Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Bluebeard (1944)

In the original French folktale, Bluebeard is a nobleman who murders his wives.  In this adaptation, he is recast as an artist and puppeteer, and the women he murders are his muses: they're all women whose portrait he has painted.

The role of Bluebeard is played by John Carradine, who succeeds in bringing a menacing charm to the role.  He's suave and compelling, but just a little too intense.  It's a strong performance that goes a long way to explain why this film is something of a cult classic.  Certainly it's not due to the script.

So if you've got half a brain you've probably spotted the flaw in this Bluebeard's modus operandi.  Painting portraits of all your victims isn't exactly subtle.  Selling them, as he does - through an amoral art dealer who has some idea of his homicidal impulses - is downright stupid.  Sure enough, a police officer recognises a murdered women when he sees one of the portraits, and the authorities are soon on the trail of their killer.

That search will be complicated by the fact that their main lead - the art dealer - is less than cooperative.  It'll also be complicated by the fact that they're apparently not very good at their jobs.  The 'elite' agent they bring in from Paris goes to pieces when she comes face to face with Bluebeard (there are reasons for this, but still: elite agent), and ends up as his latest victim.

But eventually of course things are going to catch up with Bluebeard and he is ultimately confronted by his latest lady love: the only woman he has never wanted to paint.  He confesses his murders to her, and gives a long explanation that I suspect is supposed to make him a tragic and sympathetic figure.  Because you know, it's okay to murder women when you're only doing it because your first love broke your heart.

My eyes, they cannot stop rolling.

Carradine is certainly very good in this, but I do wish he'd been very good in a better movie.

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