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Duke Bluebeard's Castle (1988)

TV Movie  -   -  Fantasy | Mystery | Music
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Title: Duke Bluebeard's Castle (TV Movie 1988)

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Cast overview:
Robert Lloyd ...
Elizabeth Laurence ...
Speaker of the Prologue (voice)
Leone Amis ...
The Wives
Abigail Zealy ...
The Wives
Natasha Zukas ...
The Wives


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Fantasy | Mystery | Music



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1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Version of Herzog Blaubarts Burg (1963) See more »


A Kékszakállú Herceg vára
Written by Béla Bartók
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User Reviews

The only video recording extent, and an excellent one!
10 September 2006 | by (West Oakland, CA) – See all my reviews

Composed in 1911, modified in 1912 and 1917, and first performed in 1918, "A kékszakállú herceg vára" ("Bluebeard's Castle") is a piece of music I enjoy inordinately, especially the 1965 Walter Berry / Christa Ludwig recording, which I think the best of all.

It's an adaptation of the tale by Charles Perrault, with Duke Bluebeard arriving at his castle with his new bride, Judith, and her simultaneous dismay at the dark, dank atmosphere of his home and determination to open windows and let the light in (delve into his secrets). She accomplishes this by coaxing the keys to seven doors from her husband; as she opens each she finds a torture chamber with its walls weeping blood, an armory with bloody weapons, a garden where the flowers bleed when cut, a treasure trove where the very stones are blood, Bluebeard's kingdom (beautifully executed here), a lake of tears and finally, behind Door #7, Bluebeard's first three wives, which Judith, accepting her fate, must join. As each door opens, both the actual lighting and the music become "brighter", until there is a climatic high C at the fifth door, after which, the darkness begins to descend again, until, at the end, the music has returned to the opening key of F, and the castle is once again in gloom and shadow.

As a visual adaptation (and I think the only one to date), this is a beautiful production, using the medium of video to enhance the acting and the story-telling in a way that cannot be achieved on a large stage. The camera angles, the subtle cutting, the lighting, the interiors - all bring the dank, gloomy atmosphere of the castle to life, and catch every nuance of expression and gesture by Laurence and Lloyd, making this a very satisfying experience. The music and vocals don't have the edge the 1965 recording possesses, but since this is the only visual recording out there, I won't complain. It's sung in the original Hungarian, and there are subtitles which, although somewhat obtrusive, are a graceful translation by Sarah Distin.

It's not easy to find, but not impossible, either, and well worth seeking out, even with the inherent limitations of the VHS format (at least it's a VHS Hi-Fi stereo tape). It would be a complete joy to have it reissued on DVD, but I've read that in June of 2006, Warner Classics (the distributor in the UK and US), lost its helmsman, Matthew Cosgrove, and the division has been rolled into Rhino, Warner's reissue line, so for now this performance must remain an esoteric pleasure for those lucky enough to come across it.

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