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‘Who else is all Paris terrified of?’
‘Oh, Bluebeard, I’d forgotten’
Edgar Ulmer is a rare director whose films we have talked about on regular Dark Corners,
Dark Corners Classics,
and now here, expressing a promising career marred by personal scandal
that doomed him to poverty row B pictures like 1944’s Bluebeard,
which is one of the odder films you can find on Amazon Prime.
‘You like my little people’
But even working with the ultra-low budgets afford him by the Producers Releasing Company,
Ulmer did his best to make something of nothing.
Nobody is holding up Bluebeard as an overlooked classic, but it’s a decent potboiler,
made worthwhile by Ulmer’s occasional flourishes
and by John Carradine’s performance in the title role.
Despite the cheapness of the film, the actor reportedly ranked this as his favourite of own performances,
and he manages to be seductive yet somehow troubling.
‘What would Bluebeard want with me?’
‘I should think he might find you irresistible Mademoiselle’
The French legend of Bluebeard has given its name to many films
and the term is used generically for a man who kills a series of women
usually a wife, although not in this case.
Carradine’s Gaston Morel
But this is a cover for his true identity as a great artist with a dreadful secret.
‘So you’re Bluebeard’
It’s as melodramatic as that sounds.
building to a rooftop chase that seems almost obligatory
and Carradine is great delivering what has to be one of cinema’s all-time great chat-up lines.
‘Would you let me mak a puppet in your image?’
Of course there are buts, mostly due to the budget,
the premise is somewhat let down by being unable to show the killings themselves,
the constant, and often inappropriate music in the back ground is both unnecessary and irritating.
The brevity of the B movie forces some jarring leaps from scene to scene and plot point to point
‘The girl in the painting is one of Bluebeard’s victims’
and yet the script grinds to a slow lengthy plateau in its mid-section,
seeming to forget for a good half hour that this is a murder mystery.
And yet there is always some moment to bring us back,
the dutched angles that denote the flashbacks,
the shadows of the hanging puppets as Morel contemplates his dire situation,
alongside Carradine’s sincere yet creepy performance.
It’s not must-see, but if you do have Prime then, it’s there,
and it’s another fascinating point on the wildly uneven graph of Edgar Ulmer’s career.
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Ulmer’s is a story of what might have been, what other director’s could have been amongst the greats if not for bad luck and not getting the breaks?
Let us know in the comments below.