John Harrington (Stephen Forsyth) designs wedding dresses. He lives in a chateau, looks a bit like an effete European playboy, and he designs wedding dresses. Unfortunately, not every woman who wears one of his dresses on their big day could be described as lucky. Because some of them have their honeymoons chopped short by Harrington with a hatchet.
We know this because the film opens with Harrington hacking away at a newlywed on a train. This is a 1970 film, however, so we don’t actually see the hatchet bury itself in the young woman’s skull. Instead, we get Dutch angles,
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partial bloody reflections in the blade of the axe, and lots of smear. In fact, Bava does this repeatedly throughout Hatchet For The Honeymoon.
Back at his chateau, Harrington’s business, and his wife Mildred (Laura Betti), are introduced. She’s clearly a harridan, so it’s little wonder he’s a philanderer. Particularly with the models he hires for his wedding dresses. And yet, for reasons he does not understand, Harrington frequently finds himself with an uncontrollable urge to get out his chopper and have a go with it at a young bride. On two occasions, he does so after showing his victims his secret room, which contains a small army of mannequins in wedding dresses. After a quick waltz, Harrington pulls out his hatchet. He then burns the bodies in the incinerator in his greenhouse.
All this has not gone unnoticed. A police inspector (Jesús Puente) is investigating the murders and disappearances of the young women, and he has his eye on Harrington. On the night Harrington can put up with his wife no longer, and takes his hatchet to her, the inspector calls. While Mildred lies dead on the stairs, the inspector quizzes Harrington on the disappearance of one of his models. Her fiancé is also on hand. Mildred’s bloody hand is clearly visible hanging over the edge of the staircase – as is a reflection of it in the surface of a hallway table. Not to mention the blood dripping onto the carpet. When the fiancé claims he heard screams, Harrington turns on the television, which is showing a Vincent Price horror film.
The silliness does not end there. Mildred is dead, but she returns to haunt her husband. He cannot see her, but everyone else can. They do not seem at all fazed by her ghostly pallor, or her ability to appear and disappear at will. Harrington burns Mildred’s body in the incinerator and puts her ashes in a large leather bag. He carries this with him everywhere he goes – including to a discotheque.
It is only while attacking his last victim that Harrington understands what has driven him to murder women with his hatchet. As a child, he had killed his mother because he did not want her to re-marry. But this last victim-to-be is actually working with the inspector, and so Harrington is arrested. In the police van, Mildred appears to Harrington and tells him that she will haunt him for the rest of his life, and beyond.
It’s tempting to describe Hatchet For The Honeymoon (aka: Il rosso segno della follia) as stylish tosh. Except this is a 1970 film – and that’s not a period noted for its aesthetic. The dialogue throughout is complete twaddle, veering wildly between the vacuous and the pretentious. Forsyth clearly belongs to the Roger Moore school of acting, and the inspector is about as effective a policeman as Inspector Clouseau. The blurry shots, Dutch angles and over-reliance on reflections – not to mention the strident electronic score – serve only to draw attention to the innate silliness of the plot.
I suspect Hatchet For The Honeymoon is a film best appreciated after several alcoholic drinks.