Haunted Honeymoon marked another reteaming between Gene Wilder and composer John Morris, Mel Brooks’ longtime composer, and although this particular haunted house spoof kind of bombed in cinemas (and arguably quashed star/co-writer/director Wilder’s directorial career), the music stood out for its grand scope and tongue-in-cheek qualities reminiscent of the pair’s best film, Young Frankenstein (1974).
In the past, Morris didn't seem to be particularly interested in releasing his music on CD; if one appeared, it seemed to be a contractual thing, and his scores for Mel Brooks were sometimes affected by sound effects and dialogue, or compacted on album due to songs (Spaceballs).
It’s due to the persistence of music producers and his ardent admirers that Morris’ unreleased work is slowly emerging on CD. Haunted runs just a few hairs above 39 mins., but it’s one of his best works, playing everything straight, but bending the dramatics every so slightly for a subtle tongue-in-cheek quality, such as the vintage doom and gloom tones (“Wolfington Castle”), and the integration of cheesy organ chords without ridiculing the characters.
Morris frequently switches between small and large scale sounds, but Haunted is a BIG score. The orchestrations illustrates the composer’s potent talent that only a few filmmakers managed to exploit during his lengthy career.
Perhaps Morris’ musical gifts are most apparent in tender character themes, and writing a deadpan style perfectly tailored for genre satires without slamming the audience over the head with overstatements. Even Spaceballs – dreadful as it is, except to a devoted coterie of fans – is blessed with a grand, romantic score.
There are repetitions of little motifs – musical images of skulking in the dark, frenzied sustained strings, and muted Herrmannesque brass (“The Drainpipe”) – but the variations are quite atmospheric, and Morris pokes fun at a few genre classics, like the perfect Psycho tribute at the beginning of “Electrical Switch.”
Most of the cues vary between 1 to 4 mins., and the album editing manages to hide most of the seams (except for the odd fadeout, such as the fifties string schmlatz “Susan and the Dog / “I Know, I Know” which fades before any development). With the exception of Morris’ arrangements some period songs due to rights issues, La-La Land’s CD features the full score.
Jeff Bond’s dense liner notes again provide a backstory to the film, the score, and the music, and the mastering is first-rate, exploiting the composer’s deft writing and the power of the London Symphony Orchestra.
Now, perhaps someone could release Ironweed (1987)?
© 2011 Mark R. Hasan