BLUEBEARD John Carradine

BLUEBEARD. PRC, 1944. John Carradine, Jean Parker, Nils Asther, Ludwig Stössel, George Pembroke, Teala Loring, Sonia Sorel. Director: Edgar G. Ulmer.

   John Carradine plays a disturbed puppeteer dubbed “Bluebeard” by the Parisian tabloids in this stylish, low-budget film. In the twenties Ulmer worked as a production designer on films directed by F.W. Murnau and Fritz Lang,and the theatrical-looking studio sets (including what appears to be a cardboard cutout of Notre Dame) are appropriate to this study of a deranged artist.

   The most striking visual effect is a shot of the puppeteer’s eye peering out balefully at the audience in the park- and, coincidentally, at the theater audience. It reminds me of a shot in Lang’s You Only Live Once (1937) in which the blind covering the rear window of a menacing black automobile parts to reveal a pair of eyes, the face covered as if by a mask in an imaginative use of the melodramatic convention of the hooded villain.

   Carradine plays the role of the artist/murderer with great restraint, and his long face and mournful eyes, wedded to his rich but monochromatic voice, give to his performance the haunting — or haunted — look of a fallen angel.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 6, No. 3, May-June 1982.