Movie versions of familiar tales are fascinating because they show how many different variations are possible. Most are set in the original time period, but some move the action to the time in which the film is made. The really interesting ones add their own fresh take on the classic tale, possibly going beyond pure entertainment and delving into some more serious issues. After all, that was the purpose of all the old fairy-tales. They were mainly cautionary tales. Here are the first three I think are interesting and worth watching. They all have strong female characters in common. The first two are for teens and adults, only the last is suitable for small children.
The Company of Wolves
A fresh take on Red Riding Hood with a very strong coming-of-age theme. Neil Jordan’s film is based on a short story by Angela Carter, who also co-wrote the screenplay. A young girl just crossing into puberty falls asleep while her parents and older sister are out. She dreams of herself as Red Riding Hood. Grandma (Angela Lansbury) is constantly warning her of men’s desires and to watch out for wolves. But in this slightly feminist take, Red Riding Hood is not afraid of men or wolves, unlike everybody surrounding her. She’s curious, not afraid. This movie’s dialog is full of sexual innuendo you never thought you’d hear Angela Lansbury say, and she does it with relish. One of her best roles really. A truly great, smart, very visual fantasy movie.
A modern day thriller version of Red Riding Hood with Kiefer Sutherland as the big bad wolf (aka a serial killer on the loose), and Reese Witherspoon (Vanessa) as Red Riding Hood. This is a tough movie. Caution, it’s not for kids! Vanessa runs away from her drug-addict mother and abusive step-father to her grandma’s trailer park home. Her road trip is one of horror, as she meets many types of violent, abusive people
in the woods…on the road to grandma’s. Vanessa is a no-nonsense tough girl who endures all that is thrown at her. This movie was produced by Oliver Stone in the mid 1990s. If you know what kinds of movies he was making at that time, this fits right in there even though it’s less well known.
Three Wishes For Cinderella (Tri Orisky Pro Popelku)
This is a real classic which keeps gaining new fans despite being almost 40 years old. In many European countries this movie is part of the Christmas tradition. There have even been university lectures held on it. Cinderella is a very smart girl in this one. It follows the old saying of a man chasing a woman until she catches him. The title is actually three hazelnuts for Cinderella because they have some significance in this Czech or Russian/Slavic(?) variation on the classic tale. The film has charm, wit, and smarts, you just don’t find in the Hollywood versions.
I can write longer reviews for each film if anyone is interested. Let me know in the comments.