It’s not quite a tale as old as time – a 1740 French tale is considered the first published telling of the “Beauty and the Beast” fable. But there’s no doubt that “B&B” has inspired countless storytellers, musicians and poets for centuries. In the past 100 years, we’ve seen such divergent retellings as the classic 1933 film “King Kong” and the 1991 Disney animated musical that spawned the current stage production visiting Shea’s on Tuesday. Here’s a look at some other notable variations. All are available on Netflix.
“Le Belle et la Bete,” 1946 film
Painter, poet and filmmaker Jean Cocteau’s black-and-white movie is a gorgeous, hauntingly surreal fairy tale set against an 18th century woodland backdrop. In human form, the beast (Jean Marais) is prettier than belle (Josette Day). In beast form, he has a regal appearance and lives in a magical castle where disembodied arms on walls hold candelabras and tears turn into diamonds. (It’s an exquisite visual Francis Ford Coppola used in his stylish 1992 film “Dracula”). Watch it on HuluPlus, iTunes or buy the Criterion disc.
“Beauty and the Beast,” TV series (1987-2000)
Pure poetry. Literally. This sentimental and romantic series from Ron Koslow used the words of Byron, Shelley and Shakespeare liberally as the well-read beast Vincent (Ron Perlman, “Hellboy”) and the lovely assistant DA (Linda Hamilton, “Terminator”) spoke in hushed tones and longingly looked at each other. They also often tackled crime in the city. The gentle Vincent always looked the beast, but his pure heart shone through. One of the writers was George R.R. Martin, whose “A Song of Fire and Ice” book series became “Game of Thrones.” The series still inspires a devoted cult following.
“Beastly,” 2011 film
Alex Pettyfer plays a spoiled, rich and arrogant pretty-boy cursed into beastdom after he bullies the wrong classmate, a goth witch played by Mary-Kate Olsen. Now shorn of his gorgeous blond locks, heavily scarred and intriguingly tattoed, he’s exiled to Brooklyn where he lives in a brownstone with a blind teacher (the hilarious Neil Patrick Harris) and a classmate whose life he saved (Vanessa Hudgens). Only true love will save him and return his good looks. Based on the popular young adult novel by Alex Flinn.
“Once Upon a Time,” TV series (2011-present)
This ABC series uses a seemingly never-ending array of fairy tale characters in its story of the inhabitants of Fairy Tale Land who were banished, without their memories, by the evil queen to the modern world in a town called Storybrooke. The interesting reimagining of “B&B” features the pure Belle (Emilie de Ravin) who sees the good in the wicked Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle).
“Beauty and the Beast,” TV series (2012-present)
Kristin Kreuk and Jay Ryan play the star-crossed couple in this CW show loosely based on the 1987 series. “Cat” is a New York detective who learns the man who saved her life years earlier is Vincent, a victim of a medical experiment conducted by her mother and a nefarious agency. Their romance is quickly consummated and their relationship is on-again, off-again as they, too, battle crime and evil. The show returns June 2. (The new CW series “Star-Crossed,” about a teen alien and a human, is another variation of the “B&B” theme.)
– Toni Ruberto