Tuesday, January 17, 2017



I started out generally disliking Gene Wilder's HAUNTED HONEYMOON-- his last film with wife Gilda Radner before her 1989 death, the last film Wilder directed, and a notorious box office bomb. However, on repeated TV-viewings, I've conceived a mild liking for the film, if only because it seems (whatever Wilder's intentions) like a love-letter to the bygone days of "old dark house" movies.

Like Wilder's SHERLOCK HOLMES' SMARTER BROTHER, HONEYMOON is nicely staged. Wilder and his crew clearly knew how to evoke the look of the "phony ghost" stories from the Classic Hollywood era, and the script inserts some of the psychological touches characteristic of the later Hitchcock period. But though there are some decent comedy set-pieces, there's never the sense that the whole is anything but the sum of its parts.

The story is set in the era of radio's heyday as a source of mystery-dramas, though there's almost no topical material relevant to the time-period. Larry Abbott (Wilder) and Vickie Pearl (Radner) are voice-actors on one such mystery-drama, as well as being engaged to be married in the near future. However, Larry has been blowing lines and showing signs of psychological stress. His uncle Paul makes the decision that when the couple travel to the Abbott family mansion, he intends to subject Larry to a form of "shock therapy" in order to purge Larry of his demons. Thus, when Larry and Vickie show up at the family manse, they're treated not just to the usual clique of oddballs-- including the corpulent Aunt Kate (Dom deLuise in drag)-- but also things like a guy in a werewolf outfit. However, it soon becomes evident that someone's not seeking to save Larry's sanity, but rather, to take his life.

Then, after the climax of the film, all of the "uncanny tropes" of the film are overruled by that of the "fallacious figment," for the audience is belatedly told that all they've witnessed is just another radio-drama performed by Larry and Vickie before they leave for their wedding. As the happy couple drives away, an ostensible "host" of the program warns the audience that the happy ending may not be real-- but since that host is an articulate werewolf, his credibility is somewhat lacking.

Compared to most of Wilder's other 1980s flicks, this one at least looks good. I just wish that Wilder-- also one of the writers-- had done more than piddle around with Freudian psychological myths.

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