Caricature Actress

The genesis of this project was in Dark Horse comics, a corporation whose existence is known only to those who wear t-shirts with slogans like “Keep on Tolkein”, (or those who option comic books for scripts). Flush off the success of one of the titles in their graphic novel stable–“The Mask”–Dark Horse Entertainment decided to make “Barb Wire” their next entry. The difference was that in their first effort they had captured lightning in a bottle with Jim Carey, but for this second attempt they took no such risk and decided to cast their lead based on her more blatant qualities.

Next, for the director Dark Horse chose Adam Rifkin, who had just directed Charlie Sheen in the independent “The Chase”, which made some money after getting picked up by 20th Century Fox. But as they began the “Barb Wire” project, a front office battle erupted and Gramercy Pictures forced out Rifkin after a week of shooting. They installed their own man, David Hogan, and while he didn’t have Rifkin’s track record, he was once the winner of the Bronze Lion at the International Advertising Film Festival for his work on a Molson Beer commercial. At least they still had Pam.

The president of Dark Horse Entertainment was understandably giddy at the casting of the “Baywatch” shore protector. Mike Richardson effused, “We definitely found the quintessential Barb in Pamela Anderson.” Anybody who has cracked open a comic book that features a heroine knows that the artists are prone to depicting females in ornately exaggerated proportions. Over the years, Anderson the narcissist has crafted her form into equally grotesque dimensions, and in reality she may have been the very muse for many of the pale and lonely illustrators. Richardson even alluded to this possibility. “If you look at the covers of the original comic books,” he gushes, “the resemblance between Barb and Pamela is pretty amazing.” You can say this: She puts her best foot forward–maybe even a foot and a half. And she shows her range, for at the beginning she is working undercover as a stripper and later she poses as a hooker.

One look at the movie poster and you get the sense of what he’s excited about. From her peroxide coiffeur, to her collagen enhanced pout, as well as her Kabuki makeup—to say nothing of her renowned augmented dual talents—Anderson appears as an exaggerated life form, ergo a perfect match to play a comic book denizen. “One of the problems with comic book characters,” continued Richardson in his excitement, “is that you can never get a human to do the things that a comic book artist can illustrate. Incredibly, Pamela seems to be able to do them.” Part of this ability has to be attributable to the fact that she is now largely comprised of post-consumer products and therefore much more pliable.

One of the toughest stunts appears to have been the opening credits sequence. Anderson has to hang from a swinging bar with the top of her dress open as she is constantly sprayed down and illuminated with blue lighting. A rock version of “Word Up” is blaring for what seems hours as she continues to be hosed down. This was certainly an obligatory nude nod to her fans, but there was nothing at all alluring as it looked as if she was enduring a chemical shower while dangling from a trapeze. Curiously this is the only time Pam exposes herself for the duration of the film, including a scene of her in a translucent bathtub, which she exits only to be covered by strategically placed industrial grade soap suds. If there was one thing this film needed it was the type of scene that usually gets described with the word “gratuitous”.

The recurring theme of the film was that of female empowerment. We are led to believe that a woman, who dances on stage, poses as a hooker, dresses like a dominatrix, and does pretty much anything for a dollar, is a nifty role model for lasses everywhere. The catchphrase she repeats is, “Don’t call me babe!” This shows that Barb does not wish to be objectified by crass and craven males while she is being doused with her dress peeled open as she is working in a strip club. So as she’s on stage getting cat calls from all the patrons, one drunken boor is killed with her stiletto because he said, “Babe”, yet the guy next to him is free to shout, “Haul that money maker over here so I can slap a fiver on your cans!” and he gets to live? I’m not sure I grasp the lesson here.

Get the rest of the story in part three of MILK CARTON CINEMA: BARB WIRE>>>

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Posted on August 18, 2003 in Features by

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