ⓘ Haunted Honeymoon


ⓘ Haunted Honeymoon

Haunted Honeymoon is a 1986 American comedy horror film starring Gene Wilder, Gilda Radner, Dom DeLuise and Jonathan Pryce. Wilder also served as writer and director. The film also marked Radners final appearance in a movie prior to her death of ovarian cancer in 1989. The title Haunted Honeymoon was previously used for the 1940 U.S. release of Busmans Honeymoon based on the stage play by Dorothy L. Sayers.

In the film, Wilder and Radner play Larry Abbot and Vickie Pearle, two radio murder mystery actors who decide to get married. Larry, plagued with on-air panic attacks, is treated with a form of shock therapy and subsequently chooses to marry Vickie in a castle-like mansion which had been his childhood home. Once there, they meet the eccentric members of Larrys family, including his great-aunt Kate DeLuise and his cousin Charles Pryce.

Honeymoon was distributed by Orion Pictures through a deal with HBO. It was a box office bomb grossing just short of its $9 million budget, was critically panned and earning DeLuises character of Great-Aunt Kate the Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actress.


1. Plot

Larry Abbot Wilder and Vickie Pearle Radner are performers on radios "Manhattan Mystery Theater" who decide to get married. Larry has been plagued with on-air panic attacks and speech impediments since proposing marriage. Vickie thinks it is just pre-wedding jitters, but his affliction could get them both fired.

Larrys uncle, Dr. Paul Abbot, decides that Larry needs to be cured. Paul decides to treat him with a form of shock therapy to "scare him to death" in much the same way someone might try to startle someone out of hiccups.

Larry chooses a castle-like mansion in which he grew up as the site for their wedding. Vickie gets to meet Larrys eccentric family: great-aunt Kate DeLuise in drag, who plans to leave all her money to Larry; his uncle, Francis; and Larrys cousins, Charles, Nora, Susan, and the cross-dressing Francis Jr. Also present are the butler Pfister and wife Rachel, the maid; Larrys old girlfriend Sylvia, who is now dating Charles; and Susans magician husband, Montego the Magnificent.

Paul begins his "treatment" of Larry and lets others in on the plan. Unfortunately for all, something more sinister and unexpected is lurking at the Abbot Estates mansion. The pre-wedding party becomes a real-life version of Larry and Vickies radio murder mysteries, werewolves and all.


2. Cast

  • Gene Wilder as Larry Abbot
  • Ann Way as Rachel, Pfisters wife
  • Jim Carter as Montego, the Magician
  • Dom DeLuise as Aunt Katherine "Kate" Abbot
  • Roger Ashton-Griffiths as Cousin Francis Jr.
  • Peter Vaughan as Uncle Francis Abbot Sr.
  • Paul L. Smith as Dr. Paul Abbot, uncle
  • Bryan Pringle as Pfister, the Butler
  • Gilda Radner as Vickie Pearle
  • Eve Ferret as Sylvia
  • Jo Ross as Susan Abbot
  • Jonathan Pryce as Charles "Charlie" Abbot
  • Sally Osborne as Mrs. Abbot Larrys mother

3.1. Production Development

Wilder wrote the opening scene while filming Silver Streak in 1976. He wanted to make a "comedy chiller" inspired by such films as The Cat and the Canary 1939, The Old Dark House 1932 and The Black Cat 1941, and radio shows like The Inner Sanctum. "Since I was 6 years old I have been scared of horror movies," said Wilder "And the movies that I liked the best - even though I was scared by them - were what was called then comedy-chillers. They were horror movies yet they had comedy, or they were comedies and yet they had horror. They were not comedy-mysteries, they were not comedy-thrillers, they were comedy-chillers." Wilder says when he started writing the film "I knew I wanted it to be a comedy-chiller," but he struggled and the film wound up as an "autobiographical psycho/sexual comedy with music."

Wilder and Radner fell in love making Hanky Panky 1982 and he decided to revisit the project as a vehicle for them both. "I always thought that Gilda has been one of our most brilliant television comediennes, but now I think shes becoming more than very good as a comic movie actress, which is a very, very different thing," said Wilder.

Wilder rewrote the script with writing partner, Tony Marsh. "I knew that I wanted it to be not a parody and not a satire, but to re-create a comedy-chiller," said Wilder. "I dont like naturalism. I like things that are fantastical - Im not saying necessarily fantasies, but more than reality."

Wilder says the film was partly inspired by a song Jeanette MacDonald and Jack Buchanan sang in the film Monte Carlo 1930. Wilder says he heard it while watching the film in bed with Radner. "Im always looking for some emotional spine to what Im doing. I look over at her and tears are coming down from her eyes. It was so sweet and innocent. Like little children. And I thought thats what this Haunted Honeymoon is about."

"I couldnt imagine him singing it with any other girl," said Radner. "So, I just had a tantrum and said I had to be the fiancee - not a big tantrum, just a tiny tantrum."

He says he was also inspired by seeing Jean Cocteaus Beauty and the Beast in the early 1980s. "The world opened up for me," he said. "Im more comfortable when I dont have to be held down by authenticity. In this film, which is set in the ’30s, I feel that Im presenting authenticity of the heart. Im not interested in everyday reality, but in the reality of the heart. I like fantasy, like a fairy tale. Im interested in shadows and contrasts. Its like the opening scene in the movie, when a character says, `Its not what you think. Well, its probably what you think. But its too complicated."

The movie was one of 14 films financed by Orion Pictures through a deal with HBO.


3.2. Production Shooting

The film was shot in London at Elstree Studios in 1985 over 11 weeks. "Gene calls it a comedy chiller," said Gilda Radner. "For me, this is a part very similar to my own life. I wear a wedding gown in 95% of the movie. Since I didnt wear a gown when Gene and I got married, I asked the Haunted Honeymoon photographer to make me a wedding album!" Radner said.

Wilder says his aim was to "make a 1930s movie for 1986." He and the cinematographer used no primary colors and lit the film darkly. "Its black and white in color," said Wilder. "The fat lady in Akron, Ohio, doesnt have to know that. But she should feel that its believable in the way that an old 30s film is believable."

Wilder and Radner celebrated their first wedding anniversary during filming in September.

Jonathan Pryce later recalled, "It was one of those films where, when there’s a break and they’re doing the next setup and people usually go back to their dressing rooms, nobody went back to their dressing rooms. We’d all sit around in a circle of camp chairs or whatever they call them - director’s chairs - and be entertained by Dom DeLuise. It was a blissful time. It was a great time."

Wilder says he told DeLuise to play his role straight, telling him, "I want you to be my aunt. Well get the laughs later. But first dont go for Im-really-a-guy, Im-really-a-guy, and-Im-doing-this-little-joke."


4. Release

Orion elected not to screen the film to critics before general release. Producer Susan Ruskin said:

I know people have the tendency to think, Well, the studio must not be comfortable about the film. Theyre very comfortable about the film, theyve been behind it 100 percent. A lot of the studios, with a lot of their films, are considering not doing advance critics screenings. There has been a tendency with the critics lately to be quite vicious about films, and we dont necessarily feel its right to cater to that. I would like the people to make a judgment on the film.


5. Reception

The film received negative reviews. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 18%, based on eleven reviews, and an average rating of 3.6/10. Dom DeLuise won the Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actress for his performance in drag.

Box office

The movie was a financial flop, grossing only $8.000.000 in America, entering the box office at number 8, then slipping to 14 the following week.

While Gilda Radner was struggling with cancer, she wrote the following about the film:

On July 26, Haunted Honeymoon opened nationwide. It was a bomb. One month of publicity and the movie was only in the theaters for a week – a box-office disaster.

Another source said the film earned $3.2 million in the US.

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