Redemption and Kino Lorber release one of Mario Bava’s lesser known efforts on Blu-Ray
|Director :||Mario Bava|
|Starring:||Dagmar Lassander, Jesús Puente, Laura Betti, Stephen Forsyth|
|Video codec:||MPEG-4 AVC|
Bava, like all directors, has had some forgivable mis-steps in his career. Nothing too severe to die-hard fans, but he’s had a couple of his “lesser” projects lampooned on “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” if that says anything. Some movies, for one reason or another, just don’t turn out the way a director might have intended and can disappoint a fan base or simply split an audience down the middle.
Then there are films like Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970), which were misunderstood, under-appreciated, and now, decades after their initial release, have become more relevant to the genre than ever before. Kino Lorber and Redemption Films have teamed up to give a new generation a chance to experience one of Bava’s more polarizing efforts – a clever, stylish, supernatural giallo with a dark-humored twist.
Stephen Forsyth stars as John Harrington, a handsome, wealthy, bridal shop owner who seems to have it all: a huge mansion, money to burn, a tranquil floral hobby, and a job that consists of being swarmed by the beautiful women in various bridal gowns (and honeymoon-themed lingerie) that model for his catalogues.
But under the calm veneer is a sexually-frustrated husband married to a vicious shrew (played with the perfect amount of venom by Laura Betti), who hates every moment he has to spend at home with her – namely during her frequent séances to contact her long-dead previous husband.
He is also a cleaver-wielding psychopath with a murderous fetish for the women wearing his bridal designs. He doesn’t understand the bridal angle, but he knows that it’s connected to a repressed childhood trauma. And, with every murder, he seems to open the door to this hidden corner of his psyche a little wider.
Hatchet for the Honeymoon sometimes drifts between eerie, tension-filled, giallo-style horror, Hitchcock-like gallows humor, and Rod Serling’s ironic epiphanies, but Bava finds a balance between all of this; much of the film is very casual in style, so the disparate genre elements never feel out of place when the tone of the film shifts.
I was disappointed to learn that Stephen Forsyth left his acting career behind after this film, as he gives a wonderfully chilling performance as John Harrington, our debonair bridal slayer. He is wholly convincing as a killer with an unaffected, icy stare; to him, killing is as mundane as grocery shopping. It’s incredibly easy to see how his performance could inspire modern characters like American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman, or Dexter Morgan.
Just like their transfer of Black Sunday, Kino hasn’t digitally tinkered with Hatchet for the Honeymoon outside of the 1080p/AVC-encoded remastering from the 35mm negative – there are no edge enhancements nor filtering of any kind. Considering the film’s age, the few scratches and hairs that appear here and there are barely noticeable, and the generally warm color pallet is crisp and pleasing, with film grain nicely intact. For a film that uses shadows and color so effectively, the HD transfer of the 1.78:1 widescreen presentation does it full justice, and this Blu-ray release is certainly an upgrade from previous releases.
The uncompressed linear 2.0 track is pretty weathered. There are a lot of pops and, in the quieter scenes, the tape hiss is pretty high. As it’s a dubbed English soundtrack, the dialogue isn’t just clear but at times rather loud and intrusive. That’s to be expected, but the overall track isn’t nearly as good as some of Kino/Redemption’s other releases. The score, by Sante Maria Romitelli, is really neat though. There are also no subtitle options available for those who might have wanted them.
At this point, any studio releasing a Bava film would be remiss not to get Video Watchdog editor and Bava film expert Tim Lucas involved; thus, the Audio Commentary provided for this release is expected and welcome. As usual, it’s chock-full of information about the film’s production, its themes, and Bava’s craft.
Also present are Trailers for Hatchet for the Honeymoon as well as various other Bava films, including: Black Sunday, Baron Blood, Lisa and the Devil and The House of Exorcism.
The only item not included from the Image Entertainment release is the photo gallery. Also of note, Anchor Bay’s UK release had included an hour-long documentary on Mario Bava titled “Maestro of the Macabre,” which was released as a stand-alone DVD back in 2001, here in the states, but this has since been discontinued.
While it might not have sunk-in with audiences and critics at the time of its release, Hatchet for the Honeymoon will likely be far more appreciated by today’s audiences, who are a little more used to the themes and plot turns at play here. Yes, many of the more Freudian elements have become cliché (after Psycho and its many imitators, anything regarding maternal psychology quickly became old hat), but fans of Bava aren’t going to mind one bit. Bava handles even those elements smoothly and amusingly enough that you barely notice, or care, that you may have seen it all before.
by Jason Marsiglia