If you were watching cable in the late 80s, you likely have seen at least part of this film, which was on quite often. Like a lot of comedy flops of the period, the film was in regular rotation. The film was also rated PG, an advantage at the time, since some cable companies would not show R rated films before 8pm (edit: some quick searches have only turned up evidence that HBO had this restriction, though I could have sworn Showtime did as well). The presence of three reasonably popular leads-Gene Wilder (See No Evil, Hear No Evil), Gilda Radner (Saturday Night Live) and Dom DeLuise (Wholly Moses)-no doubt made this seem like it would be a decent draw, although it was a flop at the box office.
Haunted Honeymoon starts with an “old woman” being stabbed to death by a wolf man-only, the woman is revealed to be a man, and before he dies, the camera pans back to him and he says “It’s not what you think”. Then the camera moves again, pans back again, and he says “well, it’s partially what you think , but uh, oh, it’s so complicated” and dies. This non-starter exemplifies what’s wrong with the film-lots of “jokes” that aren’t particularly funny and just hang there. What we’ve seen in the intro is actually on a radio show and stars Larry Abbott (Wilder) and Vickie Pearle (Radner) are getting married. Some fear of Larry’s is giving him nervous attacks. His uncle, Dr. Paul Abbott (Paul L. Smith, Dune) suggests that only scaring Larry “to death” will cure him of his fears.
Meanwhile, Larry’s great-aunt Kate (DeLuise in drag) secretly makes Larry her sole heir. If Larry dies, however, the money will once again be split equally. When Vickie and Larry arrive at the Abbott estate, strange things begin to happen-are they part of the plan to cure Larry with fright, are they a scheme to kill Larry and return the will to an even split, or is there really something supernatural going on at the Abbott estate? Is one of the Abbott family a werewolf, as Aunt Kate fears? Which of the Abbotts-sleazy, broke cousin Charles (Jonathan Pryce, Tomorrow Never Dies); lawyer Francis Sr. (Peter Vaughn, Zulu Dawn), who is the only one who knows of the change in will; Dr. Paul-is involved? What of the guests, such as the magician Montego (Jim Carter, Flash Gordon)?
Haunted Honeymoon seems to aim for an affectionate parody/spoof of Old Dark House movies, but fails to do much spoofing. Like so many examples of that long moribund sub-genre (last healthy as a vehicle for comedic actors in the 1940s), it features a rich old relative with a recently changed will, the gathered members of an extended family who serve as a rogues gallery, a fake supernatural menace (here the specter of a werewolf as well as the various attempts to terrify Larry), and a murder mystery. There’s also the butler Pfister (Bryan Pringle, Brazil), who recalls Boris Karloff in The Old Dark House and the maid Rachel (Ann Way, Once Upon a Crime…), who recalls Una O’Connor in several roles. The film recreates the genre-we get all the requisite elements of an Old Dark House film, done well. The supporting cast is quite good, with Pryce cast amusingly against type as Charles, Pringle and Way seemingly plucked straight out of an old movie.
What we don’t get are laughs, aside from some scattered lines and scenes. The script, by Wilder and production designer Terence Marsh, seems to feel that just going through a creaky old genre without poking any fun at it is going to make us laugh. This is no Young Frankenstein, despite Wilder’s presence, and the film fails to do much with the old clichés it puts on the screen. The repeat use of “it’s all just a story…or is it…” device grew wearisome, as is used many times by the end of the film. Radner and Wilder are fun to watch together, but they are split up much of the film, with Wilder getting the most screen time (Radner was fighting cancer at the time, which may account for this and the sometimes choppy feel of the film) . Haunted Honeymoon is pleasant but unremarkable and somewhat frustrating given the cast and the film’s successful recreation of the genre it fails to spoof.
The trailer (warning: the trailer spoils many of the best jokes)