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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bluebeard (1944)


I'm always interested in watching movies based on folktales and books... which is why "Bluebeard" caught my eye...

During a rash of killings in 19th century Paris, puppeteer Gaston Morrell, and dress maker Modiste Lucille begin a romantic relationship.  Soon dark secrets and death begin to swirl around the couple until death hits their immediate circle of friends and family...

We all know the story of "Bluebeard" from our childhoods, right?  A man by the name of Bluebeard (in many versions of the story it's because he literally has a blue beard), has a violent reputation- and is suspected of killing many of his wives... though no bodies could ever be found.  Bluebeard marries again, and shortly afterwards tells his wife that he must leave on business.  He gives her the keys to all the rooms of the castle- and tells her that she is forbidden to enter a specific room.  After she promises to stay out of that room, Bluebeard leaves.  Soon, however, curiosity gets the better of her, and she goes to the room and opens the door.  Inside, she finds the bodies of Bluebeard's previous wives... and Bluebeard standing behind her with his sword.

This movie- starring John Carradine (David Carradine's father) in the role of Morrell is one I would classify as a cult classic.

"Bluebeard" displays excellent camera work- there are some fantastic angles used as well as close-ups that created an almost disjointed, dream-like effect.  The close-ups during the puppet show at the beginning are quite effective at this.  There is also very good use of shadows to create atmosphere, and tension in the air.  Coupled with the music, the mood of the movie was well executed.

The sets looked great too, ranging from well furnished at the studio of Morrell's art dealer, to sparse and simplistic in Morrell's own dwelling- adding extra depth to the characters involved.

All of the main cast perform wonderfully too.  John Carradine bring both pathos, charm, and menace to the character of Gaston Morrell.  You come to feel for him as he not only has to deal with the greedy demands of his art dealer, but with the deaths that are happening, and his growing love for Modiste Lucille.  He also gives an excellent example of what I call, "crazy eyes".



Jean Parker, as Modiste Lucille was both beautiful and witty in her role.  You also come to like her as the movie progresses, even though her character really doesn't get developed all that much throughout the course of events.  The character at times, verges on the edge of being almost three dimensional, but the depth just doesn't complete its appearance.

Nils Asther as Inspector Lefevre, and Ludwig Stossel- as Jean Lamarte (the art dealer) were great in their supporting roles, and I kinda wished to see them DO more.  Asther does have a great scene at an inquest questioning models that may know who Bluebeard is.  This scene shows the character's charm and wit- and certainly made me chuckle.  I liked the deviousness that Stossel brought to his character, as I really wanted to see him get his just deserts for his greed.

I also want to mention Emmett Lynn as a character simple credited as, "Le Soldat"- a old retired soilder that Morrell hires once in a while to sing during his puppet operas.  He gives a nice, humorous, but still gentle performance.  Even though he only had three scenes or so, I was really quite fond of the character.

"Bluebeard" adapts the original story I described near the start quite well, and flows smoothly to its climax.  The tension is balanced nicely with small doses of humour.  There is even an action sequence near the end that, in my opinion very well done.  The whole movie has a literary feel to it that reminds me of some of the silent films from the 1920's, which added a welcome element to my enjoyment of this movie.

I would definately say that "Bluebeard" is one of the better horror films from the 1940's, and deserves to be considered the classic it is- and earns a spot in "The Good".

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