Directed By: Mario Bava
Starring: Stephen Forsyth, Dagmar Lassander, Laura Betti
Trivia: The Harrington's bed was originally used as a set piece in an earlier Bava film, 1963's Black Sabbath
Directed by Mario Bava, Hatchet for the Honeymoon begins in grand fashion, with a scene, set aboard a train, in which a well-dressed gentleman murders a new bride (Montserrat Riva), still in her wedding dress, as she and her groom are sharing an intimate moment. Soon after, we’re introduced to the film’s main character, John Harrington (Stephen Forsyth), who, in an interesting twist, is the killer from the opening sequence!
For years, Harrington has been living a double life. The proprietor of a high-fashion bridal boutique, he shares a beautiful villa just outside Paris with his estranged wife, Mildred (Laura Betti). Behind the scenes, Harrington’s a serial killer, slaughtering young women who are either customers or models hired to work at his boutique. Believing his connection to the victims is more than a coincidence, police inspector Russell (Jesús Puente) hounds Harrington on a regular basis. Harrington, however, is a careful man, and never leaves any evidence behind, but when he commits a crime of passion, it kicks off a chain of events that may ultimately bring about his downfall.
With Hatchet for the Honeymoon, Bava delves into the warped mind of a serial killer, a premise I found utterly fascinating, especially after the impressive opening sequence aboard the train. The very next scene, where we meet Harrington, is just as strong. By way of narration, he invites us into his dark, secret world (“The truth is I am completely mad”, he says, “A realization which annoyed me at first, but is now amusing to me”). Forsyth is excellent as the killer, bringing an air of sophistication to a psychotic haunted by visions from his past. As we soon learn, Harrington commits these murders because each time he does so, he comes closer to uncovering a traumatic event from his childhood, when he witnessed the death of his beloved mother (which his subconscious has blocked from his memory). Yet as promising as this set-up is, the first half of Hatchet for the Honeymoon proves to be rather dull, and the few murders we witness aren’t nearly as effective as the one that opened the film.
Then, at about the halfway point, Bava switches things up by throwing a supernatural element into the mix. To discuss it any further would take us into spoiler territory, but what I can tell you is the spirit in question behaves differently than most. While its ultimate goal is to make our lead character’s life a living hell, this particular ghost shows itself not to Harrington, but to everyone else around him! It’s an intriguing development, and Bava handles it brilliantly, taking what had been a dreary Giallo and transforming it into a nifty ghost story, a plot twist that, in essence, brings the entire movie back to life.
While nowhere near as good as his earlier classics (like Black Sunday and Black Sabbath), Hatchet for the Honeymoon at least showed us that Mario Bava still had a few tricks left up his sleeve.