Hatchet for the Honeymoon / Il rosso segno della follia (1970)

5.0 out of 5

Director Mario Bava's wife must have been rather nervous when she saw this thriller about a madman who murders women in bridal gowns. Bava's marriage was falling apart during filming, and perhaps this explains the manic style, a combination of L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo and The Sixth Sense.

Stephen Forsyth stars as the crazed fashion designer, trapped in a loveless marriage to star Laura Betti. How loveless? She demands that Forsyth accompany her to a seance in order to commune with her first husband, who "was a man".

Women are murdered, the camera zooms incessantly, angles are forced out of all recognition, and the killer soundtrack blares away. Despite being saddled with a terrible English title, the killer uses a meat cleaver, and a bizarre plot, Hatchet is possible Bava's most entertaining film. The lurid colour photography and subject matter are reminiscent of Powell's Peeping Tom, but here a real sense of humour is apparent, especially in a fantastic scene in a groovy nightclub, where, thanks to the ghost of his dead wife and despite some rather dated chat up lines, Forsyth is unceremoniously thrown onto the pavement.

There is, perhaps, a worrying undercurrent of misogyny here, and no-one will be surprised by the final 'twist', but who can resist a killer who has an leaf incinerator in his greenhouse, complete with funky red lights, smoke machine, and not-at-all-suspicious giant chimney.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics