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HAUNTED HONEYMOON

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016

EDITOR’S NOTE: Another odd choice for a Blu-ray upgrade, the new Kino Lorber release of ‘Haunted Honeymoon coincides with the recent death of its star and director, Gene Wilder. I’m not a big fan of the film, though I love Wilder, but it has a large fan base that has been anxiously awaiting this release. Here’s my July 27, 1986, Deseret News review.

Even movie critics have favorites, and ever since I first saw Gene Wilder in “Bonnie and Clyde,” followed the next year by Mel Brooks’ “The Producers,” I’ve been a fan.

But after his enormous success with “Young Frankenstein,” Wilder was bitten by the Jerry Lewis bug — he wanted to do it all, writing and directing himself in “The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother,” “The World’s Greatest Lover,” one of four segments of “Sunday Lovers” and “The Woman in Red.”

When you think of Wilder, the films that come to mind are the Brooks pictures, including “Blazing Saddles,” along with the two movies he made with Richard Pryor — “Silver Streak” and “Stir Crazy” — and perhaps “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”

“The Woman in Red” is by far the best (and most popular) of his triple-threat pictures, which isn’t saying a lot; the others are better off forgotten. And now comes Wilder’s fifth writing-directing-starring effort, “Haunted Honeymoon,” and it may be the worst of the lot.

     

        Gene Wilder, Gilda Radner, 'Haunted Honeymoon'

Wilder’s direction isn’t bad, though a few gags seem ill-timed, and his third teaming with wife Gilda Radner is as appealing as the first two (“Hanky Panky,” “The Woman in Red”). But the script (co-credited to production designer Terence Marsh) is dreadful.

The story, set in 1939, has Wilder and Radner as co-stars of a popular radio program, doing a segment called “Haunted Honeymoon.” They are also about to be wed at Wilder’s family mansion where relatives all gather, upset that Wilder is to be the lone heir to the family fortune … unless he dies before matriarch Aunt Kate (Dom DeLuise, in drag).

Meanwhile, a psychiatrist relative tries to scare Wilder “to death,” to cure him of a childhood trauma that causes him to be afraid of everything.

Needless to say, the mansion appears to be haunted, with all sorts of weird goings-on, including an apparent werewolf and a bevy of dead bodies.

All that’s missing are the laughs.

     

Gene Wilder, left, Dom DeLuise, Gilda Radner, 'Haunted Honeymoon'

“Haunted Honeymoon” has its moments … two I think … but most of the gags fall flat. Wilder starts making love to someone in his bed, thinking it’s his bride to be, but it’s a dead body instead. Radner does a Donald Duck voice to a hand shadow on the wall. Jonathan Pryce, as a cousin, hoists Radner on wires so she appears to fly, in an effort to scare Wilder for his own good. There are several comic musical moments, including Radner and DeLuise dancing to “Ballin’ the Jack” (with none of the brilliance of “Young Frankenstein’s “Puttin’ On the Ritz”). But none of these bring so much as a titter.

And jokes that have potential, such as Wilder’s old girlfriend chasing him, or the whole idea of his being constantly afraid of everything, are horribly underdeveloped.

The movie’s biggest gag is having the character of Aunt Kate played by DeLuise. It doesn’t work, and is even a bit embarrassing.

Rated PG for some violence and a couple of profanities, “Haunted Honeymoon” is a sad excuse for a comedy, and the subject and setting just serve to remind us how brilliant Wilder was as “Young Frankenstein.” Unfortunately, that was 12 years ago. Fans — myself included — can just hope he seeks and listens to some solid collaboration next time around.