Sunday, 26 June 2016

Mermaid Movie Mayhem!

Shark Week 2016 begins today, and that means my whole life is the ocean now. It's tradition. But if you're not a documentary fan, or sharks are too hardcore for you, consider celebrating the start of the pool party season with a mermaid film festival.

Here are my top picks, just to get you started:

Miranda (1948)

Glynis Johns stars as the delightfully naughty mermaid at the heart of this British film based on a play by Peter Blackmore. Bored with life in her pearl-filled grotto, Miranda strikes up an affair with a London doctor and follows him home. He disguises her as a patient in need of a wheelchair, and she soon sets about enchanting just about every man she meets, including a chauffeur played by David Tomlison – who would later team up with Johns again in Disney’s Mary Poppins.

Though Johns is pitch-perfect, the real delight comes from Margaret Rutherford as the nurse hired on to care for her. It’s frothy, fun, and a little dated in places, but for easy swimming, it’s tough to top.

The Mermaid (1965)

Despite the title, this one has the least conventional mermaid on the list. A Hong Kong Huangmei opera film directed by Kao Li, the more literal translation of its title is Fish Beauty.

When a carp spirit notices the loneliness of a jilted scholar, she takes on the form of his ex-lover and meets him in the garden one night. The scholar quickly falls in love with her, but believes the carp to be his beloved. The mix-up leads him to his former flame's house and a humiliating encounter with her. Things get pretty intense soon after, with talk of executions and forsaking immortality.

The same story was adapted as a television series in 2013 called The Legend of Chasing Fish.

Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid (1948)

A popular year for mermaids, 1948 also saw William Powell and Ann Byth dip into the legend. Based on a 1945 novel called Peabody’s Mermaid, Powell plays Arthur Peabody, a man whose midlife crisis gets a little more complicated when he reels in Lenore, a mute mermaid with a knack for making trouble.

The last of the great fantasy screwball comedies, poor Mr. Peabody seems to have the stars lined against him, and things don’t get any easier when his wife starts thinking he’s keeping giant fish in the hotel bathtub and having an affair. Things get worse when the police decide he’s a murderer. None of it's true of course, it's just fishtail mischief in a Caribbean setting.

Local Hero (1983)

The mermaid in this movie is actually part of a subplot, but with the whole thing being an underrated gem, I figured I’d include it and get more people talking about it. Burt Lancaster plays the eccentric owner of Knox Oil and Gas Company, a man in tune with the heavens.

Knox sends an American executive named MacIntyre to a small town in Scotland called Furness. Mac has instructions to buy the town to make way for a refinery, but soon comes up against an old man named Ben, who refuses to sell.

The Scottish Knox rep is played by a young Peter Capaldi, and this is where the mermaid angle comes in. The whole story has a gentle, fantastical tilt to it that pairs well with the flinty 80’s executive ethos. Well worth hunting down.

Splash (1984)

Tom Hanks and Darryl Hannah star in this beloved classic, with Hanks playing a man who writes off his childhood mermaid encounter as a near-death hallucination. Madison, the mermaid who saved his life when they were kids, decides it’s time to hunt down her first love and get a good look at New York City while she’s at it.

Full of memorable moments like learning English from a wall of department store televisions, and with a supporting character played by John Candy, this is the jewel in the summery rom-com crown... or the highest prong on its trident, maybe? 

Honorary Mentions: 

Peter Pan (1953) Used for the image at the top, it contains the best mermaids-will-be-mermaids legal defense of all time: "But we were only trying to drown her!"

Million Dollar Mermaid (1952) Or anything else with Esther Williams in it.

Beach Blanket Bingo (1965) That's the one where Bonehead falls in love with a mermaid named Lorelei while everyone else tries to stop South Dakota Slim from killing Linda Evans with a buzz saw. I'd like to say that some of that was over-simplified for comedic effect, but nope! It's insane!

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