Color, 1972, 124 mins.
Directed by Edward Dmytryk
Starring Richard Burton, Raquel Welch, Joey Heatherton, VIrna Lisi, Marilu Tolo, Nathalie Delon, Karin Schubert, Agostina Belli, Sybil Danning
Anchor Bay (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9), Lionsgate (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1)

A campy and compelling beast of a film, Bluebeard defies categorization by offering up pitch black comedy, campy lunacy, Nazi era intrigue, graphic gore, and plenty of beautiful European women shedding their clothes. On top of that throw in Richard Burton at his hammiest (and tipsiest), and you've got the recipe for an experience guaranteed to confound those who claim they've seen it all.

Sort of an adult spin on the Charles Perrault fairy tale, our story begins with flying ace Baron von Sepper (Burton) celebrating his marriage to the new Baroness, Anne (Joey Heatherton). And yes, his beard really is blue, thanks to warfare chemical exposure. The Baron takes his new bride home where he snaps cheesecake nudie photos of her, refuses to consummate the marriage, and declares he must go off for a trip to Austria. Before he leaves, Anne snoops around and discovers the housekeeper casually brushing the hair of the Baron's mother. This wouldn't be so odd, except Mom is now a skeletal corpse in a rocking chair! Rather than tearing out of the house in a panic, Anne waves goodbye to her hubby and continues to poke around, eventually discovering a secret key which opens a hidden walk-in freezer behind the Baron's portrait. Inside the compartment are the frozen bodies of the Baron's six previous wives, and of course the Baron has just conveniently called off his trip in time to catch his wife in the act. Declaring that he must kill her when dawn arrives, he spends the evening telling her exactly why he killed them all. His marriage to singer Virna Lisi was spoiled when she wouldn't stop singing day and night, so he came up with a novel means of silencing her. Demure nun Raquel Welch admitted to not being a virgin, then spent every hour rattling off the names of her hundreds of lovers. Nathalie Delon failed to entice him by naming all of her body parts and found love in the arms of sex-ed hooker Sybil Danning. Man-hater Agostina Belli found pleasure by kicking Dickie in the crotch and ordering him to whip her. And Agostina Belli failed to react to much of anything, even when he tossed a cat to his pet falcon. Will Anne be next, or can she maneuver out of the Baron's clutches before sunrise?

For all its ridiculous excesses, Bluebeard is a slick, sumptuous film; the rooms of Burton's lair feature the loudest colors this side of Suspiria, the women all wear frilly diaphanous gowns, and Ennio Morricone's outrageous score wavers between gothic organ solos and lush romantic fugues. Much of the film consists of strange banter between Burton and Heatherton, with the latter getting most of the good lines. One example: "You're a monster! You're inhuman! I spit on you, darling!" Blacklisted director Edward Dmytryk was experiencing something of a comeback with films like The Caine Mutiny, but one can only wonder what was going through his head when he cowrote Bluebeard and offered it to everyone's favourite drunken Welshman. The contrived twist ending alone is enough to make one wonder exactly what kind of drugs were circulating on the set. They don't make 'em like this anymore, and there's a very good reason why.

Anchor Bay's DVD released in 2000 looks as good as this film ever has, apparently taken from the original spotless negative. The widescreen framing is a welcome relief after USA's discontinued, terribly cropped VHS version, and the mono audio is extremely strong. The vibrant, psychedelic color schemes come through just fine, though those garish red on blue credits are still punishing to the eyes. The disc also includes the long version of the US trailer, which reveals every single death scene! Essentially the same package was later reissued in 2007 on DVD from Lionsgate but with the transfer flat letterboxed instead of 16x9.