After a near-fatal crash in his World War I biplane, Baron Kurt von Sepper (Richard Burton) emerged with a curious condition. Some kind of chemical reaction to the accident caused his beard to turn blue, but was that the only effect it had had? Returning to life on his estate in Austria, he was much married, and his latest wife was Greta (Karin Schubert) who he had met at a ball where his pet cat, which had belonged to his mother, scratched her. In spite of this, they stayed together two years until Greta was killed in a hunting accident... or was it an accident?
If you know the story of Bluebeard then you'll be extremely sceptical over the claim that the Baron shot his wife in error, and of course you would be right, which is the main problem with this European co-production: there's no suspense, which is a drawback in a thriller. Even if you're not familiar with the old tale, there are very few surprises, so how about we treat this version as a comedy? Bit of a problem there, too, as nothing here is all that funny, in spite of a tone that verges on the spoofy. It could have been a neat horror parody, but it's not scary either.
So what is it? As it draws on, it seems to be an excuse to get these international stars together and the script, by Ennio de Concini, Maria Pia Fusco and co-director Edward Dmytryk (a once respected filmmaker in apparently reduced circumstances), doesn't offer them much more than guest bits. Only Burton gets anything close to a lead role, although Joey Heatherton as wife number seven is the female lead, but after she has uncovered the bodies in a room-sized freezer (actually unconvincing dummies) she doesn't get much to do except goad the Baron into telling her the background plot.
After a while this can get repetitive, with one wife, Virna Lisi, punished for her inability to stop singing, but ignored is the fact that the Baron was also frustrated that he could not get close to her amorously due to her trilling when the whole point of his being a murderer is to avoid any sexual contact with his wives. Making more sense is when he kills another spouse when she (Nathalie Delon) is taking lessons in love from a prostitute (Sybil Danning) and they end up getting carried away while he spies on them: he impales them both with a large ornamental horn for this in a none-too-subtle example of phallic imagery.
Probably the biggest star out of the actresses is Raquel Welch, and she, like Lisi, is one of only two of the wives not to grace us with a topless scene, playing a nun who takes the Baron's fancy until he realises her salacious past before she was a holy woman which she cannot stop going on about. Each of the ladies is dispatched in a different way, but none are stunningly imaginative and Burton's constipated performance does not lend itself to extravagant villainy anyway. Even his beard looks more black under the studio lights. So what you're left with is a film which toys with various ideas such as anti-fascism where the Baron is a committed Nazi, but you could easily take out the ten minutes of sequences where this is important and not notice. Some viewers might be attracted by the nudity, but even the sexual angle isn't given much space; in the end Bluebeard is a little fuss about not very much, a missed opportunity, but for what is unclear. Music by Ennio Morricone.