Hell hath no fury like a woman denied an invite. That, arguably, is the moral of the Sleeping Beauty story. As the tale goes, the sprite that didn't make the guest list still appears at the eponymous princess's christening, but with a rather quirky gift for the royal baby: death. Disney downgraded the curse to a century-long coma, but the scorned fairy hardly gets gentle treatment—she's a literal dragon lady.
That one-dimensional portrayal has held for the 55 years since the Technirama masterpiece was released, but now it appears Maleficent will have her day in court. Starring the angular majesty that is Angelina Jolie, Maleficent keeps the gothic aesthetic intact, but it remains unclear whether it will add dimension to anything other than the zygomatic bones.
Because the film didn't screen by WW press deadlines (find a review at wweek.com later this week), we've decided to look back at portrayals of Maleficent over the years—in the 17th-century fairy tale "Sun, Moon, and Talia," Disney's 1959 Sleeping Beauty and 1987's straight-to-video offering featuring Morgan Fairchild and Tahnee Welch (yes, sprung from Raquel)—to examine how the evil fairy transformed from an abstract concept of doom into a leather-horned succubus.
The Original Tale (1634)
There is no evil fairy, but there is a rapist—who also happens to pass for a romantic hero. A king stumbles across comatose Talia and, boy howdy, does author Giambattista Basile try to write his way around what is a screaming lack of consent. The king loves her and leaves her...pregnant.
Talia is born with a bummer prediction already hanging over her head, with local astrologers predicting she'll be undone by twine. Her father enacts what is perhaps history's first across-the-board hemp prohibition, but Talia still gets a deadly splinter and passes out.
The bad seed of a limited fairy culture made terrible by ostracism. Even had she arrived at the party through more legit avenues, it's doubtful she would have bestowed an adorable onesie or fanciful mobile on baby Aurora—more likely unbridled sarcasm.
A catty afterthought, plus zero impulse control. We've all been inspired to deliver a perfectly timed zinger, but we stop when we sense that the fallout—in this case, a teenage fatality—isn't worth the fleeting pleasure. Not so for Maleficent.
The Queen of All Evil is also the Queen of Passive Aggression, and she makes it delicious.
Sylvia Miles peacocks as a campy, plate-smashing outcast. In fact, she opts to play it like a HOA rep in a Tampa subdivision, out for blood. To add insult to injury, she's redlined from the guest list because the palace is one gold plate short. The plates are later revealed to be goldleafed ceramic.
Pure pettiness? Or a cocktail of Schedule III painkillers and pinot gris? Whatever her motivation, the Red Fairy lets fly an uninspired, free-association riff that's meant as a hex. She does, though, pull off a decent mic drop, complete with pyrotechnics.
Negligible, and heavily reliant on stage makeup.
Queen Morgan Fairchild.
Angelina Jolie, with retro sartorial sense and unprecedented access to Sleeping Beauty. She apparently stalks and then mentors Elle Fanning, eventually pulling the rug out from under her after espousing theories on the nature of evil.
Revenge, but with substance. If the trailers are to be believed, the titular character has a legit chip on her shoulder because the king vanquished her father's Viking tribe, or perhaps hunted her troops of humanoid goons to near-extinction.
Off the charts. Jolie's facial structure could cut a diamond.
Lana Del Rey's woozy, boozy cover of the Sleeping Beauty theme; humanity?