“She defiled the image I had created of her — and so, I killed her.”
As a rash of murders occurs across Paris, an investigator (Nils Asther) interrogates an art dealer (Ludwig Stossel) who seems to have some connection to the case, and a puppeteer (John Carradine) becomes enamored with a costume designer (Jean Parker) who eventually realizes he is the murderer known as “Bluebeard”.
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary is clearly a big fan of Edgar G. Ulmer’s low-budget PRC production (based on the enduring French folktale of Bluebeard), given that he refers to it as “a real sleeper”. He writes that the “Expressionistic” film — which has a “European look to it” — is “strikingly directed” and features a “great use of close-ups, shadows, and bizarre camera angles”. He notes that it provides John Carradine “his best lead performance and one of the few in which he doesn’t succumb to hamminess”; indeed, in his Alternate Oscars book Peary nominates Carradine as one of the Best Actors of the Year for this role. While I find the film visually impressive, I’m much less taken with its rather insipid storyline, which doesn’t reveal Bluebeard’s motivations until close to the end, and thus leaves us puzzled about why a seemingly likable puppeteer turns randomly into a murderer whenever he paints a beautiful woman. It’s nice to see Carradine given a leading role, and he’s suitably nuanced, but I much prefer him in his more memorable supporting roles — like Preacher Casy in The Grapes of Wrath (1940).
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Atmospheric cinematography
- John Carradine as “Bluebeard”
No, though it’s recommended for one-time viewing.