Friday, September 26, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Bluebeard (1944) at UCLA

For the second weekend in a row I spent an enjoyable Friday evening in Westwood. Tonight started with dinner at 800 Degrees with Lindsay before walking over to UCLA for a pair of film noir titles. It's so nice being able to regularly enjoy movies with her!

Tonight was another double bill in UCLA's Exile Noir series. The program started off with Douglas Sirk's SLEEP, MY LOVE (1948), starring Claudette Colbert, Robert Cummings, and Don Ameche, which I first reviewed in 2010.

I had forgotten just how enjoyable SLEEP, MY LOVE was; I also think the film's more humorous moments were better brought out seeing the film with an audience. Cummings is very effective as the smart and witty hero who realizes there's something very fishy going on in Ameche and Colbert's marriage. Colbert is always good, and it's fun to see Ameche in an atypical role as the smarmy villain of the piece, who is attempting to "gaslight" his wife. Hazel Brooks and Keye Luke have fun supporting roles.

SLEEP, MY LOVE is available on DVD or Blu-ray from Olive Films and is very much recommended.

At intermission the UCLA Archive's Jan-Christopher Horak interviewed Arianne Ulmer Cipes, daughter of BLUEBEARD (1944) director Edgar G. Ulmer. Horak and Cipes had spoken at the TCM Classic Film Festival last spring, and it was very enjoyable hearing them talk about another movie from her father's career. Cipes is an engaging speaker who is very knowledgeable about her father's work.

Early in the discussion Horak shared the good news that the interesting Ulmer film HER SISTER'S SECRET (1946), which was shown at this year's TCM Classic Film Festival, will be shown again at UCLA's 2015 Festival of Preservation. I was delighted to hear that news as I would enjoy a repeat viewing. My review of the TCM screening can be found here.

Cipes shared memories of her father's long association with BLUEBEARD star John Carradine, who even lived in their home at one point, and reminisced about being the flower girl when Carradine married one of his BLUEBEARD costars, Sonia Sorel; David Carradine was the ring bearer.

Cipes said she had promised her mother that she would make sure her father's films were found and preserved. PRC, the low-budget company which released some of Ulmer's '40s films, let its movies lapse into the public domain, and most eventually existed only in 16mm TV prints in the U.S. Eventually some prints of Ulmer films were tracked down in Europe, where they had remained after postwar screenings.

The 35mm BLUEBEARD print was located in Paris, and the opening credits are in French; with a French voice cast listed at the end of the credits, I thought for a minute we might be about to see a print dubbed in French! However, other than an English poster at the film's opening being translated into French, the film was in English, with a card reading "Fin" at the end.

Sipes explained that although Jockey A. Feindel was the credited cinematographer, art director Eugen Schufftan had worked with her father as a cinematographer in Germany and was regularly on the BLUEBEARD set. He was not allowed to be a cinematographer on the film as he was not in the union, but he had a strong influence on the movie's look. Indeed, the cinematography is probably the film's most impressive aspect; shots such as the shadows of marionettes bobbing up and down on a wall are both creepy and memorable.

The film is a short 70-minute look at a serial killer, tormented puppeteer Gaston Morel (Carradine), and the seamstress, Lucille (Jean Parker) who is drawn to him as the proverbial moth to the flame. Inspector Lefevre (Nils Asther) suspects Morel and asks Lucille's sister Francine (Teala Loring) to work with the police to uncover the truth.

I enjoyed taking in the movie's style and was especially glad to see another credit in the careers of Parker (LITTLE WOMEN) and Loring (ALLOTMENT WIVES), but I found the film rather flat. The thrills and chills are somewhat muted; the killer's identity is known from the outset, and his victims seem curiously passive.

That said, I was glad to have had the chance to see it in such a nice print, especially in the context of learning more about the director's career.

The cast also included Ludwig Stossel, George Pembroke, Iris Adrian, and Henry Kolker.

Last weekend at UCLA I enjoyed THE DARK MIRROR (1946) and JEALOUSY (1953) in the Exile Noir series. I also hope to attend closing night Sunday to see CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS (1953) paired with HOLLOW TRIUMPH (1948).


Blogger Jerry E said...

Enjoyed these reviews, Laura. I like "Sleep, My Love" too.

Next week's double bill is a "corker". Both "CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS" and "HOLLOW TRIUMPH" are really gripping and enjoyable. Paul Henreid in the latter is always worth watching and he is especially good here.

3:35 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks, Jerry!

I am working on my reviews of CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS and HOLLOW TRIUMPH -- a really fun evening at the movies! So glad I made the effort to get back up to L.A. for those. Thanks for the endorsement to see them!

Best wishes,

1:42 PM  

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