Nightmare Honeymoon DVD Review: Can I Get an Annulment Over Here?

As events near and far forever altered the world throughout the ’60s and ’70s, the well-known face of cinema began to go through a change, as well – beginning with the demise of the Hays Code in 1968, wherein the MPAA introduced us to a rating system. With this advent, filmmakers could depict more “adult” themed tales – without fear of excessive backlash from the censors. This also meant exploitation folks all over could at long last make the kind of trash their demented audiences craved at drive-ins and grindhouse theaters all over the country – such as Wes Craven’s controversial hit The Last House on the Left in 1972, which almost single-handedly opened the floodgates for a subgenre of exploitation films known affectionately today as rape/revenge flicks.

Tucked somewhere in-between Craven’s infamous shocker and the even more notorious I Spit on Your Grave from 1978 is the 1974 oddity Nightmare Honeymoon – which single-handedly could have ruined the entire genre for everyone had anyone bothered watching it when it first came out. Though the decision of its makers to not actually include any scenes of rape – or any nudity for that matter – will result in most fans of the subgenre running for the hills, the lack of any other real thrills will probably frighten off the rest of you.

On the very afternoon of their nuptials, David Webb (the epically named Dack Rambo) and his bride Jill (Rebecca Dianna Smith, who disappeared into obscurity shortly after making this film) decide to run out on their reception and head off down the road – pursued by Jill’s entire family (helmed by patriarch Pat Hingle), who have some sort of weird tradition wherein the newlywed couple can’t spend any time away together. Taking refuge at a fish camp, they meet a beer-guzzlin’ feller (played by the big Jeffrey Lebowski himself, David Huddleston) in the construction business – who they later see gunned down by two assassins (John Beck and Roy Jenson), who catch up with the couple afterward, wherein the really crazy one of the two (Beck, future co-star of Nichols) knocks David out and has his way with Jill offscreen.

Of course, we’re not supposed to know that last bit at first, but it’s obvious – even with the godawful acting Ms. Smith delivers, it’s obvious. The devastated duo then make their way to New Orleans, only to find the change of scenery isn’t doing them any good – and soon, David starts looking up names in the phone book in order to find the men who made his honeymoon such a nightmare. Overactor-extraordinaire Jay Robinson has a small part as a bad guy in this sleazy, slow-paced drama based a novel by Lawrence Block, and directed by Elliot Silverstein – the same man who made The Car and Cat Ballou (and who was brought in to take over after the previous director wisely dropped out).

Never before released on home video in the US, the Warner Archive brings this dud to us on DVD with two cuts to choose from (which is most sporting of them, I say!). The dual-layered disc contains both a matted widescreen (1.85:1) theatrical cut that runs 89 minutes, and an open matte (1.37:1) TV version that clocks in at 95 minutes. The latter edit includes a “happier” ending, as well as additional dialogue – not to mention more Pat Hingle. The DVD-R also includes the film’s campy, exploitative, and oh-so-lurid theatrical trailer, which makes the title out to be a horror film, and even goes as far to generously “borrow” from the legendary advertising campaign from The Last House of the Left!

Needless to say, the trailer is the best thing here. But sleaze lovers will want to add this one to their collection regardless. Here’s hoping the Warner Archive will release more titles with alternate TV cuts!

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Luigi Bastardo

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