Plot: What’s it about?
Gaston Morrell (John Carradine) is an artist who loves to create his pieces, but when the art is completed, he often disposes of his inspiration. But he doesn’t paint still life pieces with apples and such, he uses beautiful women for his models, so that means something sinister is afoot. Morrell loves to hire the most stunning beauties he can find, immortalize them on his canvas, and then murder them soon afterwards. Once the portrait is finished, he simply strangles the women and then moves on, looking for a new model and victim. But there is much to Morrell than this simple pattern, as he also deals in death in other aspects of his life. While he loves women and they often return the sentiment, it usually ends in tragedy and Morrell notches another kill on his resume. Will this behavior ever come to an end, or will Morrell just keep killing innocent people until the day he dies?
This is another release in All Day Entertainment’s Edgar J. Ulmer Collection, which has become a very nice series of films and discs. I’d seen a couple other discs in the series by this time, so I knew about what to expect, but I ended up liking Bluebeard much more than I thought I would. This dark, stylish thriller is a marvel in my mind, as it uses some terrific production design and excellent direction, which more than compensate for lack of resources. I’ve always thought visuals were vital in a suspense/thriller and here, I was always commenting to myself on them and how well done the whole production was. The visuals would project a much older age in fact, which is a real testament to Ulmer and his team. I admit some scenes could have used a little more work, but given the circumstances, I think Ulmer and the crew delivered a terrific motion picture. Another touch I like here is the use of romantic music, which presents a unique contrast to what we see and adds depth to the film, which is always welcome. I recommend this release to fans of suspense/thrillers and also classic film fans, as both parties will find a lot to like with Bluebeard.
I know he isn’t often mentioned as a great actor, but I think John Carradine works very well in this role. His choice of films might not have suited everyone’s tastes, but I think Carradine was decent enough most of the time, usually memorable if little else. His penchant later in his career for low profile horror flicks aside, Carradine was in a wealth of great movies, especially those he made with director John Ford. So yes, his later films don’t pack much in terms of performance power, but Carradine could perform very well and in truth, I think this one of the very finest efforts from him. Other films with Carradine include Stagecoach, Boxcar Bertha, The Kentuckian, The Grapes of Wrath, Sex Kittens Go To College, and Terror In The Wax Museum. The rest of the cast includes Jean Parker (The Gunfighter, Black Tuesday), Ludwig Stossel (Hitler’s Museum, Casablanca), and Nils Asther (Tea Leaves In The Wind, The Cossacks). This was directed by Edgar J. Ulmer, who also helmed such films as Moon Over Harlem, The Strange Woman, The Pirates of Capri, The Man From Planet X, The Naked Dawn, and Daughter of Dr. Jekyll.
Video: How does it look?
Bluebeard is presented in a full frame transfer, which is how the film was intended to be shown. I am pleased with this presentation, but a few problems keep the score down in the end. A few scenes seem to jump a little, like side to side and while it doesn’t ruin the experience, I do think potential viewers should be prepared. The print shows some wear signs, as expected, but I think it is clean enough and shows minimal serious damage. The black & white imagery comes across in fine form also, well defined at all times and never too dark or light. As I said, this is not a pristine presentation, but it is nice and fans should be pleased.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included mono track is more dated than I would like, but the basics are covered and that’s enough most of the time. The music comes off a little distorted at times, but sounds decent, while the sound effects are represented well enough also. The dialogue shows some distortion and harshness as well, but you can always understand the vocals, so at least the sheer basics get taken care of. I do wish this track was cleaner and remastered, but given the conditions here, I think this one is adequate.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes a selection of still photos, as well as a twelve minute featurette, which is fantastic. The featurette includes interviews, puppet updates, as well as some additional clips of the puppets in action.