The years between 1994 and 1996 were Bad Movie manna for fans of deliriously cheesy sci-fi thrillers set in the near future, what with Johnny Mnemonic, Strange Days and John Carpenter's Escape From L.A. But the ultimate booby prize in this genre we call "Aschlockalypse Now" goes to Barb Wire. And what boobies! From the opening Flashdance-esque strip club routine, in which millions of gallons of water are sprayed onto heroine Pamela Anderson's bared casabas, Barb Wire is a perky paean to the wonders of silicone. The unrated video version (which we'd call "the director's cut" if there were any signs there'd been a director), contains miles more footage of Anderson's nipples looking as sharp and deadly as her stiletto heels. Speaking of which, when a rowdy heckler calls Anderson a "babe," she high-heels the ringsider to death, before snarling, "If one more person calls me "babe'!" We can only surmise she'd prefer a more accurate nickname--say, "boob"?
As you may have heard, Barb Wire lifts its entire plot from Casablanca. In the Humphrey Bogart role, Anderson runs a bar friendly to both villains and freedom fighters in America's last "free city," circa 2017. Since she's a neutral mercenary-for-hire, Anderson plays no favorites, and to prove it moonlights as a hooker/hit woman, explaining, "You gotta use everything you've got." Cinched into rib-crushing leather bustiers, Anderson is definitely doing just that. But, dependent as the "Baywatch" vet is on careful lighting, she is frequently sabotaged by the cameraman -- with hilarious results. There are moments when she appears to be a Karen Black lookalike trying to pass herself off as Jessica Rabbit.
When corrupt police chief Xander Berkeley turns up to collect blackmail money, cop a feel and down a cognac, Anderson demands payment for the booze (the feels are free). "Add it to my tab," he sneers, finishing with the irresistable, inexplicable, presumably future-speak exclamation, "Boom, boom, boom!" Anderson puts up with some things, not with others. When a rude drunk snarls, "Blow me!," for example, she calls on her attack dog, Camille, and the faithful pooch bites the boor in his crotch and drags him out of the bar. Boom, boom, boom! And when the Ingrid Bergman character shows up in the guise of one Temuera Morrison, Anderson doesn't just mutter, "Of all the gin joints...," she decks him and screeches, "Get out!" Boom, boom, boom!
The clever dialogue doesn't stop here. Evil Colonel Steve Railsback roars at cop Berkeley, "I will personally rip yer heart outta yer ass and stuff it back down yer throat!" Boom, boom, boom! Casablanca fans will have dissolved so completely into helpless tears of laughter by the time Barb's kid brother (Jack Noseworthy) appears, they'll surely agree with this observation, "This must be a post-traumatic stress flashback."
Endearingly, Anderson maintains her haughty act of narcissistic self-assurance throughout this chaotic trash. To keep us awake, she does things like stroke her naked flesh in a transparent bubble bath. It all ends, as you'd hoped it would, with police chief Berkeley and out-of-the-closet Resistance fighter Lee alone on a rain-drenched airfield. When Berkeley confesses, "I do believe I'm falling in love," the endlessly self-enchanted one snaps, "Get in line!" Barb Wire only begins to tap the Bad Movie Pneumatic Goddess potential of Anderson. This girl is a find. She is Pia Zadora come back. But where is the cinematic Svengali who can package her genius? Alas, Anderson is Mamie Van Doren without Albert Zugsmith, Jayne Mansfield without Tommy Noonan, Joe Dallesandro without Paul Morrissey. Paging Zalman King!