The late, great Gene Wilder followed up YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN with the old dark house pastiche HAUNTED HONEYMOON, on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.
Ever since "Manhattan Mystery Theatre" radio star Larry Abbot (Wilder) became engaged to his co-star Vickie Pearle (Gilda Radner, THE WOMAN IN RED), he has developed a set of strange nervous ticks triggered by the sound of thunderstorms (which are plentiful given the show's genre). His uncle, the esteemed psychiatrist Paul Abbot (Paul L. Smith, PIECES), has surmised that Larry's engagement has triggered repressed memories that frighten him, and the only cure is to scare him to death, ramping up his fear until he is forced to confront its source. The couple's weekend trip to the creepy ancestral home of Larry's spinster Aunt Kate (Dom DeLuise, SEXTETTE) will provide the perfect setting, and Larry's relatives – lawyer Francis (Peter Vaughn, SYMPTOMS) and his transvestite son Francis Jr. (GAME OF THRONES' Roger Ashton-Griffiths), Paul's wastrel son Charlie (Jonathan Pryce, STIGMATA) who is seeing Larry's ex-girlfriend Sylvia (Eve Ferret, ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS), cousin Susan (Jo Ross) and her magician husband Montego (DOWNTON ABBEY's Jim Carter), and spinster aunt Nora (Julann Griffin) – are in on the plan. Aunt Kate, however, believes that one of her relatives is a werewolf and is trying to kill her. Before the family gathers for the weekend, she has Francis change her will leaving everything to Larry. Someone has overheard her plans and it seems as though someone might decide to take the "scare to death" gaslighting quite literally. And then there's the wolfman stalking the grounds…
Wilder's YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN follow-up channels THE CAT AND THE CANARY and other old dark house standards but lightning does not strike twice (in fact, it would probably make a better companion piece to the board game adaptation/whodunit comedy CLUE). The film looks handsome as hell with gorgeous photography by Fred Schuler (AMITYVILLE 3D) and some sensuous in-camera scene transitions, impressive sets by production designer Terence Marsh (BASIC INSTINCT) – who co-wrote the script with Wilder – and costumes of Ruth Meyers (L.A. CONFIDENTIAL) while Mel Brooks' regular composer John Morris provides a suitably grand orchestral score. Wilder and Radner (in the last film role of her too-brief career) have good chemistry and DeLuise has an excuse to chew the scenery, but only Pryce makes much of an impression among the supporting cast of suspicious relatives who otherwise have little to do in a crowded scenario (much less BRAZIL's Ann Way and DROWNING BY NUMBERS' Bryan Pringle as the manor's housekeeper and butler). Radner and DeLuise entertain with a boisterous rendition of the Judy Garland and Gene Kelly number "Ballin' the Jack" but the sequence almost seems like padding in an eighty-two minute film that allows little time for red herrings to be red herrings. The film's striking manor exteriors were shot at Knebworth House (D'Ampton Hall in THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM, Wayne Manor in Tim Burton's BATMAN).
Released theatrically by Orion, on VHS by HBO Home Video, and then on anamorphic widescreen DVD by MGM, HAUNTED HONEYMOON comes to Blu-ray in an attractive 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen transfer that restores much of the lustre of the film's cinematography and calls attention to the period costumes, stray cobwebs, and the finer details of Marsh's production design. The Dolby Stereo mix was not particularly gimmicky in terms of eighties genre pictures but the LPCM 2.0 stereo track gives wonderful breadth to Morris' score, thunderstorms, bursts of wind, gunshots, and shattering glass. There are no subtitle options and no extras apart from the film's theatrical trailer (2:18) and trailers for Wilder's THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES' SMARTER BROTHER and Mel Brooks' LIFE STINKS. (Eric Cotenas)
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