Dear classic movie villains,
Most people hate your guts. Me, on the other hand, I've admired you my whole life. At times I've even been jealous of you and coveted your evil-looking eyebrows (I'm talking to you, Queen from Snow White circa 1937). You're cool, you're aloof, and you've got a killer mind - sometimes literally. People take you seriously and stop in their tracks when you enter a room. There's a certain mystery about you that's often misunderstood, but all the coolest people are misunderstood, trust me.
Sure you've attempted murder before but when it comes down to it, you're only after one thing: RESPECT. And I respect that about you. Oh, and power. All villains crave power. But doesn't everyone in some way, shape or form? In my opinion, you're the coolest character in any story, fairy tale or otherwise. You're what makes a film exciting. More often than not you're the only character worth paying attention to. Who cares what the fair maiden gets up to or how long she spends moping about her imperfect life? You've got flawless skin and thick, lustrous hair that is seemingly impervious to the elements, shut up and stop complaining Ariel!
"So what if the Wicked Witch of the West spends nearly two hours hunting for a pair of shoes? Aren't all women guilty of the same thing?"
Disney heroines and villains aside, there are so many pantheon movie villains worthy of admiration. The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, The Count from Dracula, Crystal Allen from The Women, Lina Lamont from Singin' In the Rain, and Ellen Berent from Leave Her To Heaven. There is something that all five of these characters have in common: an unyielding will to succeed.
So what if the Wicked Witch of the West spends nearly two hours hunting for a pair of shoes? Aren't all women guilty of the same thing? If some simpering little out-of-towner ran off with ruby slippers that were rightfully yours without permission, you'd be more than a little pissed off. Those slippers belonged to her late sister, who, incidentally, was killed by the same out-of-towner, Dorothy. If those slippers should have gone to anyone it was the Witch (she was the next of kin, hello?!).
The Count (Bela Lugosi) did what he had to do to stay alive and if that meant drinking blood from complete strangers, so what? I'm sure that if blood banks were around back then, he would have willingly stalked the endless aisles of blood vials stored away in some hospital or clinic instead of killing a bunch of innocents. I mean, common sense people. It's killed or be killed in this society. Ever heard of Darwin?
"Without Lina Lamont we’d all lose the moment where we lunge for our television remotes to lower the volume and Singin’ In the Rain would lose most of its luster"
Yes, Crystal Allen was a raging bitch (she’s played by Joan Crawford, what do you expect?) but you can't blame her for wanting the finer things in life. All of us girls - good or bad - have fantasied about someone else's rich husband and a closet-full of couture gowns. Like the Wicked Witch, Crystal is unapologetically materialistic, setting her sights on objects that dazzled, impressed, and ultimately left a burning hole in her sugar daddy’s wallet. In The Women, she starts off as a glorified shop girl and rises so high in the upper echelons of society that she earns the ultimate prize: her own marble bathroom with sunken bathtub, an endless supply of bubble bath, and a private telephone line to conduct illicit affairs with singing cowboys. Not bad.
As for Singin’ In the Rain’s silent film star and all around screechy buffoon Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), the best place to start is her ear-shattering entrance, among the best of any character – villain or otherwise – in film: "WHATSA BIG IDEA?! CAN’T A GIRL GET A WORD IN EDGEWISE?!" Without Lina Lamont we’d all lose the moment where we lunge for our television remotes to lower the volume and Singin’ In the Rain would lose most of its luster. Lina brings the glitz, the humour, the bitchiness, and most importantly, the saucy attitude to an otherwise routine MGM movie musical. She took a pie in the face and probably loved every minute of it. Now that’s pure evil.
Finally, we have Ellen Berent from Leave Her To Heaven played by the dangerously attractive Gene Tierney. Motivated by her psychotic love for her husband, Ellen commits murder twice! First she bumps off her disabled brother-in-law and then mercilessly kills the baby growing inside of her by flinging herself down a steep flight of stairs. The woman simply refused to share her husband with anyone. Watching this, we may be shocked, repulsed and incredulous, but name me a woman who wouldn’t do the exact same thing if she felt threatened by an overbearingly dependent family member or another woman who set their sights on her husband (Crystal Allen immediately springs to mind). Ellen Berent is never someone you’d admire, but Tierney plays her with such cunning and tormented emotion, it’s impossible for the audience not to empathizie with her. She’s the kind of movie villain that people love to hate and hate to love.
"A snub from the royal family is a pretty big deal. Just think of all the gossip that faux pas would have caused!"
One villain film fans have no problem loving is misunderstood badass Maleficent. Now played by Angelina Jolie in the new live-action adventure of the same name, this new take on the Sleeping Beauty story is told from Maleficent’s point of view, finally giving voice to the sassy sorcereress. Part of what makes Maleficent such an iconic villain is her look, which Jolie absolutely nails, her just-as-iconic lips providing maliciously evil smiles in all the film's promotional materials. If the film can live up to the casting of its lead, we're in for something special.
Again, as far as I can tell, Maleficent has reason enough to start enchanting spindles. After having gone years without having a child, King Stefan and Queen Leah welcome a baby daughter, Princess Aurora, and the royal couple declare a holiday in honour of their new heir, inviting all of the kingdom’s loyal subjects to the palace to take part in the celebrations. Their problems begin when they conveniently overlook one person – er, fairy. Neither royal thought it necessary to invite Maleficent and she doesn’t take too kindly to being left off the guest list, doing what any cultured villain would do by showing up uninvited to the castle and promptly placing a curse on the infant Princess. Sounds reasonable to me, a snub from the royal family is a pretty big deal. On top of no longer being the best looking lady in the land, just think of all the gossip that faux pas would have caused! How much indignity is one woman supposed to endure?
Whatever their reasons for making us boo and hiss (more likely cheer if you're anything like me), if it weren’t for villains, the main characters would just run off together without so much as a hiccup and live in a land of rainbows and unicorns, so classic movie villains, never stop being bad, this is why we love you.
P.S. Angelina, I'm yet to see your film, but the fact that MAC is coming out with a movie inspired makeup line*, including your blood-red lipstick called 'True Love’s Kiss' is reason enough to be thankful that you starred in it. This invaluable service to womanhood means we can all let out our inner villain and look fabulous doing it.
* This collection has been receiving mostly bad reviews. Apparently not enough colour selection and not enough new products
from @Disney_UK is in cinemas nationwide tomorrow