LEGS AKIMBO

Empire (UK) - - ON SCREEN -

Haunted Hon­ey­moon (1986) Se­lected by Nick de Semlyen, As­so­ciate Ed­i­tor (Fea­tures)

A good co­me­dian can make peo­ple laugh us­ing their legs. But it takes a great co­me­dian to make peo­ple laugh us­ing some­one else’s legs.

The last of Gene Wilder’s three movies with wife Gilda Rad­ner — and sadly Rad­ner’s fi­nal film; she died of cancer in 1989 — Haunted Hon­ey­moon was de­signed as a throw­back to the comedy chillers he loved as a boy. As writer, direc­tor and star, Wilder in­jected it with pure imag­i­na­tion, pop­u­lat­ing the creepy man­sion in “Stor­mville, NY” with were­wolves, seven-foot co­bras and ghouls that walk on the walls, In­cep­tion-style.

But de­spite all the prac­ti­cal ef­fects, Wilder scares up the movie’s big­gest laughs with noth­ing more than an old trunk, a co­matose body and his own face. Hav­ing knocked the de­ranged but­ler (Bryan Pringle) un­con­scious, hero Larry (Wilder) starts to shove him into a chest. But at that point two po­lice­men turn up, forc­ing Larry to lean over the stick­ing-up legs, pre­tend­ing they are his own.

It’s an ab­surd bit of old-school vaudevil­lian shtick, which wouldn’t be out of place in an

Austin Pow­ers movie. What sells it are Wilder’s dead­pan re­ac­tions as the limbs fly into ever more anatom­i­cally im­pos­si­ble po­si­tions, try­ing des­per­ately to sell the il­lu­sion by scratch­ing the an­kles, ad­just­ing the socks and, in one eye­wa­ter­ingly funny mo­ment, break­ing into a show tune and faux-dance. The rest of the movie is largely so-so (not to men­tion the non­sen­si­cal ti­tle: the wed­ding hap­pens at the end), but this se­quence alone makes it worth a watch.

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