Release Date(s)1970 (September 18, 2012)
Studio(s)Manuel Caño Sanciriaco/Mercury Films (Redemption/Kino)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: B-
- Audio Grade: C-
- Extras Grade: C+
Some horror fans will tell you that the Italian giallo movies are superior to their American cousins/descendants, the slasher film. This isn’t necessarily true across the board. Both are prone to suffering from the same problems like wooden characters and predictability. But many of the best gialli are notably more stylish than your average slasher movie. And when you’re talking style in Italian horror films, the conversation begins with Mario Bava.
Bava is widely acknowledged as the godfather of giallo thanks to his 1963 film, The Girl Who Knew Too Much. For many years, Hatchet for the Honeymoon was considered one of Bava’s lesser efforts. Indeed, it’s an imperfect movie but it has quite a few memorable sequences and enough going for it to make it worth your while.
Stephen Forsyth plays John Harrington, the owner of a bridal design company and a serial killer of beautiful women. (This is not a spoiler. We find that out in the first scene.) Things aren’t going well for Harrington. His wife (Laura Betti) hates him but refuses to give him the satisfaction of a divorce. The police are dogging his tracks, investigating the disappearance of multiple models who worked for him. And a new model (Dagmar Lassander) is toying with him, alternately flirting and dropping hints that she’s seeking revenge for her murdered sister.
As usual, Bava acts as his own cinematographer and the results are typically striking. The movie makes good use of distorted reflections and vibrant colors. The story treads some familiar ground. The key to Harrington’s madness will come as no surprise to anyone who’s heard the name Norman Bates. But Bava does throw in some interesting curveballs, particularly in regards to Mrs. Harrington. The movie is never less than entertaining but some of its best ideas never come fully into focus. As much as I hate to suggest it, I wouldn’t mind seeing a good filmmaker take a crack at remaking this.
Hatchet for the Honeymoon comes to Blu-ray as part of Kino’s Bava reissue campaign, this one under the Redemption banner. The print betrays noticeable signs of wear and damage from time to time. The HD upgrade isn’t a massive improvement on the DVD but it is slightly better. The image is textured and very film-like. The mono audio track has the same problems as Black Sunday with its post-synchronized dialogue and some hiss in the background but Sante Maria Romitelli’s music benefits quite a bit. Extras include the same Bava trailers as on the Black Sunday disc and another audio commentary by Tim Lucas, who is as informative and compelling as always.
Hatchet for the Honeymoon is a little too hit-or-miss to be completely engaging, despite Bava’s usual stylish work behind the camera. If you’re already a devotee of Bava’s work, it’s a must-see. For the uninitiated, this isn’t the best place to start.
- Dr. Adam Jahnke