When I heard that Silver Screenings, Shadows & Satin, and Speakeasy were going to do a blogathon about villains, I was extremely excited. After all, I have a life long obsession with screen villains, and all of their nastiness. Although some find it hard to appreciate a good villain, I for one, find them to (typically) be the more interesting characters in a movie. Their motivations are all-encompassing, and their dedication to achieving whatever their goals may be, is a true testament as to how far someone is willing to go in order to succeed. The list of great villains is a long one that made picking one monumentally difficult. The one villain, however, that has stuck with me the longest as being the most evil-most devoid of anything good- is Aurora’s nemesis from Walt Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” (1959), Maleficent.
There are several reasons for my believing Maleficent to be such an important and unforgettable screen villain. Her name, for instance, which isn’t even really a name, you know? It’s an adjective meaning: doing evil or harm, and is itself a portmanteau of malevolent and magnificent. Malevolent and magnificent. Think about that combination for a second!
And have you seen this woman? I say woman, really she is just a (very evil) fairy godmother, hence the magic spells, teleportation abilities, and lightning bolts that she shoots from her fingers. Not to mention that whole turning into a dragon thing. The first thing that you notice about Maleficent is that she knows how to make an entrance. The doors burst open, making the candles go out and the room go dark. Everyone gasps, but still nothing, that is except for her pet raven, Diablo. Then there comes a will-o-the-wisp that travels to the center of the room, and the center of everyone’s attention. She transforms into the light-green skinned fairy with a gown of black and dark purple wrapped around her. She glides (not walks) across the room with the beauty of a ballet dancer, making an entrance that has the reverence of royalty. Everyone stays silent and in awe because of their fear of her, and their respect for what she can accomplish. She announces that her presence here in the castle is only to congratulate the kingdom on the birth of the new princess, as her lack of an invitation to the Royal Christening surely must have been an oversight.
Of course, it wasn’t an accident that Maleficent was left off of the guest list, just like it wasn’t an accident that she showed up anyway. You see, like so many screen villains, Maleficent is doomed because of her hatred toward others. Why is she this way? It doesn’t matter. After all, she had to have made some bad life decisions somewhere along the lines to end up at this point. Unfortunately, her hatred has grown too large. For instance, forget the fact that she dooms the poor infant Princess Aurora to death. That isn’t enough. She chooses to draw it out, so that her death will occur some time in the next 16 years. The worry of a parent to know every day could be “the” day is an awful fate to have to endure. Then, once Maleficent is successful in putting Aurora into her “deep slumber”, Maleficent does something so spiteful and mean, I can’t even begin to fathom how far and deep her hatred runs. She captures Aurora’s true love- the one man who can bring her back to life- and instead of killing him, ensuring her own victory, she imprisons him, explaining that she is going to keep him alive for 100 years, and then release him to ride to his princess’ rescue. Of course he will be too old to have a life with her, but that is just what Maleficent wants. She’s not going to keep them apart forever, just longer enough to destroy their lives and ensure their misery.
You see, the nickname Mistress of all Evil is not an exaggeration. If you need any more convincing, look at the fact that it takes three “good” fairies, and all their abilities to get Prince Philip out of his dungeon, and then when good finally has a chance to triumph, Maleficent pulls out all the stops and transforms into the most incredible dragon ever seen. Donning the same purple and black, with eyes that look like dark pits into the recesses of Hell, Maleficent attacks Philip and toys with him, giving the three good fairies plenty of time to pull all of their good magic together and finally come up with some way to defeat her. Even in the end, it took all their strength to kill her. No one person or fairy could have done it on their own.
Marc Davis was the principal animator in charge of Maleficent. As one of Disney’s famous Nine Old Men, Davis was responsible for many important Disney characters, such as Cinderella, Alice, Tinkerbell, and later Cruella De Vil. He also was responsible for Aurora. Davis is one of the greatest animators of all time, and is also one of the few recipients of the prestigious “mousecar” award. (Half mouse/half Oscar.) Eleanor Audley provided the vile voice of Maleficent (after also being Lady Tremaine in “Cinderella”), and while working on “Sleeping Beauty”, Davis listened to voice recordings that she had made of her dialogue. The evilness of her voice helped to inspire her final look. Audley, along with dancer Jane Fowler, were also used as live action references to the animation team.
There are many great villains throughout the history of film. Some are scary, some are fearsome, and others still, have a psychological effect that stays with their audiences. Maleficent is scary. She is fearsome, and she will toy with everyone psychologically. The one area where she surpasses so many others is that she truly is pure evil. Nothing good could ever come from her. If you mess with her, be prepared for hate, revenge, anger, and all the powers of Hell to come with her to the fight. Beware and be ready, because you have been warned.
This post is part of The Great Villain Blogathon hosted by Silver Screenings, Shadows & Satin, and Speakeasy. I want to thank them for hosting such an enjoyable event, and I want to encourage you to read more of the many posts from the world of movie lovers.