Mill Creek Entertainment has, through no fault of its own, accounted for many an idle hour of my weekends. Assiduously gathering and collating public domain movies, mostly of dubious quality, into sets of fifty movies per box, sold at a rate that probably isn’t actually cheap since most of the movies are available free online, Mill Creek panders to the connoisseur of B, C, D, or even lower, movies. Sometimes, however, a good one slips through. That’s how I discovered Bluebeard (1944). One of John Carradine’s many movies, this version of the seventeenth-century tale of a murderous husband is set in Paris sometime in the not-too-distant past, Gaston Morel is a demented puppeteer who murders his models because of a religious incident. In the final confession scene Morel explains how he, as a starving artist, took a homeless girl to his studio to nurse her back to health. As he sketched her, he realized she reminded him of the Maid of Orleans—Joan of Arc. After her recovery, she turned to a life of debauchery, driving Morel insane with rage. He thus comes to kill his models due to his tattered faith (and fragile psychology).
Despite some typical overacting and strange plot twists (why would a Paris police inspector take his American girlfriend to examine evidence to solve a crime about which he is clueless? Was he planning to run for president later?), the movie manages to provide an intelligent number of turns in the plot to keep viewers interested to the end. The concept of a killer deranged by an idealistic fiction of a female victim is somewhat frightening because it continues to this day. Long before Eve bit the fruit, ancient Mesopotamians feared the demonic female of the night who later came to be called Lilith. When the unruly female entered Judeo-Christian tradition, however, she became the target of the hate and fears of too many men who had their own ideas (backed by their own religions) of how women should act.
Witch-hunts (of all varieties) have their basis in religion-fueled misogynies. Religious texts, written mostly by men, set the standard of female behavior. Those who fail to live up to it must be enemies of the world order of masculine ideals. They are the heretics, the expendable, the feminine. As someone raised by a woman without benefit of her husband, I have never had any doubts that women were just as, if not more, capable of making it in the world as men. Yet even then, in the 60’s, many women believed equal rights with men to be immoral because of the magisterial pronouncements of the male Bible. Remember, God for the Bible is a bearded man. And upon close inspection, at times at least, one may discern in that beard a touch of blue.