Friday, April 19, 2024

Little Red and Bluebeard in Film

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According to multiple press releases, Disney has four more “Untitled” fairy tale live action films in their pipeline. The assumption is that these are stories Disney has yet to adapt. That news and the Aladdin casting made me think. Disney has many fairy tales to choose from. For the next four weeks, I’ll be talking about five of my favorite fairy tales that I would love to have adapted.

This week I talk about Little Red Riding Hood (LRRH) and Bluebeard. With the incredible number of fairy tales to choose from, LRRH may seem an unnecessary choice. On the other hand, no one has adapted Bluebeard in American film.

I discuss Little Red and Bluebeard in the same article for two reasons. First, both stories have a color motif. The second reason, both women deal with trickery and secrets. In some lesser known versions, Red eats her own grandmother, sleeps with the wolf, and dies herself.

Bluebeard, far less known than LRRH is a French folktale/fairytale that follows a violent wealthy man. He keeps killing his wives and testing them to see if they will listen to him. The final wife does not. He actually married her after he convinced her that he wasn’t a brute during a party for her family.  She opens the one room forbidden from entering, and finds all of his past wives. The magical key gives her away as it drips with blood and Bluebeard states he will kill her. She bides her time, after which her brothers and sister’s husband kill Bluebeard and save the sister.

Both the more common story of Red and Bluebeard’s bride are tricked into their troubles must survive with their own cunning if they survive at all.

The film adaptations of LRRH, convoluted and over the top, leave me disappointed. The adaptations I do enjoy are a dance routine by a Bollywood-Fusion dance team where (spoiler) the grandma is the killer, and a hidden object game where the Reds come together to hunt dangerous wolves.

LRRH has a simple lesson. Do not talk to or take advice from strangers (especially when her original task was to visit her grandmother.) In Bluebeard, the bride’s curiosity and inability to listen to her husband’s request almost kills her.

Adaptations for both then can go in any number of directions. In film, writers focus on the werewolf shtick or Red is a minor character. The 2011 film with Amanda Seifried for example includes a curse, a werewolf, forbidden romances, and incest implications. There is also Avengers Grimm which is a mockbuster produced by The Asylum where Red, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Snow White must save Snow’s kingdom from Rumpelstilskin and his right hand the Wolf.

As fun as both of those adaptations are, LRRH deserves an adaptation that follows the versions where Red, due to her own cunning, saves her grandmother and herself while killing the wolf. A potential romance between Red and the hunter requires Red to be aged up, though.

Similarly, Bluebeard, which has many non-film adaptations, has an incredibly terrifying but rich story to adapt. My favorite, Bela Bartok’s one act opera for example has three wives of the dawn, midday, and dusk, with the final wife turned into the wife of the night. This tale especially has room for tension and adaptations could lean into the horror aspect. (Crimson Peak totally has this story’s energy.)

Now I kind of want a Red/Blubeard mashup where Red gets married to the wolf, Bluebeard… Now that would be a fun adaptation.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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