious A**hole's Guide to B-Movie Bullsh*t

Barbarella--An Introduction

A few weeks ago, Erin Fraser and Matt Bowes asked me to co-curate their screening of Barbarella - Queen of the Galaxy, which was to be the 3rd film of the 3rd season of their Graphic Content series, devoted to comic book cinema.

My duties would be two-fold. First, I would have to write an essay about the film, which would appear on the website, and, second, I would have to join them as they introduced the film at the screening.

Because I am not the sort to half-ass these things, I decided not to attempt to pull an extemporaneous intro out of my butt and instead wrote what amounted to a second, shorter, essay. And since I quite like it a lot and it seemed to get the desired response, I thought I would post it here for your entertainment.

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There are certain films that are timeless—made with a sophistication that feels as right and relevant today as it did when the work was originally created.

Barbarella is NOT one of those films.

In fact, Barbarella is so much a product of a specific era that there was really only like an 8-month span in the entire 20th Century where it could have ever been created. And it is to our good fortune that the universe aligned in such a way that it did in fact actually happen.

Barbarella is not just dated. It is transcendently dated—to the point that it actually ends up lapping itself and achieves its own special kind of timelessness. It’s like an ancient mosquito frozen in amber, but in such a way that if you tried harvesting DNA from the blood in its belly, you wouldn’t be able to recreate anything, because nature can’t find a way if there was never anything natural to begin with.

This film is a monument to the artificial, in a way that the 1970s auteurist wave tried its best to make sure never happened again. And it mostly succeeded, because even though there are examples of films that have tried to rise up to this level, almost none of them get beyond the point of homage and pastiche. Barbarella, though, is the real deal.

It is the genuine fake article.

And how did this happen? Was it planned or a glorious accident? The answer, of course, is that it was both and that is what truly makes it wonderful—the synthesis of the canny and the campy. You are going to laugh watching this film, because it is very funny, but sometimes you are going to laugh with it and sometimes you are going to laugh at it and often you’re going to find it difficult to determine which you are doing at any given time.

Now, traditionally, we would assume that the director Roger Vadim was responsible for all this, but the problem is that there’s a very good reason why he is best remembered today as a dude who hooked up with some of the most beautiful women in the world and not as an amazing filmmaker and that’s because he was not an amazing filmmaker. In fact, there are signs that he wasn’t even a good filmmaker. His best films are saved by two basic factors—interesting screenplays written mostly by other people and really, really beautiful women.

In the case of Barbarella, that screenplay had as many as 8 people who worked on it, but the most important of these is the only one who is actually credited on-screen with Vadim—Terry Southern. Now, Terry Southern was one of the defining comic voices of that era, best know for his work with Stanley Kubrick on Dr. Strangelove. It’s safe to say that every time you find yourself laughing with Barbarella, he’s the one responsible.

And it is interesting to note that prior to working on Barbarella, Southern once co-wrote a novel called Candy that was a parody of Voltaire’s Candide. It was about a young beautiful innocent who meets a series of strange men, who she proceeds to have lots and lots of sex with. A famously terrible film version of that novel was made the same year as Barbarella and Southern did not write the screenplay for it—Buck Henry did. So it may be a coincidence that Barbarella is also about a young beautiful innocent who meets a series of strange men, who she proceeds to have lots and lots of sex with, but I personally like to think of it as a kind of cinematic FUUUUUUUUUUUUCK YOOOOU!

In the piece I wrote for the Graphic Content website, I specifically mention the behinds the scenes folks primarily responsible for the aspects of Barbarella that make it a work of both deliberate and accidental genius—but I only have 90 seconds left to talk, so I’m now going to focus on how hot Jane Fonda was in 1968.

Jane Fonda was REALLY HOT IN 1968. She would have been 30 when this movie was filmed and when it was being made no one could have any idea that she would go on to become one of the most culturally significant figures of the past 50 years. More than just a movie star, she has managed to successfully ride in the middle of the zeitgeist throughout every decade of her fame.

And you would think that because of this she might look back with shame at a film as strange and silly as Barbarella, but Jane Fonda is too awesome for that. When she’s asked about it in interviews you can see a special twinkle in her eye. She doesn’t back down or shy away from it. Instead she tells her interlocutor about how many men over the past years have come up to her and said how much of an impact their posters of Barbarella had on them during their adolescence.

Why?

BECAUSE JANE FONDA WAS REALLY HOT IN 1968!

And that hotness has been captured here forever in a silly, wonderful film that will stand the tests of time, because it is so utterly of its time. This movie is a snapshot of a moment that never really existed—a history that never was. There wasn’t a single second in recorded time when this movie wasn’t ridiculous and because of this it is special in a way so few films are.

Allan Drills Daisy -- From the Dusty Archives

Daisy Barringer and I first got to know each other through our work on a popular women's website I shall not name because that way trouble lies (it's a long sad story). It didn't take long for me to note that we shared similar senses of humour and it occurred to me that it might prove amusing to attempt a collaboration. For various reasons it never saw print, but when I took a look at it a few days ago it aroused a chuckle or two from deep within me, so I asked my co-author if she was cool with me posting it here on my site, where it was guaranteed to be read by A LOT less people than we originally intended. Some of the references are a bit dated, since it was written over a year and a half ago, but I still like it.

And if you don't, it's probably Daisy's fault.

Allan Drills Daisy (About Sports)

Allan: Daisy, as my favourite vagina-ed sports expert, I have decided to reach out to you to help me better understand the world of athletics and why it should matter to me—a man who gets winded if he fast-forwards past commercials too quickly. To that end, I’ve devised a few questions that I hope you can answer and bring me closer to my goal of becoming a more well rounded token dude.

Daisy: Allan, thank you so much for reaching out. (I hope all of the typing didn’t exhaust you or get in the way of your typical “special computer time”.) I will speculate that the folks love you as their token dude *because* you don’t know much about sports, but I appreciate your eagerness to learn. It’s endearing! In a completely sexless, none-of-us-are-ever-going-to-think-of-you-that-way way. First lesson: Don’t ever call it the “world of athletics” again. Unless you want me to fly down to whatever cute little Canuck “city” you call home and give you a Megaton Wedgie (that’s the one that doesn’t end until the underwear is literally ripped off your body). But then again, you might be into that sort of thing, in which case: keep at it!

Seriously.

Ohmygawd, how much fun are we having already?!

Now to your questions.

Allan: Aren’t sports stupid? By that I mean, aren’t the people who both watch and participate in them morons who over compensate for their mental deficiencies by growing big muscles and bragging about their bench-pressing abilities? And why were the girls on the senior volleyball team so mean to me in high school?

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 Daisy: Yes, yes, and because you’re really short.

But honestly, who cares about those mean girls? Have you ever played volleyball?! (Nevermind, I’ll just assume the answer is no.) It literally makes no sense. According to some hard-hitting research I did on The Internet, 20% of people “hate” volleyball and with good reason. If I’m going to be subjected to getting balls flying at my face for thirty minutes, well… I think we all know where this is going. (Hint: I’m talking about my vagina! It’s a sex reference!)

Allan: Who was the person who decided that a game that involves throwing and catching a ball with your hands should be named football? Were they stupid? Am I the first person who’s ever noticed this?

Daisy: I don’t know. Yes. No.

No, seriously. American football is derived from rugby football and zzzzzzzzzzzz. Sorry. I was still thinking about balls in my face.

Allan: Wouldn’t baseball be more interesting if everyone on the field had a bat? And if it wasn’t baseball, but a Spanish telenovela about Dominican immigrants and their spicy hot Latin wives?

Daisy: I’ve been advised by my legal counsel not to answer this question.

Allan: This summer the Olympics are going to take place in London. The original Olympics featured athletes who competed in the nude. Who was the asshole who started making everyone wear clothes? Was it the same jerk from question #2?

Daisy: Nekkid people freak me out. As does this question. Next.

Allan: You’re a snowboarder. As a Canadian I implicitly understand that snow is the best possible excuse to stay inside and play video games. What’s wrong with you?

Daisy: If you have to ask what’s wrong with me, I feel like you’re not paying attention to the things I tweet to Jared Leto. Shit. Why did I write that? It’s a cry for help, Allan. A CRY FOR HELP!

Allan: People who watch sports appear to drink a lot of beer. Do the frequent trips to the bathroom that result make it seem like the events go by a lot faster and less boringly then they would if you weren’t constantly peeing?

Daisy: Sigh. Yes. Yes it does.

Allan: Doesn’t the fact that basketball players are all so tall and close to the basket make the sport much less fun to watch? Wouldn’t it be more entertaining if they were all 5’4” or shorter and mini-trampolines were scattered randomly around the court to make up the difference?

Daisy: Do they not have the Harlem Globe Trotters in Canada? You just described the Washington Generals. You should try out. You could probably get onto their lineup.

Allan: What’s the difference between being a passionate supporter of your favorite sports team and being a member of one of those cults that forces you to wear robes and get an unflattering haircut?

Daisy: The only difference is that the 49ers allow me to wear my hair however I choose. I accidentally got carried away this year and chose pigtails once. I’m in my 30s. Someone should have stopped me. WHY DIDN’T ANYONE STOP ME? A CRY FOR HELP ALLAN! A CRY FOR HELP!

Allan: Winners of sporting events often thank the deity of their choosing for their victories. If God is in fact affecting outcomes, how is this not considered cheating? Wouldn’t the only fair contests be ones that just involve atheists?

Daisy: I once dated a guy who convinced me that sleeping with other women wasn’t actually cheating, so I don’t think I’m the right person to answer this question.

Allan: If the world’s greatest MMA fighter, the world’s greatest boxer, a ninja, a Japanese sex robot and a honey badger were thrown into the same ring, how many hits would the resulting YouTube clip get? Are we talking Rebecca Black numbers?

Daisy: WTF is a Japanese sex robot?

Allan: I’ve noticed that at football games, attractive women in very brief outfits dance around like strippers with ribbon-thingies in their hands. This makes me feel funny in my pants. Why is that?

Daisy: Because you know they’d ignore you in real life.

Allan: Tim Tebow?

Daisy: He makes all of us feel a little funny in our pants, Allan. But it’s not something we say out loud.

Allan: Thanks Daisy! That was very enlightening. I feel as though I can now comfortably walk into any local beer hall where waitresses clad in vacuum-sealed hot pants serve chicken wings featuring different varieties of hot sauces. That’ll show those stupid volleyball girls! They laughed at me then, but I’ll be the one laughing now! HA! HAHA! HAHAHAHA!

DAISY: A CRY FOR HELP ALLAN! A CRY FOR HELP!

 


I Hated Pieces to Pieces

Yesterday I realized all of my videos no longer could be viewed on the blog, so I've begun the process of re-uploading them to Vimeo, which I thought would serve as a good way to reintroduce them to those of you who have not witnessed their glory and majesty. 

First up is my vid for Pieces , a popular Euro-slasher that I happen to think is the rare horror film that is every bit as terrible and unjustifiable as critics of the genre claim all such films are. In the vid I make reference to "the people have spoken," which was my nod to the fact that I had a poll about what movie to review next on the blog at the time and Pieces  won with 3 votes.

I never ever claimed to be popular. 

Anyway, here's me trashing a movie a lot of people inexplicably love. Probably NSFW, unless you're feeling brave.

More Old Lacey

An Excerpt from 1957s Lacey Frill and the Quiz Show Scandal by Stoney M. Badess (as Drake A. Hardman)

 

The camera closed in on Lacey’s face as beads of sweat began to form on her furrowed brow.

“Augustus Klieman Von Rowendreich?” she finally guessed just before the timeout buzzer went off.

“That’s right!” the show’s enthusiastic host announced to the applause of the studio audience—none of whom knew that the stakes for this particular contestant were so much higher than just losing a significant amount of cash.

As focused as she was on each question, she still could not forget what the show's diabolical producers had told her once she had stepped into the soundbooth.

 "This booth is airtight you nosy little girl and all it would take to replace the oxygen we're pumping into it with cyanide gas is one simple flip of the switch.. To save yourself a gruesome death, all you have to do is correctly answer every single question Howard asks you in the 30 seconds allotted. And if you even attempt to say a single word about your predicament to the television viewing public who are watching live right this very moment, an armed thug named Roosevelt has orders to kill your photographer friend, Cedric, in the most painful way he can image."

“That puts you just one question away from our grand prize of $76,500!” Howard informed her and everyone watching. “As you know, the $76,500 question is always chosen randomly from our barrel of postcards sent in by our viewers. Your fate, Miss Frill, now depends on the kindness of a stranger. Will your question be impossibly obscure or childishly simple?” he paused as he let the audience ponder this question. “Well, let’s find out! Judy, it’s time to roll out the barrel!”

A voluptuous blond in a very tight evening gown appeared on the stage, rolling an actual barrel towards the booth. When she reached Howard, he lifted up a small door on its side and pulled out a postcard of the Empire State Building.

“Mr. Eugene Wolper from New York, New York,” Howard read from the back of the card, “wants you to answer this question for your $76,500 grand prize: Can you recite pi up to the 20th decimal?”

The crowd simultaneously gasped and laughed at this nearly impossible question. There was no way the pretty redhead in the booth—as lucky as she had been before—was smart enough to get this one right.

“3.14—” Lacey began, knowing that she only had 30 seconds to provide the correct answer. But despite the presence of a figurative Sword of Damocles hovering above her head, she allowed herself the indulgence of a brief remembrance of her time spent with Oliver Fry, the brilliant and handsome dean of mathematics at Oxford University. It had been a lazy Sunday morning and the two of them had found it impossible to leave his large comfortable bed and start the day.

“Shall we attempt to go for the record?” she had suggested seductively as he held her in his arms.

“The spirit,” he smiled at her, “is oh-so-very-willing, but alas the flesh is equally weak. I’m afraid I shall have to spend the next week reviving myself with various tonics to provide you with this kind of entertainment again. In the meantime, why don’t I teach you something useful?”

“Like what?”

“How about the first 100 digits of pi?”

“How would that be useful?” 

“You never know,” he shrugged. “Someday it might just save your life....”

“—159…5…..89793…238..4…6,” she finished just before the timeout buzzer sounded. 

“That’s correct!” Howard exclaimed as the audience cheered with shock and approval for what she had just done.

“Can I get out of here now?” she asked Howard. 

“Certainly, Miss Frill,” he smiled at her—the artificial shape of his grin proving to her that he had been fully aware of the danger she had been in the entire time.

Old Prose for the New Site

Here is another not-so-brief excerpt from the recently discovered pseudonymous Badess series, Lacey Frill, Lady Adventurer.

 

A Brief Excerpt from 1966’s Lacey Frill Dances With Danger by Stoney M. Badess (as Drake A. Hardman)

 

Lacey could feel the blisters as they began to develop on her feet. That sadistic bastard had deliberately given her a pair of Go-Go boots two sizes too small, but her only option was to ignore the pain and keep on dancing.

Cedric’s life depended on it!

As she fought against the pain, she thought back to the time she spent with Dr. Heinrich Zeifly, the world-famous professor of engineering. During a visit to his private laboratory, he had shown her a machine he had built that—if her guess was correct—operated on the exact same principal as the death trap on which she was currently doing the Frug.

If Agogos’ design was the same as the good doctor’s, then that meant it suffered from the same fatal flaw—the two intersecting duo-flange hyper-relays could only rotate at maximum capacity for three minutes and 23 seconds before the cryoleen gel used to lubricate them would become too hot and cause a spontaneous combustion.

This meant that the only way she could save her favorite photographer was to dance so fast that the trap’s mechanics reached maximum capacity and then keep up that pace for a grueling 203 seconds.

Below her the club’s dancing patrons cheered as they watched her groove faster than anyone ever had before—all of them unaware that a man’s life depended on each blistering step. The band, awed by her movement, sped up their music to match her insanely rapid rhythm and soon everyone was attempting to dance as fast as the beautiful redheaded Go-Go dancer in the cage above their heads. Many of them lasted only a few seconds, but Lacey could not afford to give up so soon. Her lungs began to ache and she found it harder and harder to breathe, while her heart started pounding so fiercely it felt as though it was going to burst out of her chest.

With each step Lacey now took the risk of ending her life along with her sidekick’s—the human body only being capable of so much exertion before it expires. 

The seconds passed like eons.

From his hidden window above the stage, Agogos watched with amusement, believing that his captive had been overcome by a desperate madness—unaware of his trap’s mechanical flaw. 

“She’s going to dance herself to death!” he laughed with delight.

“That’ll teach her to interfere in our business,” smirked Miss Twist. 

But their amusement was cut short when a sudden, seemingly inexplicable blast of fire caused the entire bottom of Lacey’s cage to explode, propelling her down to the club’s dance floor, where she was caught by the head quarterback of the LA Rustlers.

“You sure are one wild chick,” the football player complimented the exhausted beauty in his arms.

“Thanks,” said Lacey. “Now, would you mind carrying me to the office of the jerk who owns this dump? I’m not too happy with him right now.”