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HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON (IL ROSSO SEGNO DELLA FOLLIA)(director/writer: Mario Bava; screenwriters: Santiago Moncada/Mario Musy; cinematographer: Mario Bava; editor: Soledad López; music: Sante Maria Romitelli; cast: Stephen Forsyth (John Harrington), Dagmar Lassander (Helen Wood), Laura Betti (Mildred Harrington), Femi Benussi (Alice Norton), Jesús Puente (Inspector Russell); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Manuel Caño; Alpha Video; 1970-Spain/Italy-dubbed in English)
“Stylish horror pic that is done in by its illogical and crude fantasy narrative.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Influential Italian filmmaker Mario Bava(“Blood and Black Lace”/”Black Sunday”/”What!”) directs and cowrites with Santiago Moncada and Mario Musy this uniquely stylish horror pic that is done in by its illogical and crude fantasy narrative and uninspiring voice-over. Not only does it become annoying with so many unnecessary zoom closeups, but the ill-conceived story line is told in a cold mechanical way. Bava tries to keep things tongue-in-cheek with plenty of black humor, and also make a case that “reality is more horrible than fiction.” His Oedipal obsession tale will be sprinkled with psychological clues from his protagonist’s unconscious, that becomes clearer when he kills and thereby he can confront his childhood traumas that involve a stairway, a keyhole, and his matricide (killing mom on her wedding night).

John Harrington (Stephen Forsythe) is the madman who tells us in his opening monologue that he’s a psychopathic serial killer obsessed with killing brides on their wedding night (also grooms if they are in the way) who are wearing his gowns because he’s haunted by childhood memories and that each time he kills he learns more about the truth he feels compelled to know about himself (since the audience knows at an early stage of the film that John’s the twisted killer, there’s no whodunit aspect to this tale). He’s a deranged, handsome, wealthy, thirty-year-old owner of an exclusive fashion house in Paris he inherited from his late mother, that’s financed by his wealthy shrewish wife Mildred (Laura Betti). The marriage is so rotten (she reminds him of mom), that he’s impotent. They taunt each other constantly, but she will not grant him a divorce and responds “It is ’til death do us part.” John thereby changes his cleaver act to dress up in one of his bridal gowns and with his trusty hatchet striking down Mildred he gets his divorce the old-fashioned way. But the incinerator disappearing act doesn’t work this time, as his wife’s spirit returns as a ghost to haunt him and he continues killing his models hoping to learn more about himself with each killing until he’s caught in the act by the patient police while trying to kill his model lover (Dagmar Lassander). The completely insane John is carted off to the loony bin and condemned to an eternal life accompanied by the ghostly presence of his shrieking mom (with his shrewish wife filling in as an adequate substitute).

The salon scenes, where John keeps a creepy room filled with female dummies attired as brides, was filmed at the villa of Generalissimo Franco.

This is not one of Bava’s better cult films and is less giallo than his films usually are, though it has the master of B-horror films usual rich style and a few enjoyable bizarre moments that might remind some film buffs of Norman Bates’s relationship with mom in Psycho (1960).


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”