See the moving picture

FIGURE 7.20

Méliès in America (IV)

Barbe-bleue (Bluebeard)

Georges Méliès, Star-Film, France, 1901

Although Bluebeard (played by Méliès) warns his latest wife not to venture into the chamber next to her bedroom, the devil makes her do it (literally: a devil appears and urges her on). Inside she discovers the corpses of Wives 1-7, strung from the ceiling like symbols of his perverse desires lingering in her husband’s consciousness (symbolized by the room itself). When the startled wife drops the key into a pool of blood, it grows as if rendered tumescent, until her fairy godmother appears to dispatch the devil who’d instigated her nightmare. Bluebeard himself appears, but because the wife has regained control of her traumatic dream, she’s rescued by a symbol of her own sexual desire: a knight in shining armor suddenly appears and, turning his phallic lance on the evil sex offender, pins him to a post. The ghosts of the seven wifely victims attack their murderer, regain their corporeal existence, and, with the heroine’s assistance, find more suitable husbands.

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