Bluebeard (2002) Horror Movie Review
Horror movies Review
It must have been frustrating to have the mastery of a craftsman and the instincts of an artist, but without the means, and most likely the talent, to put the two together. Instead, Edgar Ulmer became an ambitious director of low budget movies. Most are forgotten, but upon a few rests his reputation for style on the cheap. Watching them requires as much tolerance for schlock as appreciation for what a talented man can do with limited means. Which brings us to The Black Cat, Strange Illusion, Detour, The Strange Woman and…Bluebeard.
Gaston Morrell (John Carradine) is a painter and puppet master in turn-of-the-century Paris. Morrell’s paintings never reach the level of excellence he aims for…so he strangles the model, pitches the body in the Seine, and looks for someone else to pose for him. He often finds them when they come to enjoy Morrell’s puppet shows. Right after a fresh body is found floating by the police, Morrell accidentally meets Lucille (Jean Parker), a milliner who, with two friends, are on their way home late one evening from work. All Paris, especially young women, are on edge with this killer on the loose. Before long Morrell is presenting his puppets in Gounod’s Faust before a crowd in the park…and Lucille is there with her friends. Soon after, Lucille has agreed to make new costumes for Morrell’s puppets and Morrell is becoming attentive to her. But wait. Inspector Lefevre (Nils Asther) has discovered a painting by an artist no one seems to know and the woman in the painting looks exactly like the fourth victim of the murderer the people of Paris now call Bluebeard.
The movie looks just fine with all those classy costumes, dark Parisian streets and, especially, the puppet show of Faust with which Ulmer starts things off. There’s Marguerite, Faust and Mephistopheles on strings, with a premonition of what may come. It’s an unusual and effective way to get us into the movie. Ulmer had to fight to keep it. The movie becomes too involved with the search for models and collectors; a lot of this is played for laughs or badinage. It is, after all, hard to picture Iris Adrian as French. Things also sag when Inspector Lefevre sets a trap for Morrell. But Ludwig Stossel brings us back to the issue of unstable artists who tie their cravats around other people’s throats. Stossel plays Jean Lamarte, Morrell’s unscrupulous art dealer who knows what’s going on and doesn’t mind as long as Morrell’s paintings sell well and anonymously. Stossel was a great character actor. Here he is not playing a nice man.
But what quality the movie has, and it has glimmers, comes from Carradine as Gaston Morrell. Carradine gives a sad, shrewd performance as a driven man, compelled to paint, compelled to frustration, compelled to kill. Carradine chews not a single piece of scenery and never wrings his hands over his compulsion. Morrell’s monologue an hour into the movie, trying to explain himself to Lucille, is a skilled, sympathetic piece of work. Gaston Morrell is a smart, sensitive, talented man who cannot help himself. Carradine doesn’t just allow us to feel sad for Morrell, but to respect him in an uneasy way. It’s a fine performance.
Carradine appeared in miles of celluloid trash in order to pay the bills—four wives, five sons—and finance during the Forties his own theater touring company. When he had a film role that called for it, Carradine could be excellent. Just watch him as Hatfield in Stagecoach, Jessie Wick in Swamp Water ( The Man Who Came Back ) [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.2 Import - Netherlands ], Caleb Green in Son of Fury, Professor Madley in Fallen Angel (Fox Film Noir), Casy in The Grapes of Wrath…or his performance here as Gaston Morrell. John Carradine, I think, was a man to admire.
Be wary. The movie is in the public domain. The DVD transfer is not very good.
About Bluebeard (2002)
Starring: John Carradine, Jean Parker, Nils Asther, Ludwig Stössel, George Pembroke
Runtime: 73 minutes
Director: Edgar G. Ulmer