Barbe-Bleue (1901)

aka Bluebeard
Article 4610 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-21-2014
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies, Jeanne d’Alcy, Bleuette Bernon
Country: France
What it is: A flight of fancy

A man wins the hand of a woman by bribing her father, but the woman makes a horrific discovery; the man has the bodies of his seven previous wives hidden in the cellar.

Up to this point, all the movies I’ve seen involving Bluebeard have been based on the character of Landru, who married and killed several wives for their money. I’m assuming he got the “Bluebeard” nickname from the French folktale on which this version was based. If the summary of the original folk tale on Wikipedia is to be trusted, the only real fantastic content to the original story is the serial killer aspect; however, this being a Melies film we’re talking about, several liberties are taken that up the fantastic content dramatically, including the appearance of a tumbling imp, a fairy godmother, bizarre nightmares, an impalement that seems to result more in inconvenience than death, and the resurrection of the dead. It does take a bit of a wait for these elements to come forth; the first half of this ten-minute movie is a fairly straightforward telling of the original tale up to the discovery of the bodies, and that’s when the Melies-style hell breaks loose. It’s a pretty good entry in the Melies oeuvre, and it was fairly ambitious for its time.

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