My parents say when they were a young married couple traveling across the country, they had to make sure they had a copy of their marriage license with them in order to get accommodations. Honeymoon of Terror depicts this. It is the only movie I’ve seen that does.
There isn’t much to the movie. Frank and Marion Whiting — two newlyweds — arrive in Las Vegas and do some gambling. Frank loses a lot, and Marion wins. They check into a motel after seeing a show. “I asked for twin beds,” says Frank, “but they didn’t have any.”
Finally alone, the two make out. “Imagine that creep asking to see our marriage license,” Marion says. Wanting to be alone, they decide to camp on a deserted island. Then two fall together on the bed. Frank turns out the light, and thus ends the filmed portion of the promised “night of ecstasy!”
The next day they set up camp on the island, where Frank discovers he’s forgotten an important piece of equipment. “Where’s the fuel can for the stove?” he asks. “How do you like that? I must’ve forgotten it.” Off he goes back to the mainland to get another one, giving Marion a great opportunity to skinny-dip. But back in town, Frank discovers the island is home to a fugitive rapist-murderer! And, sure enough, the “fiend” stumbles across the Marion dozing naked on the beach and he makes his move.
Fortunately, the Fiend has a club foot and can’t move that fast. The last third or so of the movie features a chase sequence (Marion grabs a bathrobe on her escape from the fiend’s clutches), a fist-fight between Frank and our murderer, and the shocking conclusion as Marion realizes she will have to save herself.
Honeymoon of Terror bridges the gap between B-Movie fair and more exploitative material like the nudist films. Since it was not rated, I assume it didn’t play in any reputable theaters. But even in the early 1960s, grindhouse patrons would have seen films that, if not more explicit, at least had lengthier nude scenes. This film plays it a lot more coy, and actually feels less exploitative than, say, Horror of Party Beach — a movie where the girls all keep their clothes on, but the camera likes to do tight close-ups of bikini bottoms.
I wouldn’t even bother you with this movie except for the fact the production values are so high. It is casually but deliberately paced, which puts it a cut above even some mainstream films of the time. Honeymoon of Terror was shot on pricy black-and-white 35mm film and the remaster by the American Genre Film Archive looks amazing.
Not only that, the film’s director (Peter Perry, Jr.) and director of photography (Basil Bradbury) seem to have known what they were doing. One of my favorite sequences involves Marion hiding among some fallen trees. Bradbury approaches this sequence from several angles, culminating a wide-angle shot that shows the fiend perched on the trunk while Marion hauls ass in the distance.
It may not be an exciting story, but Honeymoon of Terror is often visually interesting. Shot on location, we get to see both what Vegas and what camping looked like through the eyes of a film less constrained by censorship than others of that era.
The only reason we get to see it at all is thanks to the preservation work of Something Weird, archivists of underground and exploitation films, and American Genre Film Archive’s restoration. Unfortunately, it’s presented with no contextual material — no interviews, no commentary tracks. There may, in fact, be no surviving context; I couldn’t find anything about this movie online. I would love to know why such a small exploitation film was so carefully made.