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Thursday, May 15, 2008


1968's BARBARELLA is a one-of-a-kind cinematic confection, namely a borderline skin flick that you could sit your grandma through, and while it's deservedly famed for the in-her-prime mouthwatering lusciousness of Jane Fonda playing the clothing-challenged title character, her sweetly sex-positive space adventuress — or "fully-rated astro-navigatrix" for you nitpickers — was nicely offset by her ethereally kind and laid-back pal, Pygar the blind angel, memorably essayed by Californian bohunk John Phillip Law. In the story Barbarella restores the recently-blinded-by-torture angel's will to fly by using the mighty healing power of pussy, but now Pygar soars no more.

Pygar meets Barbarella, the lucky bastard.

Based on a saucy French graphic novel, BARBARELLA featured lysergic, candy-colored imagery, old school serial-style thrills (think FLASH GORDON with curves), and all manner of naughtiness that got adolescents going in a big way, and Law's quiet, thoughtful performance provided major eye candy for the ladies (and some of the dudes) in the audience.

Pygar in the original BARBARELLA comics.

The same year found Law portraying another European comics character in Mario Bava's sleek and sassy DIABOLIK (aka DANGER: DIABOLIK!), a film apparently influenced by the visual style of the Adam West BATMAN television series, but with far superior art direction and even more outlandish situations thanks to it being geared for an older audience.

Law as the vinyl-clad super-criminal, Diabolik.

DIABOLIK also displayed a strong 007 influence as the film dripped with cool cars, an anti-hero was was too cool for the room, a smokin' hot femme fatale, opulent sets, a bitchin' electric guitar-driven score by the incredible Ennio Morricone, and crazy bits such as Diabolik and his woman getting it on atop a pile of just-stolen cash,

and intentionally suggestive/goofy camera compositions like this one:

Law also played Sinbad in the second Ray Harryhausen Arabian Nights offering, THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1974).

But while it's a good flick that's loaded to the gills with monsters and Caroline Munroe's bronzed twins practically spilling out of her bodice, Law's Sinbad couldn't help but pale in comparison to Kerwin Matthews' performance in the all-time classic of film fantasy THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958). But who cares? It's still a fun movie, so check it out anyway. And, in a bizarre twist of fate, the death of John Phillip Law makes it two Harryhausen Sinbads who have perished in less than a year, the other being the aforementioned Kerwin Matthews. Weird...

And with that, I say rest in peace, Mister Law. You were one cool dude, and you looked suitably kinky in head-to-toe vinyl, or rubber, or whatever the hell your Diabolik getup was made out of.

From the Associated Press:

Actor John Phillip Law, angel in 'Barbarella,' dies at 70

May 15, 4:15 PM (ET)

LOS ANGELES (AP) - John Phillip Law, the strikingly handsome 1960s movie actor who portrayed an angel in the futuristic "Barbarella" and a lovesick Russian seaman in "The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming," has died. He was 70.
Law died Tuesday at his Los Angeles home, his former wife, Shawn Ryan, told the Los Angeles Times. The cause of death was not announced.

With vivid eyes, blond hair and imposing physique, Law was much in demand by filmmakers in the late 1960s and early '70s.
He gained wide notice in 1966 with Alan Arkin, Carl Reiner and Theo Bikel in "The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming," Norman Jewison's Cold War comedy in which a Soviet submarine runs aground off a peaceful New England island town. He played the sweet Russian youth who falls in love with a local American girl in the film, which was nominated for four Oscars including best picture, actor (Arkin) and director.

French director Roger Vadim put Law's looks to good use in his 1968 science fiction film, "Barbarella," which starred Vadim's then-wife, Jane Fonda, as a sexy space traveler in the faraway future. Law wore wings to portray Pygar, a blind angel.
"I've had more kicks out of playing far-out things," Law told the Los Angeles Times in 1966. "It's like putting on a funny face and going out in front of people and going, 'yaaaaaa.'" Messages left Thursday for Fonda's New York publicist were not immediately returned.

Law was World War I ace Baron Manfred von Richtofen in the 1971 "The Red Baron" and Charlton Heston's son in "The Hawaiians," a 1970 sequel to "Hawaii," based on James Michener's sprawling novel "Hawaii."
In Otto Preminger's 1967 film, "Hurry Sundown," he was a war veteran struggling to preserve his farm against a land speculator played by Michael Caine. Fonda played Caine's wife. He continued his career in a variety of U.S. and foreign films and television over the past 30 years, including appearances in "The Young and the Restless" and "Murder, She Wrote."

Law was a California native, born in 1937 to actress Phyllis Sallee, and her husband, a police officer. He told the Los Angeles Times he did some extra work in films as a child. He said he put acting ambitions aside in his teens, but his interest was renewed in a college drama class.
He worked in the theater in New York for a while before breaking into the movies, spending some time in the Repertory Theater of Lincoln Center, whose directors included the great Elia Kazan.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just saw Barbarella again a few month ago; Law appeared to be pretty much the only player attempting to act.