“It’s a compromised film that tends to offend everyone but the Nazis.”

(director/writer: Edward Dmytryk; screenwriters: from the story by Ennio Di Concini/Ennio Di Concini/Maria Pia Fusco/Luciano Sacripanti; cinematographer: Gabor Pogany; editor: Jean Ravel; music: Ennio Morricone; cast: Richard Burton (Bluebeard, Baron von Sepper), Raquel Welch (Magdalena), Virna Lisi (Elga), Nathalie Delon (Erika), Marilù Tolo (Brigitte), Karin Schubert (Greta), Agostina Belli (Caroline), Sybil Danning (Prostitute), Joey Heatherton (Anne), Edward Meeks (Sergio), Doka Bukova (Rosa), Mathieu Carrière (The Violinist); Runtime: 123; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Alexander Salkind; Cinerama Releasing; 1972-France/West Germany/Italy)

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Richard Burton is on the wagon long enough to play the twisted wealthy Austrian Baron von Sepper, a WW I flying ace who is also the legendary mass-murderer of women known as Bluebeard–even sporting a blue-toned beard. The Bluebeard depicted bears no resemblance to the Bluebeard in France, in the early 20th century, who was a serial killer named Henri Landru and was nicknamed Bluebeard after murdering several young women he courted. There were a few movies about him, including one by Charlie Chaplin called Monsieur Verdoux and another by Edgar G. Ulmer in 1944, also, called Bluebeard (both are superior to this version).

It’s a high camp vacuous horror/fairytale film that’s set between the two Great Wars and is directed and co-written by Edward Dmytryk (“Warlock”/”The Caine Mutiny”). It’s filmed in Budapest, behind the Iron Curtain, and financed by European countries that include West Germany. The Germans demanded explicit sex scenes with nudity and made the compliant Dmytryk re-shoot certain scenes to make the sex more overt. It’s a compromised film that tends to offend everyone but the Nazis (the uniforms are not authentic, as German law bans the use of Nazi uniforms). The original story is by Ennio Di Concini.

Von Sepper, a Nazi party leader (dressed in black shirt and faux symbolic armband), marries his seventh wife, the pretty American vaudeville dancer, Anne (Joey Heatherton), and leaves her alone, with all the keys, in the isolated family country castle while he drives her friend and dancing partner Sergio (Edward Meeks) back to town. He warns her not to use the one gold key, but Anne of course does. She finds a vault in the cellar with the frozen bodies of the baron’s other wives and a prostitute (Sybil Danning, German softcore porn actress). The other wives (all exhibiting traits of Christianity’s seven deadly sins) include Raquel Welch (paid $150,000 for five days’ work to act the part of a former nun); the Italian actresses Virna Lisi, Marilu Tolo, and Agostina Belli; from France, Nathalie Delon (the soon to be film director); from Germany, Karin Schubert. Anne had already come across the baron’s decaying mother’s mummy sitting in a rocking chair in the guest-room. When the baron returns, she confronts him about his dead wives and learns that the baron is a momma’s boy. Rather than divorce the brooding baron prefers to end his relationships by decapitation, suffocation, drowning and other such violent means (witnessed through flashbacks) because no one can take the place of mother–which causes the baron to be impotent. Anne to avoid a similar fate, must outwit the baron. It’s reassuring to know that she luckily becomes the only survivor of the lady killer, which is the happy note this absurdly lame movie ends on.

This modernized version of Bluebeard is filled with gratuitously gruesome scenes of the murders, ham-fisted direction, poor acting by all (especially by an inert Burton and an almost moronic characterization by Heatherton) and lots of bare titty shots. Only the costumes can be complimented for their good taste (the best thing about the pic). The macabre comedy is light years behind the superior Kind Hearts and Coronets, a similar-type of film that set the gold standard for such films.