Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Kino Lorber Studio Classics - HAUNTED HONEYMOON & ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES' SMARTER BROTHER on Blu-ray ""

Sunday, October 2, 2016


HAUNTED HONEYMOON (1986; Gene Wilder)
Though old timey radio programs were before my time, I still have a fondness for movies depicting the days when they were popular. RADIO DAYS, RADIOLAND MURDERS and HAUNTED HONEYMOON are just a few that give me a chuckle and an odd feeling of nostalgia for a time I never knew. HAUNTED HONEYMOON is an interesting little movie in that it is really going for a throwback feeling in terms of the kind of movie it is and the kind of story it want to tell. The setup is interesting. Larry Abbott (Gene Wilder) and his fiance Vickie Pearle (Gilda Radner) are actors on a popular radio show called Manhattan Mystery Theater. The show is doing well, but there's one small problem. Larry has this speech impediment which manifests itself in different ways (sometimes laughter, sometimes tears) whenever he gets scared. If Larry can't get himself sorted out, he may be fired from the show and so his doctor recommends an experimental "scare treatment". He plans a weekend for Larry and Vickie to go to his old family home (an old creepy castle) to visit with family. Whilst there, the plan is to try to frighten Larry ("to death") so much that he overcomes his mental issues and loses the speech impediment. So what follows is a "dark old house" kind of story, but played more for comedy. There's a few dead bodies, a drunk butler and a few other suspicious characters roaming about the grounds. Early on, we get a sense that there may be folks seizing on this opportunity for fake scares to in fact bump off some people that will help them claim a mysterious inheritance. Basically it's many setpieces and scenes wherein we get to see Gene Wilder scared and or do something funny. The dialogue and gags seems to have been crafted (at least in parts) to resemble the old screwball comedy type quick exchanges and that is amusing as well. Plus it's just nice to see Gene and Gilda (and Dom Deluise too!) in a movie together and a film that Gene Wilder himself directed. That said, as much as his work with Mel Brooks is some of the greatest comedy ever put to film, he seems a little off with his editing or something as many gags in this film fall a bit flat. As a bonus - there's a werewolf man on the loose in some cool old-timey Universal monster type wolf make-up. The werewolf is one of the things that stood out to me actually. I really think there should be a werewolf film wherein the wolf man has this antiquated kind of hairy face makeup. I think it would be genuinely eerie if done nowadays. 

You can purchase HAUNTED HONEYMOON on Blu-ray here:

I remember this being out on VHS from Magnetic Video (one of the earliest companies to put studio movies on video). This was many years after it would have first been released on tape as it became quite hard to find over the years. It's been quite forgotten over time. This is a bit of bummer as it features such a great cast including the trio of Gene Wilder (who directed), Marty Feldman & Madeline Kahn. So right off you have a lot of carry-over vibes from YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, which is never a bad thing. This movie doesn't live up to the mantle of that one, but it is amusingly diverting to be sure. 
Gene Wilder's abilities a director are more well exemplified here - especially with regard to his staging and editing of the comedic scenes. The film, though far from Mel Brooks level stuff, has many laugh-out-loud comic set pieces and I definitely caught myself chortling more than a couple times. There's a good deal of absurdity to the humor (as with HAUNTED HONEYMOON) and it is mostly well-paced to clip right along and not drag out each of the gags. Wilder himself is in something of an irritated Willy Wonka mode for much of the movie and that's something I always enjoy. You know - like when he is indignant and speaking in that almost yelling voice? That's great stuff and few actors could pull it off quite the way that he can. 
This movie has a fun small part for Dom Deluise and it is not only a humorous performance but also the most svelt that I've ever seen him look. Also - it's neat to see him play in scenes with Madeline Kahn as they can both be quite funny when they get physical with each other. Also, Kahn says "shit!" In a scene with him and she says it almost better than anyone else I've seen. Kahn herself shines here as well and there are a handful of musical numbers that she makes quite delightfully whimsical.
Special Features:
This Blu-ray comes with an audio commentary from now late Gene Wilder himself. I could listen to Wilder talk anything, so this is a perfectly wonderful track and since he is talking about his directorial debut - it's a very enjoyable listen. It is a very screen-specific track so it really is kinda like watching the movie with Gene Wilder. What could be better than that?
You can purchase SHERLOCK HOLMES' SMARTER BROTHER on Blu-ray here:

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