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Man, I love Mario Bava's work! Every film I've seen of his is a pure
masterpiece in my eyes and a complete cinematic orgasm'! Hatchet for the
Honeymoon is somewhat different compared to most of his other movies and
perhaps even his most accessible film. Hatchet handles about a more common
horror theme (namely a serial killer and his motivations) but in the very
first place it is another Bava-omnibus of stylish direction, wonderful
music, beautiful scenery and a unique, tense atmosphere. Bava never ceases
to surprise me
I find it truly remarkable how this director is able to
portray such ugly things (murder, insanity, aggression
) in an artistic way!
Also, the film is far ahead of its time with the portrayal of a horrible
murderer as a classy and intelligent businessman. Stephen Forsyth is
brilliantly cast as John. He owns a fashion gallery in Paris, specialized in
wedding dresses and there are a lot of models working for them. He urgently
wants to divorce his wife because he despises her, but she won't let him.
Like it's the most normal thing in the world, John confesses to the audience
that he's a multiple murderer
' A woman should only live till her wedding
day', he says, `love once and then die'! Forsyth was a genius choice to play
John; he's handsome and extremely charismatic but also very frightening and
morbid-looking at the same time. John is aware that he's sick, yet he can't
control the urge to kill again. The second half of the film is even more
brilliant, with a perfect image of a man stuck in a downwards spiral of
insanity. Actually, what Bava does here, is single-handedly changing the
rules of the giallo! The identity of the killer is exposed right from the
beginning, yet there are numerous other aspects to discover about his
like what was the origin of his hunger for violence and misery?
Hatchet for the Honeymoon isn't the director best film (that honor goes to Black Sunday, without a doubt) but it still is a perfect score of 10 out of 10 in my book. I can only bring forward one negative aspect and that is like usual the annoying dubbing. Definitely also worth a mention: the beautiful female leads (and side-characters) in Hatchet. Dagmar Lassander is the stunning beauty that also appeared in Fulci's House by the Cemetary. Femi Bunissi plays another one of John's victims. I didn't know her, but she certainly is a gifted and gorgeous lady. Enter the world of Mario Bava as soon as possible! You won't regret it!!
Interesting, complex look at a man who must kill young brides in order to unlock the secret of who killed his own mother. With each hacked bride, the main character of Harrington sees more and more of his terrible childhood memory when he saw his own mother axed. The acting in this film is nothing terribly special, nor is the story, but Bava'a direction is a visual treasure to behold. As always, he makes the most he can with the camera lens. Some of the shots are inspiring as Bava directs our attention through small orifices sometimes like a small window. His use of a room with mannequins is very effective too. Bava even has fun with his little joke of having Harrington watching Bava's own Black Sabbath on television when having just killed his wife he is visited by the police. Style and visual artistry ripen all around only to be harvested by Bava's gluttonous camera lens. The plot, although missing huge pieces of coherence and logic, is fairly well-crafted. The acting is adequate. I particularly liked the actress that played Harrington's vitriolic wife and the character of the police inspector.The sense of the sixties and fanciful colours pervade almost every scene, and the soundtrack is very suitable to this material. For some horror fans, the film may seem somewhat slow, but it kept my interest throughout.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
John Harrington (Stephen Forsyth) is a real sick-o who hacks up
brides-to-be with a "hatchet" (actually what we here in the U.S. would
call a meat cleaver). We hear John's thoughts ("The fact is, I'm
completely mad!") and flashbacks reveal that John killed his own mother
because his disapproved of her new lover. He lives in a mansion with
his older, wealthy, bitter, controlling witch of a wife (Laura Betti),
who is obsessed with the occult and returns as a nagging ghost after
John offs her. The victims (models who work for John's wedding dress
company) are lured to a secret room full of mannequins.
Stylish, bizarre touches, some humor, a few effective shocks and Bava's always creative and colorful direction make this rewarding viewing for horror fans OR people just interested in learning how to enliven a stale plot through audacious presentation. However, since the killer's identity is evident from the beginning, there's little suspense and mystery to the story and the American release is, needless to say, poorly dubbed. Despite that, it's still a fun, entertaining film and I recommend it.
In the late sixties Bava began reinventing the murder mystery formula he single-handedly created with films like THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH and BLOOD AND BLACK LACE. In this film you know from the start who the killer is and so this film becomes a look into the crazed mind of a guy with childhood trauma who kills women. There's a great experimental score, cool fashions and a dance nightclub sequence for all you Sixties kitsch fans out there. Stephen Forsyth gives a great wide-eyed psycho performance and Bava forsakes his usual stylishly colored lighting for dreamy surreal imagery during the murder scenes. Bava even sticks in scenes from his earlier films on a TV as an in-joke for his fans.
Handsome bridal shop owner is troubled by mysteries from his childhood
which seem to drive him to murder brides-to-be. However he may have
other problems after the ghost of his vindictive wife starts to haunt
Hatchet for the Honeymoon is one deliciously strange and darkly comical chiller from the great Mario Bava. As usual Bava's direction is excellent and inventive; particularly the dynamic camera-work and vivid imagery. The story is quite compelling as it goes against the norm and takes the killer's point of view and makes us surprisingly sympathetic toward him. The plot also takes some nicely off-beat twists as it brims with moments of macabre humor, sharp suspense, and some touches of dream-like surrealism. In addition the music score of Sante Maria Romitelli is jazzy and quite beautiful at times; a nice contribution to the colorful cinematography.
The cast is fairly solid too. Star Stephen Forsyth does a wonderfully brooding performance and makes his psychotic character strangely likable (one wonders if Bret Easton Ellis saw this film before writing American Psycho). Forsyth is perfectly matched by co-star Laura Betti, who does a fiendish performance as Forsyth's domineering wife.
Hatchet for the Honeymoon is a real treat for fans of Bava and the giallo genre, or those that just enjoy odd-ball horror films. It's one of Bava's most interesting works and remains perhaps the most overlooked of his films.
*** 1/2 out of ****
I say strange because I'm not quite sure what exactly "Hatchet for the
Honeymoon" was supposed to be (but enjoyed it nonetheless). It features
many of the traditional giallo elements - a black-clad killer, lots of
beautiful young women who may as well have "Murder Victim" tattooed on
their foreheads, incompetent detectives, childhood psychological
trauma, spooky childhood toys... Yet it also diverges from the giallo
blueprint in some ways by incorporating an odd, Twilight Zone-style
supernatural element into the plot, and also a wry commentary on
bourgeois married life. There are clear elements of both Psycho and
Peeping Tom in the story, and it also predates both the 1980 slasher
film He Knows You're Alone, and the Bret Easton Ellis book (and later
film) American Psycho.
As usual with Mario Bava, the cinematography, production design and lighting are all beautiful to look at, and there are two great suspense set-pieces: the scene where the killer waltzes with his next victim to the eerie tune of a music box in a shadowy, elegant store-room full of creepy plastic mannequins in wedding dresses; and the scene where he talks to the suspicious cop while his dead wife's arm is hanging from the staircase and dripping blood onto the carpet.
It's also a surprisingly funny film in many ways. Special mention must go to Laura Betti's hilarious performance as Mildred, the evil wife from hell.
All in all, "Hatchet for the Honeymoon" is an intriguing and often underrated addition to Mario Bava's formidable canon. Stylish, entertaining and darkly funny.
A note: Was this movie ever called in English HATCHET FOR A HONEYMOON,
rather than the awkward HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON? I seem to recall this
from a Leonard Maltin book circa 1978. Or am I as cracked as Bava's
For my money, this is primo vintage Bava--which is to say Dario Argento in top hat and tails, Jess Franco with a finishing-school diploma, or, to look at the glass as half empty, Richard Lester after three hits of dirty windowpane acid.
To top this voiceover narration, you'd have to go either to BARRY LYNDON or, on the other hand, MASSACRE MAFIA STYLE: "My name is John Harrington. I'm thirty years old. I am a paranoiac. Paranoiac! What a marvellous world. So delicate. And full of possibilities. The fact is, I'm completely mad." And so is Bava's odyssey through the crazy-straw-shaped brain of J. Harrington, Esq., a hunky sociopath whose sexual fires are only stoked by burying a hatchet in the flesh of virginal-looking brides in their white-veiled drag--and, when they have the ill fortune to be there, their bridegrooms.
The hyper-lusciosity of Bava's style suggests a Bertolucci blissfully unconcerned with agrarian collectivism. Mate that rococo with Nicolas Roeg's brand of kaleidoscopus maximus and you have an inkling of what Signior Mario is up to. Note to Greil Marcus: as a sequel to "Lipstick Traces," how about a book tracing the parallel histories of canonical surrealism (Bunuel-Dali-Aragon-Bataille) and Italian horror of the seventies?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Mario Bava was quite possible the best filmmaker for doing something quick and cheap. Sometimes to great effect(Kill Baby Kill, Rabid Dogs) & bad(Dr. Goldfoot & the Girl Bombs). Fotunately, there are a lot more good than bad. This one however, is probably his greatest achievement, maybe not his greatest movie though. It gets better each time you watch it. Where the 1st time was maybe a 6 now its a 9. There is just so much attention to detail in it. It Plays out more like a black comedy than an actual slasher film. The story is predictable, about a psychopath who must keep on killing brides to find out who killed his own mother, but the story is not really that important what is is Bava's use of a camera. Its all over the place here. Great stuff.
It seems that the 70's is a rather under-appreciated decade for Mario Bava, as it is usually overshadowed by his 60's cannon, with films such as "Black Sunday" or "Black Sabbath". Still, his 1974 film "Lisa and the Devil" is what I consider his masterpiece; 1972's "Baron Blood" is a great old-fashioned Gothic classic; 1971's "Twitch of the Death Nerve" is mindless gory fun; "Shock" is a simple-yet-effective ghost story; and last but not least, there is "Hatchet for a Hooneymoon". Usually depicted as one of Bava's weaker efforts, "Hatchet..." is as influential as "Kill Baby Kill" or "Twitch...", as seen in such critically-acclaimed works as "American Psycho" or "Santa Sangre". Here, we have Bava's ever-present visual flair, combined with a fresh Scroogesque twist on the typical giallo formula. The script is intelligent and gripping, filled with some interesting Freudian motifs represented mostly through the protagonist's doppelganger, as well as including some well-developed and complex characters that you really care for. The charismatic Stephen Forsyth is perfectly cast as the protagonist, and is as seductively creepy as he needs to be. Laura Betti is also terrific as his cold, manipulative wife. Interestingly, Bava seems to play homage to the other great Italian director - Federico Fellini, as he does his own 'La Dolce Vita'-type satire of the plastic Italian high-society in this film. The film also has some of the most beautiful and lyrical scenes of Bava's entire career, both visually and in substance, such as John's 'danse macabre' in the room full of mannequins. These moments blend magnificently with Sante Maria Romitelli's bittersweet score, which captures the film's melancholic tone and perverse humor. The one thing that may put some viewers away is the lack of violence which doesn't really hurt the whole thing, but doesn't add anything to it either. Overall, a mesmerizing combination of ghost story with gialli, that is definitely not to be missed by any fans of the Maestro or Italian horror cinema in general.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Having cast the original giallo mold with Sei Donne Pour L'Asassino, the template for over one hundred more to follow, Maestro Bava hovers between serial sex murderer films and ghost stories with this stylish and lyrical ode to morbidity and necrophilia that begins as a killer-thriller and morphs almost seamlessly into a supernatural chiller. It's a leisurely, slow moving movie with several shocks that are given away in the film's poster. Bava inverts the giallo formula he created. Unlike the average Italian nero-thriller with its unknown protagonist, Hatchet begins with full disclosure of the killer's identity. His current killing spree is based on his childhood murder of his mother and her lover. a homicidal fury rooted in sexual rage and jealousy. As an adult he kills brides to recreate the sexual excitement he felt killing his mother and to remember why he kills. His slow remembrance in blurry flashback moments is a big part of the plot. It's also why he marries a woman who is more a nagging mother figure than a sexual partner, a companion for whom he has no physical need since he cannot perform as a man nor does he have the interest. This is pressed home by a séance scene early on in which his wife, a spiritist, channels his murdered mother. At the end of Psycho, Norman Bates tells the audience in a voice-over that he wouldn't hurt a fly. In the beginning of Hatchet, John Harrington coolly feeds a fly he's caught to his bird. He is a proto-metro-sexual, a macho GQ Man, a forerunner of American Psycho Patrick Bateman as others have pointed out. Arrogant and haughty, a pseudo-aristocrat so smug he practically caresses the door handle of the train compartment he exits after slaughtering a newlywed couple, covering it in fingerprints that the police seem to ignore. While his dandified behavior may seem familiar, there were no similar characters in any subsequent Bava movie. Santiago Moncada's Freudian-orientated script is very well thought out in a subtle manner while Bava seems to apply a few personal and recognizable brush strokes of his own: As in Sei Donne, the action centers around a fashion house and the victims are fashion models.(The concept of a psycho killer making love to female mannequins in a secret room also appears in Umberto Lenzi's Spasmo with Robert Hoffman.) The police are plodding and inert (again Sei Donne). The killer is tormented by the ghost of the victim or the hallucination of a ghost (The Whip and The Body).A murderous child is a prominent character as in Operation Fear, Bay of Blood and to a lesser extent in the Wurdulak episode of Black Sabbath. Bava's cinematography is alway wonderful but Hatchet does not have the photographic beauty or deep colors of Sei Donne, Planet of the Vampires or Black Sabbath. The main set piece is Harrington killing his wife. Faced with the prospect of a sexually needy wife, he goes berserk in a sexual panic, dons a bridal veil and applies lipstick, and in a perverted reversal of the wedding night, chases her around the bedroom and brutally chops her with his fetishized phallic weapon of choice, a cleaver (and not a hatchet, despite the US title). This scene is the most graphic and bloody yet extremely mild by giallo standards. The three other murders we see Harrington commit are very subdued compared to this, the gore and blood obscured by flashy visuals. That this film was rated PG with this kind of content once again proves that censors do not really think when they watch a film, fortunately, and look for only the most obvious moments but never grasp the sub-text. That's why Jess Franco movies got booked into Saturday kiddie matinees during the 1960s! After this murder, the film switches tracks completely and becomes a ghost story, with a twist. Harrington can't see his wife's ghost yet everyone else sees her. Or is he hallucinating? The audience sees her as a ghost, looking awfully spooky and creepy. Do the people around Harrington see her like this? Their behavior indicates that she looks normal to them. When he is finally arrested at the end, only he can see her spirit. Or is this a hallucination also, a manifestation of his madness? The original title "The Red Mark of Madness" is much better but lacked the punch distributors need to sell tickets. Instead of a bravura, violent, visually sensational ending that the audience expected from giallos, and one that Dario Argento would have provided, Bava ends on a low-key, crepuscular note. Overall, it's one of his best films and certainly underrated. Stephen Forsyth could have continued to make a lot of European films, he was better looking than most movie stars, but stopped because he did not like the roles being offered.
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