How Barbarella and Danger: Diabolik Shaped 1960s Psychedelia

In one of the first cases of adaptation of comics to the cinema, the producer dino de laurentiis worked simultaneously with two directors, mario bava Y roger vadimto adapt two iconic European comics, Angela and Luciana Giussanicrime thriller comic Danger: Diabolik Y Forest Jean-Claudescience fiction strip barbarella. Sharing various cast and crew members, including Diabolik star Law of Juan FelipeIn addition to funding from Paramount Pictures, De Laurentiis intentionally sought to release the films as a stylistic pair. As both an act of aesthetic unity and a creative maneuver around Paramount’s budget constraints, the simultaneous productions of Danger: Diabolik Y barbarella established the shifting tones and textures of genre cinema, incorporating a sexually liberated camp aesthetic indicative of the sociopolitical changes of the 1960s.


While movies like Bullitt Y 2001: a space odyssey of the same year pushed the boundaries of action thriller and science fiction, respectively, into a realm of critical acclaim and formal perfectionism, Diabolik Y barbarella served as a contrast to the polished visuals and structural meticulousness of the earlier films, committing to a particular game that would define psychedelia as much as the Stargate sequence itself. 2001. Although much has been written about the similarities of the two films, this feature will explore how both Danger: Diabolik Y barbarella it helped transform the psychedelic visuality of cinema through a particularly political aesthetic expression. Comparing the common threads of satire in both films with the tactile worlds shown on screen, the dual productions of Danger: Diabolik Y barbarella it helped embolden the sociopolitical powers of genre cinema to criticize the rise of political mistrust and the movement toward sexual liberation, respectively.

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diabolical danger
Image via Paramount Pictures

Coming off the screen with a chaotic collision of james linkrhythms of the history of style and aesthetics of adam west‘s bat Man, Danger: Diabolik it’s a winking game that equally upends conventional crime-thriller antics and recasts the central hero as an anti-establishment vigilante. Focusing on a police inspector’s attempt to foil Diabolik’s multi-million dollar gold heist, Danger: Diabolik it immediately places the corrupt police forces alongside the Italian mafia, solidifying Diabolik as the sympathetic anti-hero in the eyes of the audience. Fusing a mid-century space-age aesthetic with the grandeur of an espionage thriller, Mario Bava maximizes Diabolik’s symbolic potential as an antithetical fusion of Bond and Batman, even pulling Diabolik’s trademark garb from the wardrobes of the crime fighting icons.

Rather than illuminate Diabolik’s attempts to thwart Inspector Ginko, played by michel picoli (Contempt), as an honorable effort to restore peace in a community, Danger: Diabolik sees the protagonist thwart systemic corruption for his own personal gain, illustrating the rampant distrust in the sociopolitical structures of the time. In particular, the sequence of Diabolik and Eva making love on a money-covered bed of money lampoons the extremes of personal excess that lead Diabolik to commit the heist, ironically expressing the self-satisfied capitalism that drives all the characters. of the movie. Although the film captures the anarchic energy of the comics on which it is based, Danger: Diabolik it playfully reveals the widespread international skepticism of the late 1960s centered on Cold War anxieties and anti-Vietnam sentiments, claiming the film’s spectacular stupidity as a sociopolitical critique.

barbarella jane fonda image
Image via Paramount Pictures

From the release of Roger Vadim’s cult hit barbarella in 1968, many critics and academics highlighted the film’s role in establishing jane fonda as an anti-war and feminist icon through her role as the powerful, peace-making, and sexually liberated titular character. From the opening striptease sequence that depicts the starship as a surreal pop interpretation of outer space to the organ-like camp climax of “Excessive Machine,” the expressive visuals seem tied to a goofy subversion of sexual mores; However, as Diabolik, barbarella it behaves like a cinematic Trojan horse in the way it introduces anti-war sentiments and sex-focused social commentary into every view. Between Pygar, John Phillip Law’s blind angel love interest, and David HemmingsThe clumsy Dildano prison guard, barbarella sees its main figure castrate the male characters at every turn, culminating in his triumphant escape from Sogo with The Black Queen and a recently rescued Pygar.

By creating a sci-fi camp show focused on female sexual and political power, as well as the subversive use of male imagery, barbarella it complicates the common attribution of the male gaze by transforming the film and the central figure into fluid expressions of femininity. Even the planet Sogo, on which most of the film takes place, exists on top of a bubbling energy-generating lake called The Matmos, establishing SoGo as a space of political liberation based on the powers of literal and metaphorical fluidity. While Fonda’s hypersexualization of the body has rightly been pointed to as evidence of the misogynistic practices of mid-century cinema, Barbarella’s recovery as indicative of sexual liberation and the subversion of male force on screen establishes barbarella aside as an essential camp satire of the 1960s.

diabolik danger image
Image via Paramount

While it is essential to recognize the narrative and social complications of Danger: Diabolik Y barbarella As countercultural texts, both films use a specific type of psychedelic worldbuilding to offer a vision of the utopian desire that characterized the peaceful protests and anti-establishment movements of their time. From the television towers in the cavernous interiors of Diabolik to the fantastic gleaming bits of space-age architecture from barbarella, De Laurentiis’s pairing of the two images merges to create a progress-driven fantasy of an alternate future, capitalizing on the cultural textures of the time to reinvent a more vibrant future. While John Phillip Law donned the Diabolik super suit recasts the comic book hero’s role as an adventurous vigilante who upends political corruption for personal gain, Jane Fonda’s Barbarella took the heroic role a step further, becoming a psychedelic symbol of female power and advocate for anti-war ideology by fusing her fictional character with real-life activism. Equally transcendent and transporting in their visions of alternative worlds both on Earth and on distant planets, the dual productions of Danger: Diabolik Y barbarella redefined psychedelic cinema as a force for cultural advancement and a form of personal expression in an age of forward-thinking revolution.


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