Barb Wire (1996) – Film Review

Click to purchase BARB WIREBy Dan Cziraky

Is there some law that only DC Comics can make decent film adaptations of their comic books? After striking out with DR. GIGGLES and TANK GIRLS, Dark Horse Comics tries again, this time with futuristic female mercenary BARB WIRE. David Hogan’s film stars Pamela Anderson Lee’s breast, derriere, legs, and face. There are some other folks in it, too – a supporting cast of familiar faces, in fact: Clint Howard (Ron’s brother), Udo Kier (ANDY WARHOL’S FRANKENSTEIN), and Steve Railsback (LIFEFORCE).

Chuck Pfarrer’s so-called script is basically a distaff version of CASABLANCA (!) with Lee playing the Humphrey Bogart role in 2017, when America is controlled by the neo-fascist Congressionalist Army. Barb Wire (Lee) runs a bar in Stelle Harbor, the last “free” city in the country. Back into her life comes former lover Axel (Morrison), a resistance fighter now married to rebel leader Cora D (rowell), who carries the cure to the government-crated super-HIV virus in her blood. Axel asks Barb to help him recover a pair of contact lenses that will allow Cora to get past the government’s retinal scanners and into Canada, where they can synthesize the vaccine. Wire tells him to get lost but changes her mind when her blind brother (Jack Noseworthy) is killed by Railsback’s insanely evil Congregationalist officer.

The ending deteriorates into a series of martial arts battles atop construction equipment, featuring Morrison and some stunt men, while Lee and Railsback spit at each other while dangling from a crane. Whoever thought Lee, with her Barbie doll body and Betty Boop voice, could be even marginally convincing as a tough action heroine must be living in their own comic book universe! No wonder the film made only $1.8-million its opening weekend. This is the fans’ payback for Gramercy’s decision to open BARB WIRE wide and stick MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000: THE MOVIE on only 26 screens.

BARB WIRE (1996). Directed by David Hogan. Screenplay by Chuck Pfarrer and Ilene Chaiken; story by Chaiken, based on characters by CHris Warner. Cast: Pamela Anderson Lee, Temuera Morrison, Victoria Rowell, Jack Noseworthy, Xander Berkeley, Udo Kier, Andre Rosey Brown, Clint Howard, Jennifer Banko, Steve Railsback.

Copyright 1996 by Dan Cziraky. This review originally appeared in the August 1996 issue of Cinefantastique (Volume 28, Number 1).

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