John Harrington (Stephen Forsyth) is a handsome young man who outwardly seems to have everything you could want in life. When his mother died John inherited the family estate and the family business, a Paris bridal salon. Since there was no money he married Mildred (Laura Betti) a rich woman. The marriage, however, has soured and John cheats whenever he can. Mildred, as if for spite, refuses to give John a divorce. Normally that would be enough bad things to have happen in your life but John has the added burden of being insane.
The object of John’s obsession is brides. He likes to chop them up and cremate them in his furnace. He then uses the ashes as fertilizer for the plants in his hothouse. John’s obsession stems from a childhood trauma involving the murder of his mother that he is unable to remember. Each time he murders someone he comes a little closer to finding out what actually happened to his mother and who killed her.
Inspector Russell (Jesus Puente) is the policeman who has been assigned to investigate the disappearances of the brides, most of whom were models for John’s bridal dress company. Russell has honed in on John but has no clear evidence to arrest him. It doesn’t stop the Inspector from frequently showing up at John’s home or business to ask a few more questions each time a young bride or bride to be disappears.
Eventually Mildred pushes John to the point where she must go. After killing Mildred he buries her in the greenhouse. Believing he is rid of his wife John goes about his life but Mildred refuses to go away. She finds an unusual way to haunt him. Although John cannot see his wife, everyone else does. Needing to get rid of Mildred once and for all John digs her up and cremates her. He puts her ashes in a tote bag and takes it with him to a nightclub thinking that he had put one over on her corpse. She had promised to stay with him and now she has, as ashes. Not one to give up an opportunity at revenge Mildred’s ghost orders a sherry from the waiter. Now John is twice as insane as he was before.
“Hatchet for the Honeymoon” AKA “Il rosso segno della follia” or “The Red Sign of Madness” was released in 1970 and was directed by Mario Bava. It is an Italian giallo horror film. Due to production and budget issues the film wasn’t released until a year after it was made. It ended up being one of Bava’s lesser known films which eventually garnered it a cult status.
Laura Betti’s character Mildred Harrington wasn’t originally in the script. When she expressed a desire to be in the film Bava wrote a nice juicy part for her. Yes she is annoying at first but you gotta love a ghost that can match wits with a crazy person. I think I liked her character even more after she was dead. The subplot of trying to dispose of his wife and her ghost lent a touch of black comedy to a normally slasher style film. The added subplot may have moved it off of the standard giallo format but I liked the addition.
Like most of Bava’s films it was very visual. Because of the budget problems Bava had to rely on camera tricks instead of special effects to bring about the images he wanted to show. There are also some plot holes like why didn’t he kill his own wife on their wedding day but I’m beginning to consider plot holes as a part of the giallo genre. All together I found it an enjoyable film.
The Spanish villa used in the film as the Harrington estate was formerly the home of Spanish dictator Generalissimo Francisco Franco.