Across the Universe: Undying love
We shine a light on our favorite dark romances
By DonKaye_ParallelUniverse Feb 12, 2013 5:25PM
Ah, love. Has a subject ever had more movies devoted to it? Well, it's possible -- we haven't done a count -- but there's no question that love is right up there as one of the most covered subjects in all of cinema. And the movies tackle it from every angle: romantic, tragic, comedic ... not to mention bizarre and horrific.
That, of course, is where we come in. With Valentine's Day falling this week (on Thursday) and the supernatural teen romance "Beautiful Creatures" opening on Friday (Feb. 15), it's time to take a look at some of the darker and more unusual love stories that have ever crossed our paths. Some may be familiar, others not, but all share the same reason to exist: love. Even at its most twisted ...
"The Phantom of the Opera" (1925): We picked the 1925 silent version starring Lon Chaney because it's our favorite, but the "Phantom" story has been told so many times on film that it's a universal one. A variation on "Beauty and the Beast" (we'll find a few of those here), it's the tale of a mad, deformed genius consumed by passion for a beautiful, angelic singer, and the lengths he will take to win her love. Something all us guys can relate to, right fellas?
"King Kong" (1933): Yes, it's another version of "Beauty and the Beast" (and even says so in the movie's immortal closing line), except this time the beast is a 50-foot-tall gorilla. While there may be something unsavory in real-world terms about a giant ape falling head over heels for a beautiful blonde, "Kong" remains a glorious and tragic fantasy about love taking us out of our comfort zone -- after all, Kong didn't have to chase after Ann Darrow, did he?
"The Whip and the Body" (1963): This gorgeously filmed Gothic tale ranks among the best of Italian director Mario Bava's many horror movies. It's also a potent look at a sadomasochistic relationship -- one so powerful that it continues from beyond the grave. Christopher Lee does the whipping and Daliah Lavi is the body; both are sumptuous in this atmospheric gem.
"The Fly" (1986): One of the great horror/sci-fi masterpieces of the past 30 years often gets overlooked for being an epic love story as well. Stars Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis were in the early stages of their own real-life relationship, and that chemistry carries over on-screen, which makes the deterioration of Goldblum's Seth Brundle into a horrid human/fly mutation as Davis watches even more tragic.
"Edward Scissorhands" (1990): The first of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp's many collaborations is perhaps still their best (after "Ed Wood"), and Burton himself has never directed a film more romantic. Of course, when it comes to Burton, that's a relative term -- after all, his leading man is an artificial being with large blades for hands. But the love story between Depp's Edward and Winona Ryder's Kim is heartfelt and endearing, even if you tense up every time they embrace.
"Bram Stoker's Dracula" (1992): Oddly, the romantic angle is the least developed in Bram Stoker's original novel, which makes the title of Francis Coppola's sensuous film somewhat ironic. Most versions of the tale have played up Dracula's obsession with the central female character -- usually Mina Harker -- but none has as intensely as Coppola's film, with Dracula's (Gary Oldman) passion for Mina (Winona Ryder) spanning, in the count's own words, "oceans of time."
"Cemetery Man" (1994): Leave it to the Italians again for this deliriously bizarre, gruesome and, yes, passionate horror tale about a cemetery caretaker (Rupert Everett) who falls for a reanimated dead woman while his hunchbacked assistant swoons over a severed head. The original Italian title was "Dellamorte Dellamore," which roughly translates to "Of Death, Of Love," and that pretty much sums up this raunchy, macabre comedy.
"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (2004): Many people don't realize that this understated masterpiece is a science fiction film: How else do you explain a machine that can erase people's memories? And how consuming would those recollections have to be, especially if they concerned the love of your life? Writer Charlie Kaufman and director Michel Gondry craft a poetic, haunting meditation on love and memory here, with outstanding performances from Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey, in a movie that once you see, you never forget.
"Zombie Honeymoon" (2004): The title is silly, and the movie does have a number of howlingly funny moments, but writer-director David Gebroe actually delivers a moving love story here about a woman who will go to almost any lengths to care for her reanimated -- and rapidly decomposing -- husband. Tracy Coogan is terrific as Denise, the wife who remains loyal to the gruesome end, and the movie's low budget makes it only more intimate.
"Twilight" (2008): OK, we had to include it, didn't we? The first film in this tedious series is still the best, despite its uneasy mix of teen soap opera and vampire thriller. There is a certain charm in watching the early stages of the budding relationship between Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson), just before they became a box-office phenomenon that you couldn't escape and, in real life, tabloid fodder.
"Let the Right One In" and "Let Me In" (2008 and 2010): We always give the original Swedish version the edge, but in either language, this story of a bullied 12-year-old boy who begins a tender and profound friendship with a century-old vampire child is both one of the finest horror films and one of the best love stories of the last 10 years. This simple story of our powerful, aching need for human connection is everything a dark romance should be.
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