Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970)

a.k.a. - Il rosso segno della follia (ITA), Blood Brides (UK)

Stephen Forsyth is the serial axe-murderer in Mario Bava's psycho killer take on the giallo. Odeon R2 DVD

The Film

John Harrington (Stephen Forsyth) is a self-confessed paranoic and completely mad. The owner of a wedding fashion house, he spents his time brutally killing young models on their wedding day as each time he kills one he gets a clearer view of the brutal murder of his mother on her wedding day that he witnessed as a young boy - his desperation to find out who was behind the killings drives him to kill more. However the police have started probing around as so many of his models have gone missing and John is tortured by his wife Mildred who mocks his impotence and refuses to grant him a divorce.

Although generally credited with defining the cinematic Giallo in Blood and Black Lace (1964), Bava never returned to the genre in a conventional form. Instead at the beginning of the 1970s he made a trio of films that although distinctly giallo-esque, were equally deliberately subversive of the genre. While Five Dolls for an August Moon (1970) had followed conventional patterns, it placed the killings, usually the exploitable highlight of genre films, almost entirely off-screen, while Bay of Blood's darkly comic approach saw a whole mass of killings with an approach more like a slasher film. In turn, Hatchet makes sure to give away the identity of the contemporary killer in the opening scene, instead the mystery is the identity of a killer from long ago (a hark back to La ragazza che sapeva troppo (1963) perhaps) - the story also delves into the supernatural, something that the Gialli usually avoided.

A largely Spanish production, scripted by Santiago Moncada (La campana del infierno (1973)), Hatchet has a clever and well thought out plot that effectively combines unusual takes on both the psycho killer and haunting themes. With its serial killer story the film replaces the usual mystery over the identity of the killer, with the mystery of his motive - something that he is discovering at the same time that we do. The script manages to make Harrington genuinely sympathetic and (again in perhaps a deliberate genre subversion) our desire to find out what the memory is means we actually want him to succeed, leading to some real tension when he comes close to being caught. The haunting storyline seems to be a rather typical set-up with a killer haunted by visions of one of his victims, but in another twist the ghost only appears to other people, an aspect that is very cleverly incorportated into the plot. The dialogue is noteworthy for its quality, many Euro-cult films from the era suffered from their dialogue being shoehorned to fit into the spaces needed for dubbing, leaving it often feeling slilted or unnatural. Moncada's script contains some very wry exchanges between Harrington and his wife and with the police inspector that makes even what could have been mere police proceedurals interesting and so despite a relative lack of killings and action, the film never drags and maintains its tension until the superbly fitting climax and conclusion

In his pseudo-giallo trilogy Bava moved away from the elaborate red and green lit fantasy horror atmosphere of films like Planet of the Vampires (1965) and Kill Baby, Kill (1966) and instead used natural lighting to give the films a pronounced real-world setting. He did not however tone down his directoral hand and provides some creative and unusual camera angles which help to really emphasise the unusual atmosphere of the film. The interiors were largely filmed in houses belonging to Spanish ruler General Franco and their opulence is well suited to the setting.

Stephen Forsyth takes the lead role - a Canadian actor who made a handful of films in Italy before leaving acting for good after this production, he closely resembles John Phillip Law and has a similarly stiff acting style, although it does seem to suit the unstable character very well here. Genre regular Dagmar Lassander (House by the Cemetery (1981)) plays the beautiful young model whom Harrison persues through much of the film, while Laura Betti (Teorema (1968)) gives a strong turn as the hated wife.

The best of Bava's twisted Giallo trilogy from the beginning of the 1970s, Hatchet for the Honeymoon crackles with clever dialogue and genuine tension throughout and easily rates a position among Bava's top five productions. Bava and Giallo fans will undoubtedly enjoy this and it comes generally recommended.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? No-one particularly well known.
Directed by anyone interesting? Mario Bava - best known for his early gothic horrors including the seminal La Maschera del Demonio (1960) he also made the first trend-setting Giallo film Sei donne per l'assassino (1964).
Any gore or violence ? Quite a lot of blood in the infrequent death scenes, but nothing overly gory.
Any sex or nudity? None.
Who is it for? Recommended to Mario Bava and Giallo fans.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
The print is strong with good colours and detail and only minor speckling and damage in a couple of scenes.
Audio English mono and 5.1 remix - the mono sounds fine and comes through strongly.
Subtitles None
Extras The disc includes:
  • Theatrical trailer.
  • Stills gallery - a short gallery of posters and publicity photographs.
  • Bonus trailers for The Asphyx, Frightmare, Blood on Satan's Claws and Frightmare.
Region Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
Other regions? Released in the UK by Anchor Bay with a similar print and with the hour long "Mario Bava: Maestro Of The Macabre" documentary by Mark Kermode. Previously released in the USA by Image Entertainment but with a poor quality composite print.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. Print language is English.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 15th April 2011.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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