Hatchet for the Honeymoon (Mario Bava / Italy-Spain, 1970):
(Il Rosso Segno della Follia; Blood Brides; The Red Mark of Madness)

"Weeping bride, laughing wife, laughing bride, weeping wife" (German proverb). Bridal veils with sanguine stains comprise the central image, used by Mario Bava like Hitchcock’s blondes, "the virginal snow that shows up bloody footprints." The hunky industrialist (Stephen Forsyth) contemplates the word "paranoid" with a half-shaved face before a mirror, and finds it delightful: "The fact is, I’m completely mad," he narrates, and demonstrates it by applying a meat cleaver to newlyweds. The fashion rituals from Blood and Black Lace ("husbands buy the garments for their wives, and the models for themselves"), extended to a society perpetually obsessed with imposing and deforming ideals of female purity. Mommy-fixated and henpecked, Forsyth maintains an underground harem of mannequins clad in wedding gowns and endures razzing from his rich, shrewish wife (Laura Betti) -- femininity at its most docilely static, and at its most riotously discordant. He decides to accelerate the whole "till death do us part" bit, though Betti's spectral Mona Lisa smile keeps spoiling his newfound bachelorhood. (A nice reversal: The nagging ghost is seen by everybody but the murderer.) At times an anagram of Buñuel's The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz, at others a companion piece to Germi’s withering dissections of macho befuddlement (Divorce—Italian Style), Bava’s dark comedy modulates voluptuously toward a madman’s Rumpus Room, and the junction of Italian and Spanish Seventies horror. Chabrol seizes the final composition for Wedding in Blood. With Dagmar Lassender, Jesus Puente, Femi Benussi, and Antonia Mas.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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