Here is a fictionalized retelling of the serial murderer known as Bluebeard. John Carradine play Gaston Morrell, whose string of ghastly murders of women terrorized Paris in the early 1900s. Carradine gives possibly the most subtle performance ever in the horror genre.
While viewing this newly acquired tape, I pondered the question as to what determines a story of murder to be a Horror story and not just a murder mystery. Of course it would have to involve, at least in my evaluation, the point where horror is aroused in the psyche and fear is the dominant reality. We can consider the mental state of the criminal; See if he is deranged or in some way driven by an unknown motivation that may be interpreted as a metaphysical force. Also the manner in which the murderer executes the deeds is considered. In this movie it is determined, at least in my viewpoint, at the moment when you are aware that the person of your acquaintance, one you may have assumed to be harmless, even gentle, is the notorious Bluebeard of whom the women of Paris have feared and agonized about.
This low budget B film does not stand the test of time very well and cannot be compared to Ulmer's masterpiece The Black Cat but despite any drawbacks this movie does have it is worth a look by the most avid of fans willing to explore the fringes of the genre.
Carradine, a Shakespearean stage actor, was prone to portray eccentric characters with a stylish exaggeration. The performance of Gaston Morrell/Bluebeard demonstrates that he is able to temper his techniques and could have handle a variety of other roles (In The Grapes of Wrath he was Preacher Casey, and in The Ten Commandments he stood alongside Moses as his brother Aaron).
Bluebeard is generally well acted by all the supporting actors and has moments of humor, more subtle than blatant comic relief and the dark moody lighting gives appealing atmosphere even if it doesn't achieve a status of classic. Edgar G. Ulmer's directing is quite good considering the material he was working with was a bit watery.
For fans whose taste are more modern or demanding this is not the first pick, but it is worthy of interest to the more ardent and avid classic fans as well as particular interest to Edgar G. Ulmer enthusiast. Difficult to find in rentals.
Reportedly, this was Carradine's favorite of his own performances.