Disney’s 1991 animated favorite Beauty and the Beast is being re-released in theaters on January 13. The studio saw dancing dollar signs in their eyes when a 3D re-release of The Lion King performed well at the box office. They decided to give their film about an unlikely love connection the same treatment. The mouse house has three other 3D versions planned for Finding Nemo , Monsters, Inc. , and The Little Mermaid — which is a genuinely cool opportunity to enjoy the classics on the big screen if you missed them the first time.
The contemporary screen fable was inspired by the 18th century fairy tale La Belle et la Bête and Jean Cocteau’s stunning movie of the same name — both of which didn’t feature Law & Order ‘s Jerry Orbach as the voice of a feisty French candelabra, but all things can’t be perfect. The trope of the angsty monster — a device sometimes used quite literally and other times implied — soothed by a kind and loving lady has been a cinematic plot line for ages (cue “Tale As Old As Time”). We looked at several examples of beauty and beast romance on film past the break. Did we leave out your favorite star-crossed lovers? Share them with us below.
The gothic, fairy tale archetypes in Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands couldn’t be more inspired by Beauty and the Beast. The 1990 fantasy feature about an unusual, naive boy-creature who falls for the neighborhood sweetheart doesn’t have the perfect, happy ending that the animated film does, but its tale of troubled love essentially plays out the same. The impressionable Edward finds himself in the hands of an Avon woman and her family after his master and inventor dies. The neighbors are able to look past his frightening exterior, to appreciate his scissory-y gifts. Meanwhile, Edward grows to love the family’s daughter, Kim, but their relationship is thwarted by angry locals who eventually believe he’s guilty of a terrible crime. It’s a dark take on what it means to be different, leaving Edward to return to the strange place he came from — a comment about acceptance and forgiveness.
Beauty and the Beast will never be more perfectly illustrated than scream queen Fay Wray squirming in the giant palm of King Kong while atop the Empire State Building in the 1933 film. The famous line says ” … it wasn’t the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast,” but screen starlet Ann (Wray) — although frightened of her monster protector — even feels sorry for Kong once he’s dragged from an exotic island and exhibited like a sideshow act on a New York stage. The apeman only attacks when provoked — despite having a lot to be angry about — and just wants to protect Ann. The climactic skyscraper scene is a cinematic technical achievement, but the emotional depth we feel for the tortured, lovelorn Kong leaves a similar lasting impression.
Though his face looks more like a surreal lion than a human being’s visage, high school student Rocky Dennis finds love at a camp for the blind. Diana’s disability allows her to appreciate Rocky’s charm, kindness, and humor without his deformity clouding her judgment. Even when she “reads” his face with her hands, she doesn’t turn her back on Rocky — but her parents, who clearly are the bigger “beasts” in the movie, have other ideas. Rocky doesn’t face prejudice alone, however. His family is a ragtag group of bikers and his mom fights a debilitating drug addiction. All share his struggles for acceptance and are inspired by his courage.
Love continues to be blind in Manhunter, where terrifying serial killer Frances Dollarhyde (AKA The Tooth Fairy) befriends a blind co-worker, Reba, who eventually heads to bed with the violent loner. Dollarhyde finds acceptance and some serenity in their relationship, having been ostracized and abused most of his life. Director Michael Mann really pushes the Beauty and Beast point home during an erotic scene where Reba caresses a sleeping tiger in front of an increasingly aroused Dollarhyde, who sees himself more like William Blake’s Great Red Dragon than a human being.
Robert Englund is familiar with the role of monster, but instead of starring as one who slices and dices his way through the local teen population, he appeared as a “Visitor” in the two-part TV movie, V. The alien, reptilian humanoid who ends up fighting for the good guys, falls in love with a human woman, Harmony. Initially, she’s horrified by Willie’s true nature — as evidenced in a memorable scene when the lizard’s skin is ripped off. Eventually she learns to love and accept him, but sadly dies saving Willie’s life in true tragic romantic fashion.
We’re kind of cheating by including Buffy the Vampire Slayer the film in this roundup, as the Beauty and Beast connections are far more obvious in the TV series with the Slayer/Angel/Spike love triangle (and we don’t really want to play let’s pretend where a potential film remake is concerned without Joss Whedon behind it). Luke Perry’s character Pike, however, definitely counts as a “beast” since he plays the Hemery High School outcast who knows more about the local vamps than he probably ought to. Pike’s not the strong male archetype usually associated with a beastly romance, as Buffy spends a lot of her time saving his life before they find love. In some ways, it makes him more of an outsider longing for acceptance and affection than the usual suspects.
The “beauty” half of every cinematic duo is often considered just as much of an outsider for accepting her uncivilized partner for who he is, which she can sometimes only do because she also bears the burden of something that makes her different. Two outsiders cross paths in William Dieterle’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, starring Charles Laughton as Quasimodo — the deformed man who rings the Notre Dame Cathedral bell in Paris. He grows fond of a gypsy girl, Esmeralda, who pities the hunchback while being whipped in the public square. Even though Quasimodo can’t love her like a normal man, he returns what little affection she has shown him by saving her life after she’s accused of murder.
Tromaville’s low-budget monster hero The Toxic Avenger — a former mop boy who finds his alter ego when he makes accidental contact with a vat of toxic waste — goes gaga over blind lady, Sara. She forgives his gory shenanigans and adores Toxie. The avenger even spends a sequel trying to pay for her eye surgery. That’s true love.