Altered States Films: Barbarella and Monkey on My Back


Saturday, October 28, 2017, 7:00pm to 10:30pm


Harvard Film Archive, Carpenter Center, 24 Quincy St.

Barbarella (1968)As the final piece in the Harvard Film Archives’s tribute to Houghton Library on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of its founding, the HFA and library present Barbarella and Monkey on My Back, two very special films that typify the spirit of Houghton’s major fall exhibition Altered States: Sex, Drugs, and Transcendence in the Ludlow-Santo Domingo Library. The exhibition will be open for a special pre-screening viewing from 5:45 to 6:45pm, and both films will be introduced by the exhibition’s curator Leslie A. Morris, Curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts, Houghton Library.

Presented by: Harvard Film Archive
Films: Oct. 28, 7 PM: Barbarella; 9 PM: Monkey on My Back
Admission: See webstite for ticket prices 
Exhibition at Houghton Library (Harvard Yard) Runs: September 5-December 16, 2017 (exhibition admission free)
Hours: Monday, Friday, Saturday: 9 AM-5 PM; Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: 9 AM-7 PM
Curator's Tour with Leslie A. Morris: Nov. 15 & Dec. 12 at 12:30 PM and Dec. 14 at 5:30 PM (tours last 45 minutes)

7 PM: Barbarella

Based on Jean-Claude Forest’s adult French comic, Barbarella giddily imagines a pop, flower-powered space age where sexuality isn’t considered prurient or even provocative. Campy and over-the-top in every respect—from the catchy, loungey TV-era theme song to its surreal and oversexed imagery reminiscent of Italian Gothic horror films, Barbarella is both an idealistic and cynical view of modern culture, but does not seem to take itself very seriously despite director Vadim’s declaration that star Jane Fonda would not “be a science fiction character, nor will she play Barbarella tongue in cheek. She is just a lovely, average girl with a terrific space record and a lovely body.” Barbarella remains incorruptible even as she awakens to her primary power—sex—and the concept of evil. She is flexible though, sometimes fighting fire with fire, but does so with a positive resourcefulness as she encounters all manner of attempts on her life: marching robots, animatronic vampire dolls, a highly stimulating electric organ, a transparent bubble filled with pretty—and lethal—parakeets, and the lava-lamp-like liquid “Mathmos” which surrounds and sustains the dystopian Sogo, the city of night.

Directed by Roger Vadim. With Jane Fonda, John Phillip Law, Anita Pallenberg
US 1968, 35mm, color, 98 min

9 PM: Monkey on My Back

Andre de Toth’s gripping character study was among the first Hollywood films to realistically depict drug addition, a topic considered taboo by the studios since the imposition of the Production Code. Based on the real-life struggle of former Marine and boxing champion Barney Ross and his descent into addiction after being treated with morphine as a wounded soldier, Monkey on my Back offers its story not as an aberrant story of lurid vice but as a cautionary tale that could happen to even the most outstanding citizen. The feverish exploration of the back alleys and seedy clubs where drugs and addicts were forced into hiding gives rich dimension to the dark underworld setting central to De Toth’s cinema. In the lead role—rumored to have been offered to Marlon Brando—Cameron Mitchell brings pathos and raw vulnerability to the suffering ex-fighter forced into another and more punishing kind of ring.

Directed by Andre DeToth. With Cameron Mitchell, Dianne Foster, Paul Richards
US 1957, 35mm, b/w, 94 min