Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1969) is a Mario Bava film starring Stephen Forsyth as John Harrington, or John Harrington as Stephen Forsyth. The names are interchangeable, no? The European hero is preposterously handsome: huge eyelashes, a pile of curvaceous black hair, and a closet full of ascots.
As I watched our suave Euro-dude showering and shaving while describing his habit of killing young women, I had to wonder if Bret Easton Ellis ever saw this film before he wrote American Psycho. Whether he did or not, the narration-by-perfect-yet-certifiable-stud routine is not as original as I once believed:
"No one suspects that I am a madman, a dangerous murderer!"
Not simply a murderer, but a dangerous one.
Later on, Euro-dude trades snotty quips with his angry German wife over breakfast on their fancy terrace. He notices the morning newspaper headline, and says mournfully:
"How sad--another bride killed!"
Yes, if you check out this film, be warned: Brides will die. That's because our hero runs a bridal shop, so he gets first dibs on all the pretty brides-to-be who need killing. Please note: Euro-dude does not call it a bridal shop; he refers to it as "the fashion business" he inherited from his mommy.
This film has so many things to recommend it. I don't know where to start. So I'll just sling it out there:
• jittery camera movement
• dubbing that is either genius or begs for a new translation of the original
• a soundtrack ranging from music box twinkle to shrieking death-a-coming warnings
• saturated late 1960s colors (dig the groovy deep purple/screaming yellow combo)
• actors who snarl, stare, and fume as if they were in a silent movie (which, given the sound quality, they might as well be)
The visual quality depends on how crazy you are. At one point Euro-dude describes a flat-chested model as "37-22-37." Or maybe he was thinking of the combination to his office safe. It's hard to tell, since he's nuts.
After correcting this estimate of her figure--he got the waist wrong by half an inch--the flat-chested woman tells him she's modeled a few wedding dresses in her career. He lets her know she'll have to model them "constantly" if she's hired, because she might not have noticed she's applying for a job at a bridal shop--sorry, Euro-dude--"fashion business." Then he says she'll have to model pajamas and "land-jury." In other words: "Everything a bride might use on her wedding day."
So forget that travel outfit and toss the extra suitcase in the river, girls. All you're going to need is a wedding gown, jammies (he doesn't say what kind, so I guess flannel's okay) and "land-jury."
But I'm still not doing justice to Hatchet for the Honeymoon...
When our hero decides to stop messing around with models and focus his considerable craziness on his wife, the story gets much deeper and weirder. In this mid-section of the film Bava's camera work achieves the level of high art. Some of the imagery is stunning and unforgettable. The wife, a dedicated spiritualist, has her own special way of fighting back which is eerie and chilling.
Oh, and there's a suave Euro-cop who doesn't like our hero. When he shows up to investigate the disappearance of a Harrington model, he struts his smooth style and his jurisdiction by saying to 37-22-37:
"There ought to be a law against pretty models going away without leaving a forwarding address."
Yeah. There ought to be a law.