The year of 1968 was a huge one in the world of inventive, new Science Fiction films. You had Franklin J. Schaffner’s Planet of the Apes, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, but also, Roger Vadim’s Barbarella. Barbarella, perhaps the least serious thematically of these big three that year, Bararella remains an important part of the Sci-Fi world even 55 years later.
Based on the French comic series of the same name (by Jean-Claude Forest), Barbarella’s lead star is Vadim’s then-wife Jane Fonda. A role that has followed Fonda’s entire award-winning career as an actress, her portrayal of Barbarella is legendary in the eyes of many. Appealing, but yet intentionally humorous, even to this date, Fonda’s Barbarella is beloved by Sci-fi fans.
A film that still garners interest, for those who missed the theatrical release over 5 decades ago, Barbarella found its way to Beta in 1979, before VHS in 1981. From here, a laserdisc edition emerged in 1994, DVD transfer in 1999, before the film came to Blu-ray in 2012. Now in 2023, Arrow Video brings it to 4K UHD and Blu-ray in a very special way.
Set for release on November 28th, the latest entry into the Barbarella home media formats are complete as either a 4k or Blu-ray Limited Edition set. That in mind, it includes a 4K restoration from the original film negatives. A step up from prior Blu-ray transfers, the imagery of the 4K UHD transfer offers more clarity than seen before, plus the colors are a notch more vibrant. Furthermore, the soundtrack sounds as crisp as ever; which really adds more to the overall obscure vibe of Barbarella.
Beyond the transfer, the 4K and Blu-ray sets come with 2 discs. The 4K set includes the 4K UHD edition of the film on disc 1 and extras on disc 2. This is while the Blu-ray set includes the 1080p edition of the film on disc 1, plus a bunch of extras on disc 2. Slight differences, both feature some bonuses not available prior. For one, you get a reversible sleeve and a fold-out poster which features original and newly drafted artwork by Tula Lotay.
Beyond this, there are also 6 double-sided collector’s postcards, an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Anne Billson, Paul Gravett, Véronique Bergen and Elizabeth Castaldo Lundén, plus select archival material. All in all, this is all a step up from Paramount’s 2012 Blu-ray release which has practically no extras.
Overall, this edition of Barbarella is hands down the best released to date. The packaging is solid, the extras are worthy, and the 4K transfer is lovely. Now, if you are someone who has never seen Barbarella, and have only known of it based on Pop culture references, it should be said that this is overall a very peculiar film. Complete with a vibe that some might find a little cheesy, if you look at it from a historical perspective, some of the effects and the concept embedded within the story are still quite interesting even by today’s standards. Anyway you cut it a Sci-fi classic, Cryptic Rock gives Arrow Video’s Limited Edition 4K and Blu-ray releases of Barbarella 4 out of 5 stars.