Mermaid’s and Sea-tale Folklore at the Movies

Mermaids, or more commonly known by old sailors as water spirits, have captivated the imagination of us landlubbers for centuries. Mermaids or mermen represented eternal beauty, the fountain of youth, fantastic opulence, and mystery. We imagine these fairies of the water to have great treasures under the sea, fabulous kingdoms, magical powers, and good hair.

Hollywood has been no slouch in making films creating and feeding the mystical lore of the Mermaid. Most mermaid films are romantic or sweet and created with children, romantics, and fantasy lovers in mind, other “fish tales” have been fraught with suspense and horror.

Here is a look a few great and mediocre Mermaid movies that we just can’t get enough of.

Night Tide: 1961 – Dennis Hopper is a young sailor who meets a woman who plays a mermaid in a carnival sideshow. Grisly murders, mayhem and a lot of scary stuff happens. Dennis starts to have creepy dreams that a woman who plays a mermaid in the carnival is a psycho fish who kills and eats people during the full moon. It’s a creepy film that does the mermaids we know and love no justice, but it’s fun anyway.

Sea People: 1999 – If you are a lonely teenager, life can become pretty thrilling when you meet a mermaid and merman, or Sea People, as they prefer to be called. John and Bridget live on land in a village in Nova Scotia. Amanda is the teen who happens to see John jumping into the cold sea and runs to “rescue” him. John rescues Amanda and takes her to his home to warm up. Amanda soon suspects John and Bridget aren’t your average humans. These folks eat algae, drink sea weed tea and sleep in tubs of ice cold water. Needless to say, the film is harmless family fun.

Splash: (1984) – This is the movie for mermaid-lovers everywhere because it does so many wonderful things to increase the mermaid lore. Like mermaids eating lobster with shells and all, or learning English by watching television. But it has romance, humor and everything else that makes a movie memorable and great. One of Tom Hanks best, and Darryl Hanna as Madison wasn’t too shabby either. It’s probably the best mermaid movie ever made.

The Little Mermaid: (1989) Hans Christian Anderson may have rolled over in his grave, when Disney came out with this one, but they did good. This film also brought Disney out of a long draught in animated movie making. The great music, fabulous Disney characters and delightful fairytale, makes this little film a gem. A mermaid princess makes a bargain with a sea hag to capture the heart of a prince on land. Unlike Hans Christian Anderson’s fairytale, this one has a happy ending.

Aquamarine: (2006) This movie is geared towards tweenies or teens. It has a funny story and focuses on loyalty, friends, personal confidence, and courage. So it’s worth a look, even if you are 50 instead of 15. The mermaid is a regular teen girl who happens to be a mermaid who is discovered by two more teenage girls. Aquamarine is a teen girl whose father owns a kingdom under the sea and has ordered her to marry a boy she doesn’t care for. Her new friends try to make her turn the head of the lifeguard at their swimming pool. Teenage drama and humor lace this tale. It’s a cute rendition of Disney’s Little Mermaid, with good special effects.

She-Creature (2001) This is about a beautiful mermaid who is a psychotic killer. However, it focuses on “empowering” the mermaid somehow. We see our water fairy as feisty, sexy and vengeful. She doesn’t need to be “rescued” or pampered. She is a force to be reckoned with. If you like, “B” movies with murder and mayhem, this may be the one for you.

She-Creature (1955) Since there aren’t that many mermaid movies. I had to Google to find this one. I haven’t seen it, but heard that we are lucky because it’s not easily available unless you order a DVD called “The Day the World Ended.” This movie fits perfectly with Mystery Science Theater 3000. It’s an early “killer mermaid” movie and inspiration for the sequel made above. Don’t bother seeking out this movie, unless you can’t get enough of mermaids killing people.

The Secret of Roan Inish (1993) This is perhaps one of the best stories about mystical sea creatures. Perhaps the mermaid isn’t the focus here but the whole Celtic version of it is fabulous. A 10-year old girl learns how her family came to leave the island of the Seals (Roan Inish) and discovers there is magic in her history. This Celtic fairy tale — about folkloric, aquatic creatures that are half-human and half seal — includes breathtaking images of Ireland’s coastline. (Another good Selkie movie -seals turning into humans is: The Seventh Stream, a 2001 Hallmark production for television. Available on Netflix.

Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid (1948) Back in the day, a person couldn’t get enough of William Powell. He was great in it, even if the script wasn’t so good. The focus is basically about a man suffering mid-life crisis. A lot of the movie addresses his age and how he feels about it. But somehow we are entertained when he discovers a mermaid he takes home and hides in the bathtub, right under his wife’s nose.

Miranda (1948) This British rendition of mermaids tries to stick to the lore that a mermaid can make any man fall in love with her, and that mermaids are good bargainers. A young married physician out on a fishing holiday ends up being saved by a mermaid, who intends to keep him her prisoner. She then offers to release him if he will take her to see London. He wraps her in a blanket and orders a wheelchair, to wheel her around town and hide her identity. Her presence leads to a number of humorous and romantic entanglements as the mermaid entices several unmarried men who live near the physician and his wife. I didn’t think it was the greatest mermaid movie ever made, but it had entertaining moments.

Pirates of the Caribbean 4 (mermaids) On stranger Tides (2011) Zombies, Mermaids, and Blackbeard are the dangers Captain Jack Sparrow faces as he searches for the Fountain of Youth. Although this movie isn’t exclusively about mermaids, it feeds the mermaid folklore rather well. In this tale the mermaids are beautiful maidens who are “fish” in the water and human on land, or they are merciless killers. Either way their beauty is enticing but dangerous. If you love Pirates of the Caribbean series then you don’t want to miss this one.

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