"I do, I die." (US video- 21st Genesis)
"Before you know it the honeymoon is over." (US video- Media)
"Do you take this woman to be you lawfully wedded corpse?" (US video- American Video)
directed by: Mario Bava (back of video blurb): "Wedding dress desighner John Harrington has a haunting secret and it's driving him crazy. Stalking brides to unlock his mysterious past has police hot on the trail while the ghost of his nagging wife follows his every move." choice dialogue:
starring: Stephen Forsythe, Laura Betti, Dagmar Lassander
(back of video blurb):
"Wedding dress desighner John Harrington has a haunting secret and it's driving him crazy. Stalking brides to unlock his mysterious past has police hot on the trail while the ghost of his nagging wife follows his every move."
Not Bava’s best film, but- I’ve said it before and I’ll sure as hell say it again, a mediocre Bava film is like a pearl amongst offal compared to the works of many of his contemporaries. HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON is no exception.
This Parisian set giallo stars Stephen Forsyth as John Harrington- a designer of Bridal wear, who is troubled by incomplete flashbacks to the violent death of his Mother and is haunted by an apparition of a young boy. He harbours a barely controllable psychosis, worsened by the bitchy goading of his wife- who refuses to divorce him, she taunts- "We shall stay married till death do us part". A relationship soured by his supposed impotence. It is a combination of these factors that appears to drive him to kill brides-to-be with a hatchet (an idea reused in HE KNOWS YOU’RE ALONE (1980))- in what at first appears to be a symbolic, if temporary, escape from the suffocating touch of his wife. It is also through each of these brutal murders that he is able to remember another fragment from the night his mother was murdered- a process which will eventually lead to the revelation of her killer.
Harrington is completely aware that he is mad and, in a fashion which pre-dates the insane but savvy protagonist in Brett Easton Ellis’ AMERICAN PSYCHO, revels in his lunacy- calmly rationalising the fact that he must carry on, "...wielding the cleaver". He is able to present a completely normal and suavely debonair face to those around him. So much so that despite being a prime suspect in the murders of five brides-to-be (one of whom worked at his fashion house as a model)- a suspicious detective seems sure of his guilt from the start, that he is able to avoid incriminating himself. Harrington, despite being aware of his mental state, cannot prevent himself from sinking further into psychosis. A psychosis which becomes so powerful that killing random women cannot satisfy the blood lust he has for his wife. And in a scene, where it appears that they are about to spend the first tender moment they have had in years, Harrington carries a silver platter into the bedroom, upon which lies the gleaming cleaver. It is here that the movie changes track with a masterly and macabre twist, and to say anymore would spoil it...
As one would expect from the master of style, Bava depicts Harrington’s insanity with evocative flourish. His eye for detail and colour is unrivalled- a fact that was clear even in the washed out print I saw. Effortlessly switching from the linear plot to surreal set pieces- neatly mirroring Harrington’s mind, without loosing control of the narrative....(Hark me! Pretentious git alert!)...No, but seriously, Bava is one of the few directors who can elicit such superlatives from me. Standouts include the opening scene where Harrington butchers a bride-to-be and her fiancé on a train, a scene overflowing with abstracted imagery and a dreamlike ambience. And the scene where Harrington convinces one of the models, who is about to leave the salon to get married, to choose one of the wedding dresses modelled by a myriad of mannequins locked away in a palatial, shadowed room. He insists she dance with him and they glide through the dummies- watched with unblinking plastic eyes. Finishing with her brutal murder.
Bava also has a keen eye for the blackest of humour. Daring to risk the ridicule of his main character- Harrington often wears a bridal veil to commit the hatchet murders, instead he creates something both startling and perverse- which also provides HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON with its signature image. He also links the maniacal with the mundane by following an image of the smoke ,created from the burning body of one of Harrington’s victims, with Harrington burning his toast.
HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON is, as I have said, not Bava’s best film. It is unfortunately undermined by the fact that the identity of the killer of Harrington’s mother- the snippets which build to a revelatory whole being the film’s main device for advancing the plot, comes as no great surprise and is thus fairly anti-climatic. (Although the plot-twist in the middle is a killer!). Also the fashion house setting had been used by Bava before ,in his seminal giallo BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (1964), and which can’t help but invite predictably unflattering comparisons. Whilst lavishing the film with lush imagery Bava, and to a few gore hounds disappointment I shouldn’t wonder, does not dwell on the gory mayhem-(In fact HATCHET FOR A HONEYMOON is rated PG in the States on video). But, as I have also said before, any of Mario Bava’s films are well worth seeing and HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON has more than enough going for it to make it worth your while seeking it out.
BODYCOUNT 6 female:4 / male:2
1) Male killed with a hatchet (offscreen)
2) Female killed with a hatchet (offscreen)
3) Female killed with hatchet
4) Female killed with hatchet
5) Female is shown grasping a slit throat (flashback)
6) Male killed with hatchet (offscreen)