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A killer of young women, dubbed Bluebeard, is loose in Paris. Lucille and her friends meet Gaston Morrell, a puppeteer. He invites them to a show the next night; they go. Afterwards, he walks with Lucille; she offers to make costumes for his next show, he accepts, and feelings develop that may lead to love. She suspects he has a tragic past. Meanwhile, his leaving the show with Lucille prompts the jealousy of Renee, Gaston's sometime lover. Lucille's younger sister, Francine, comes back to Paris - her boyfriend is Inspector Lefebre, who's hunting for Bluebeard. Some clues point toward Lamart, a greedy art dealer. Who is in danger, and can Gaston be trusted? Written by
Set in 19th Century France, Bluebeard in some ways resembles a French Jack the Ripper tale. It is centered on Gaston Morrell (John Carradine), an eccentric visual artist and owner of a marionette show.
Although I remained perplexed as to why Morrell was referred to as Bluebeard, I can't say it bothered me much, as this is an excellent, captivating horror/thriller with fine performances, great direction, cinematography and set design, and a well written, taut script. It earned a 10 out of 10 from me.
The Parisian setting worked well, with the Seine playing a crucial role throughout the film. Carradine was fantastic--twisted yet debonair ala Vincent Price's best work, and even the most minor cast members were a joy to watch.
Another aspect that helped push the film up to a 10 for me was the score. Although consisting of various source-music, it made perfect, prominent usage of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. It enhanced the tension and atmosphere of the film, and the programmatic aspect of Mussorgsky's piece is appropriate.
Also worth noting are the countless references to the German expressionistic style in Bluebeard's set design and cinematography. There are strong shadows throughout most of the film. At times, the angles in the sets are as exaggerated as those in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), and the climactic chase across Parisian rooftops was particularly reminiscent of Caligari.
But the film wouldn't succeed without a great script. Bluebeard has one. There are no loose threads. The story is economical yet satisfying, finely woven, suspenseful and complex. This is an underrated film that deserves more attention.
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