Since his death this past August at age 83, I’ve found myself revisiting the filmography of actor/writer/director Gene Wilder. I grew up adoring him for his signature role, that of of Willy Wonka in the first film adaption of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory). Wilder was also known for his work with Mel Brooks on such classics as Blazing Saddles (1974) and Young Frankenstein (1974) as well as his successful collaborations with Richard Pryor.
In 1986, Wilder co-wrote and directed Haunted Honeymoon, starring his wife Gilda Radner. Sadly, this would be Radner last film. In 1989, she would die of ovarian cancer at just 43. It’s a shame the film was a massive failure; given scathing reviews and opening and closing with a week. While the film may not be a classic, it certainly deserves a second look.
Reminiscent of the 1940’s mysteries that filled radio airwaves, the film laughs at the absurdity of its own action sequences. Co-writer Terrence Marsh’s production design is so lively, it’s really its own character. Radio star Larry Abbot (Wilder) is engaged to his co-host Vickie Pearle (Radner). However, since announcing their plans to marry, Larry has been suffering from on-air panic attacks. Seeking an unconventional cure, the couple travels to the mansion of his larger-than-life Aunt Kate (Dom DeLuise in drag, who is hilarious). Several other relatives and assorted friends are eager to help, including cousin Charles (Jonathan Pryce), his uncle Francis (Peter Vaughan) and his cousin Montego (Jim Carter). But unbeknownst to Larry, they all are part of a plan to scare the panic right out of him! However, after the disappearance of Francis Jr. (Roger Ashton-Griffiths) and the sighting of a werewolf in the area, the treatment plan could end up in death!
If a film can be a comedic success, but a dud on the story level, Haunted Honeymoon has accomplished it. When the jokes land, they’re hilarious, when they don’t, your left to wonder how they made it out of the editing room. At times, the story goes by so quickly it’s difficult to get a grasp on exactly what’s happening with the plot. Several plot threads are left dangling, leaving some of the jokes feeling out place or untimely. There are also times when I’m not sure whether Gene Wilder was exactly sure what kind of film he wanted Haunted Honeymoon to be. Is it an Abbott and Costello inspired horror-comedy? Sometimes a musical? Wilder was obviously juggling a lot of ideas here. And white Haunted Honeymoon is far from perfect, when a joke hits, it’s a home run.
The film is beautiful to look at, given the gorgeous costumes and Fred Schuler’s delirious cinematography. Framed in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Kino Lorber has delivered a newly remastered 1080p transfer via there Studio Classics line. While the film looks very good throughout much of the runtime and a nice level of grain has been maintained, there are some issues. Colors look a bit bleached in a few shots and contrast isn’t as consistent as you might expect. Black levels are also slightly inconsistent. Despite these issues, Kino Blu-ray release is still a major improvement over the previous DVD release.
Haunted Honeymoon arrives with a solid English DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track. Dialogue sounds natural and clear. The Score by John Morris has that classic horror movie style and helps keep the mood. The purposefully exaggerated sound effects give the audio some nice LFE moments while also adding some great atmospherics. There are no hiss or age-related issues to report.
No subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2:19)