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Bluebeard (aka Landru)

Kino // Unrated // August 24, 2021
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted August 27, 2021 | E-mail the Author

The Movie:

Claude Charbol's 1963 film, Bluebeard, also known as Landru, is based on the exploits of Henri Désiré Landru, a French serial killer known as The Bluebeard Of Gambais, who operated in the town from which he took his nickname from December of 1915 through January of 1919. Based on a script by novelist Françoise Sagan, the film may play fast and loose with facts and details but it makes for an interesting, if not always specifically accurate, watch.

Landru is played by Charles Denner and is portrayed in the film as an upper class, middle-aged bourgeoisie family man able to navigate social circles in Paris well enough. With the First World War wreaking havoc across not just France but almost the entirety of Europe, he soon finds himself falling on hard times. Needing to come up with some income he comes up with a truly diabolical plan in which he uses lonely hearts ads to attract the attention of lonely, albeit specifically wealthy, widows. After making a connection with them, he's able to talk them into coming to his villa in Gambais, outside the city, where he sweet talks them into signing over their various fortunes to him. With that out of the way, he then murders them, chops up their corpses and burns the evidence.

This goes well for Landru, and soon enough he's got enough money not to look after his wife (Françoise Lugagne) and four kids, but to keep his beautiful mistress, Fernande Segret (Stéphane Audran), happy as well. Of course, as Landru gets better and better at killing these women, he starts to get a little sloppy and eventually, the law catches up with him and starts to close in and he is charged and tried for his many crimes.

At two hours in length, Bluebeard probably could have been trimmed a tad to improve the pacing but overall, Chabrol does a fine job behind the camera here, keeping things moving at a pretty solid clip and getting good work out of pretty much the entire cast. The production values are solid as well. While the stock footage used to place the film in a war time setting is obviously just that, stock footage, the rest of the movie is very nicely lensed by cinematographer Jean Rabier (who worked on plenty of other Chabrol films over the years, such as Dirty Hands, Pleasure Party, Nada, Red Wedding, Scoundrel In White and The Champagne Murders to name a few). Composer Pierre Jansen, who also worked on quite a few of the director's other pictures, turns in excellent work here as well.

As to the acting, Charles Denner is excellent in the lead. He makes Landru charming enough that you can see why these lonely widows might be so easily taken in by him. He has a warmth to him in these scenes where you'll have trouble finding fault with those who are soon only too eager to hand over their financial reserves to a man who truly is quite sinister. Denner also brings to the role just the right amount of arrogance, which becomes important in the later part of the movie and which adds another layer of interest to the performance. Stéphane Audran, an iconic actress and Chabrol regular (who would soon marry the director after this film was made), is excellent as Landru's mistress as well. Danielle Darrieux and Michele Morgan are also very good here as two of Landru's victims.

Though some may have wished that the script played less like the black comedy that it is and more as a straight thriller or serial killer story, Chabrol keeps the tone pretty even. While the film may lack the experimental nature of his earlier new wave films and never quite reach the heights of some of his better thrillers, Bluebeard is a solid stepping stone picture that foreshadows a lot of what was to come in the director's future pictures which also providing plenty of entertainment value.

The Video:

Bluebeard arrives on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.66.1 widescreen taking up 38.4GBs of space on a 50GB disc. Taken from a new 4k restoration of the original negative courtesy of Studio Canal, it looks excellent, if naturally quite grainy. The transfer shows nice detail throughout though some might spot some tiny scratches and specks here and there. Colors are reproduced accurately and black levels look nice. There's strong depth and texture throughout and the picture is devoid of any noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifact related issues, it always looks like film.

The Audio:

The only audio option for the feature is a French language 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono but it sounds just fine. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. The iconic score from Morricone sounds wonderful here, you can really make out the different instruments used in the music and it helps to enhance the mood substantially. Dialogue stays clean and clear throughout and the track is nicely balanced. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion to note, nor is there any audible sibilance.

The Extras:

Extras start off with a new audio commentary from film historian and author Kat Ellinger, who rightly notes that this is one of the director's strangest and most frustrating film of this era of his career before then going on to talk about whether or not the film is really a genre picture at all. She notes the film's origins, being based on a French serial killer, notes how the film deals with many of the themes that would recur throughout the director's work, the use of stock war footage, the depiction of the serial killer character in the film, Chabrol's distancing himself from the French new wave movement and embarcing of commercial cinema, details of the cast and crew that worked on the picture with Chabrol and quite a bit more. She's got a lot to say about the picture and offers up a lot of information here.

Aside from that, we get bonus trailers for The Champagne Murders, Les Doulos, Alpahville, Diabolically Yours and Max And The Junkmen, menus and chapter selection options.


Bluebeard is an interesting, and generally pretty successful, step in Chabrol's career, bridging his early experimental period with his more mainstream thrillers and it makes for an entertaining watch. Kino Lorber's Blu-ray provides a nice presentation for the film and some extras as well. Recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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