Monday, May 6, 2024

BLUEBEARD (1944) On Blu-ray From Kino


The 1944 Gothic noir BLUEBEARD has had plenty of public domain home video releases, due to its being a product of Hollywood's poverty row. The movie now has an official release from Kino Lorber. 

BLUEBEARD, set in 19th Century Paris, was made by the low-budget PRC studio, and it was directed by a low-budget legend, Edgar Ulmer. It stars another low-budget movie legend, John Carradine, as puppeteer/artist Gaston Morrell, whose creativity unfortunately triggers his homicidal instincts. Morrell becomes interested in a beautiful modiste named Lucille (Jean Parker), while the woman's sister (Teala Loring) and a Paris detective (Nils Asther) try to track this "Bluebeard" down. 

Due to Ulmer and John Carradine's notable performance, BLUEBEARD has long had a cult reputation as a poverty row treasure. It's an above average film, obviously one of the better made products from PRC.....but I have to agree with Tom Weaver, who, on one of the audio commentaries on this disc mentions that when he first saw it he was somewhat underwhelmed. I had the same experience. I think I expected some poverty row craziness, and a more emotional John Carradine. BLUEBEARD tries to be more of a somber look at a sensitive murderer who can't stop himself from killing. Carradine's Gaston is a soft-spoken, brooding fellow who the script tries to create sympathy for. Carradine even looks a bit dashing here, although one still wonders why someone as vivacious as Jean Parker's Lucille would be interested in the guy. The lovely Parker, by the way, brings a much needed lively spark to a movie that is rather slow at times. 

BLUEBEARD does have some moody photography from Eugen Schufftan, and a supporting cast that is quite impressive for a PRC picture, with Nils Asther, Ludwig Stossel, Sonia Sorel (who was John Carradine's real-life love at the time), and Iris Adrian, who deserves mention for her cameo as a model who seems to have come to France by way of Brooklyn. Edgar Ulmer certainly put some care into this, and a few elements of it do remind one of MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE, but BLUEBEARD might have been better if it played up to the more sensational aspects of the story. 

On the disc case Kino states that the print used is from a 2020 HD master by Paramount Pictures....but the visual quality overall is under average. There's a number of scenes that have visible damage, the picture lacks sharpness, and at times the audio sounds wobbly. This print does have the PRC logo at the beginning and the proper end title. I can only assume that this is the best version of the film that Kino could use. A number of film buffs online have already mentioned this disc's picture quality, due to the high standards one expects from Kino. 

As mentioned there are two brand new audio commentaries. One features the dynamic duo of classic horror film experts Greg Mank and Tom Weaver. Weaver lets Mank take the lead, and Greg gives his expected astute and informative analysis of the film. Mank reveals that BLUEBEARD had a far larger shooting schedule & budget than everyone has assumed, which may cause some to rethink their opinions of it (Ulmer has historically gotten a lot of compliments for making a film like this with supposedly almost no time and no money). The second commentary features David Del Valle, who gives his usual rambling talk that is filled with his usual stories about interacting with various members of the cast & crew. 

I have to say that I expected BLUEBEARD to look much better on this Blu-ray than it does--this is a Kino product, after all. The print used here is watchable enough, and the Greg Mank-Tom Weaver commentary is worth a listen, but some out there may want to wait to make a purchase until they see if a better version comes along. 

1 comment:

  1. Well, apparently brilliant minds think alike, because, like you and Tom Weaver, I was also underwhelmed with this film and was expecting much more from Mr. Carradine. I picked up the Alpha Video version not long ago, and it's pretty bad, especially the sound. but I may pick up the Kino to hear the commentaries and see if my opinion changes after seeing it in a better-quality version. Jean parker is a good actress, and Miss Adrian is always a welcome presence in any movie.