Saturday, May 21, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Haunted Honeymoon (1940) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Robert Montgomery stars as Dorothy Sayers' amateur detective Lord Peter Wimsey in HAUNTED HONEYMOON (1940), just released by the Warner Archive.

This film from MGM's British division, known as BUSMAN'S HONEYMOON in the UK, is presented by the Warner Archive in its original UK running time of 99 minutes. This cut of the film is substantially longer than the 83-minute U.S. print which has been shown on Turner Classic Movies. I reviewed that shorter print after watching the movie on TCM in 2008.

As the film opens, Lord Peter and his fiancee, mystery writer Harriet Vane (Constance Cummings), have jointly sworn off solving mysteries and are planning a leisurely honeymoon. Peter surprises Harriet by purchasing her fondly recalled childhood home in the country, and the newly married couple head there for their honeymoon, accompanied by Lord Peter's loyal, long-suffering butler Bunter (Sir Seymour Hicks).

All goes well, save for some difficulty getting the chimney cleared out, until a body is discovered in the cellar! Peter and Harriet try to let the professionals solve the mystery, but once their friend, Inspector Kirk (Leslie Banks) of Scotland Yard, arrives, the newlyweds find themselves drawn ever deeper into the investigation.

I found this film good company when I first saw it and again watching the Warner Archive DVD. Last time around I noted that some early exposition with supporting characters was wearisome; I still think it goes on too long, pushing Peter and Harriet offstage, but on the whole I have a sense the movie played better at this running time.

It's been long enough since I last saw it that I couldn't pick out all the scenes which were new, but the story flowed well and was satisfying.

Montgomery doesn't attempt much of a British accent, but he has an upper-crust persona which is well suited to the character. He has good chemistry trading repartee with Cummings, who seems British through and through but was actually born in Seattle. After starring in many U.S. pre-Codes, Cummings had moved to England with her British husband in the 1930s and made it her home; she eventually became a Commander of the British Empire (CBE). Cummings died in Oxfordshire in 2005. She'll be honored with a day of films shown during the annual Summer Under the Stars festival on TCM this August.

Montgomery and Cummings are surrounded by some familiar UK actors, including Robert Newton and Googie Withers.

HAUNTED HONEYMOON is an enjoyable diversion which should especially appeal to Robert Montgomery's many fans.

HAUNTED HONEYMOON was directed by Arthur B. Woods and the uncredited Richard Thorpe, who also directed Montgomery in the recently reviewed THE FIRST HUNDRED YEARS (1938). The black and white cinematography was by F.A. "Freddie" Young.

HAUNTED HONEYMOON is a nice print which, as previously stated, has an additional 16 minutes not seen by U.S. audiences. The disc includes the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.


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