Also known as Landru, this movie finds French New Wave director Claude Chabrol telling the absolutely true story of serial killer Henri Désiré Landru. Nicknamed the Bluebeard of Gambais, Landry kiled at least seven women in the village of Gambais, as well as at least three other women and a young man at a house he rented in Vernouillet. He also had met or been in romantic correspondence with 283 women during the First World War, many of whom he swindled out of money. The true number of Landru’s victims — as their remains were never found — could possibly be even higher. After a trial — which had no small amount of controversy due to a lack of bodies for evidence — Landru was executed by the guillotine. Somehow, his severed head ended up in Los Angeles’ Museum of Death.
Played by Charles Denner, this monster of a man seems respectable until you get to his scheme: lure wealthy old women with the hopes of romance to his home, get their money and then chop them up and set the bodies ablaze.
After this movie was released, Chabrol was sued for defamation by Fernande Segret, Landru’s last mistress, who was not pleased by how Stéphane Audran played her or the fact that she was not consulted or asked for permission for her name to be used. She’d used the money she made from telling the story to be a teacher in Lebanon for forty years and came back to France only to learn that she was the subject of a major motion picture. Segret received modest damages and retired to a care home in the town of Flers, where she later killed herself in 1968, drowned herself in the moat at the Chateau de Flers on the anniversary of Landru’s marriage proposal to her.
She wasn’t the only person unhappy with Audran. Producer Carlo Ponti hated her acting so much that he screamed, “Who’s that slut who’s playing Fernande?” Chabrol slapped Ponti and shouted back, “That’s my woman!”
This was the fourth box office failure that Chabrol would endure after Les Bonnes Femmes, The Third Lover and Ophélia. As a result, he was forced to make more commercial movies rather than the ones he wanted to make. The same thing happened to Charlie Chaplin, whose take on the same story — 1947’s Monsieur Verdoux — also was a big time bomb.
You can get Bluebeard from Kino Lorber, complete with commentary by Kat Ellinger, and a new 4K restoration from the original camera negative.