What were we thinking?

Yesterday took an interesting turn after I wrote the blog inspired by Veteran’s Day. I spent more than two hours on it, which is much longer than usual. I would have loved to spend even more time on it but I knew by then that my mind needed a break. Under ordinary circumstances I would have left it for the next day and done a re-write (I felt it needed it). But this ‘challenge’ doesn’t allow that luxury so I let it stand as written.
I was also getting hungry for dinner…

While preparing said dinner I picked up where I had previously left off in the PBS Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War. I ended up watching the end of one episode (concerning the Tet Offensive in early 1968) and a part of the next which showed the increasing level of opposition to the war, not only in the US but around the world, not to mention the assassinations of MLK and Bobby Kennedy. At the time I was young and in the UK but I was not unaware of the divisions between supporters and those opposed to the war in the US. I was 12 years old and the Vietnam war was often a part of our news as well. At the same time there was the Prague uprising, the Paris riots and a lot more happening around the world. As I reflected on it I recognized that, for all that I am upset by events happening in Washington today and the apparent divisiveness in the nation, it’s possible to say “we survived it then, we’ll survive it now”. Perhaps what is happening now is not unique in the history of this nation and I am reacting to the current situation as a grouchy old man. That there is, in fact, nothing new under the sun. I hope it’s this, even if it indicates that I am just a grouchy old man…

Anyway. Half way through that episode of ‘The Vietnam War’ I felt I’d had enough of war and decided to look for a movie. On Hulu I found ‘Barbarella’ with Jane Fonda. I can’t remember where or when but I had recently seen or heard someone talking about this movie and I have a vague recollection of seeing it, oh so long ago. I chose to watch a little to see if I remembered anything. Oh my, what a truly terrible movie! And yet… and yet. Did you know that in 1968, the year it was released, it was the second highest grossing movie in the UK behind The Jungle Book? Yes, I did say 1968. When the world was engulfed in conflict and revolution.

Having immersed myself in the appalling real world events of that year I found myself riveted by this cinematic weirdness that must have provided, I don’t know, some kind of catharsis for the population at large. So while I let it run I ran off down several rabbit holes on the internet (especially wikipedia).

First, I found myself wondering what had happened to British actor David Hemmings – It upset me to find he had died in 2004 at the age of 62 from a heart attack as he was leaving the set of the movie he was filming in Romania (so many men die from heart attacks around my age… it’s disturbing).

Then I started chasing down that movie, ‘Blessed’, and found that it had received really terrible reviews on it’s release (it was a bad rip-off of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ according to the critics). I thought maybe I could switch to watching it in place of ‘Barbarella’ (succumbing to the urge to gawk at this other ‘car crash’) but although IMDB said it was on Netflix I didn’t locate it.

I watched a bit more of Barbarella and thought the voice of Anita Pallenberg sounded so unlike how I thought she should sound (she was Keith Richard’s Italian girlfriend at the time the movie was made). I found that according to wikipedia her voice was replaced by the voice of the wonderful British actress Joan Greenwood. It sounded so wrong!

I knew the British band Duran Duran had taken their name from the evil character played by (another wonderful British actor) Milo O’Shea, but while on the Barbarella wikipedia page (link here – if you feel inspired to look) I found that his character’s name is actually Durand-Durand (never knew about the ‘d’ – fascinating).

While making these discoveries I was still marveling at, and wondering about, the state of mind we must have been in for this movie to have captured the imagination.

But then…

Everything so far written above was completed earlier this afternoon – I planned on completing this blog later in the evening (as I am doing) because my wife and I had decided to see a movie today and our choice was ‘Thor: Ragnarok’. We usually enjoy these Marvel universe movies and we’d heard this one was fun.

Well, we have enjoyed it and some parts were wonderful though ultimately it wasn’t our favorite of the genre. That said it has been dominating at the box office since its release.

Then I found myself thinking: I wonder if this is how ‘Barbarella’ was greeted in 1968…? I can almost see a blogger (or our future equivalent) stumbling on the movie ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ 49 years into the future having just watched a documentary by Ken Burns’ grandson called ‘The Trump Years’ (hopefully not ‘The Trump Wars‘), and thinking:
OMG! That movie was terrible. How could it have been so popular ….perhaps it acted as a kind of catharsis… Those were tough times with all the divisiveness in society… How lucky we are to live in 2066 – we would never accept such dross in these enlightened times.

All becomes clear. I will never judge the cultural taste of past decades again.

Take Care
– S.

[But the ’80s – those hairstyles…! What were they thinking?]




About Simon

Simon is an actor who found his way into audiobook narrating as a side-gig and seems to have made a success of it. With some training as an actor as a child (just a couple of hours a week, but it stuck) and 15 years working inside the BBC (ending up as one of the presenters/newsreaders on BBC Radio 4 in London) he found the ideal combination for an audiobook narrator. Found his way to California two decades ago and never left.

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2 Responses to What were we thinking?

  1. Jan Johnston November 13, 2017 at 4:17 am #

    And good morning! I had a good wake-up laugh over your last comment! I’m trying to think what my hair was like back then. Oh, of course, long, straight, no bangs, true hippie!

    My one and only war protest ended up in being taken downtown, wrapped in a blanket, and told to wait for my parents in shame.

    We protested the war at the park and then went skinny-dipping in Mecom Fountain. Good times! Here’s a link. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mecom_Fountain

  2. Barbara Harris November 12, 2017 at 9:44 pm #

    OMG…….amazing how much I enjoy reading your daily writings! Makes me wonder if I could write interesting enough words to have a following. Possibly, but one would have to keep it up and I’d rather read yours.

    I have heard that Jane Fonda thinks that Barbarella was a bad movie as well.

    I sure hope the cause of the devisiveness is removed from office soon and our country can begin again to repair the harm done. Beneath that comment is a realization that we as humans tend to cause these problems; hopefully, we can see through ourselves and right these wrongs.

    Reading/listening to Hour of the Wolf now…….so good. Second time I’ve done this. Just like rereading any book, one picks up little things one missed the first time.

    Thank you yet again for becoming a narrator!

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