‘So I Married An Axe Murderer’: The Great Horror-Comedy Absolutely No One Talks About
Ever wish that more romantic comedies would include attempted homicides? Well good news weirdo, there’s So I Married An Axe Murderer, the sadly-neglected Mike Myers vehicle about a San Francisco beat poet who falls in love with a woman who may or may not be a notorious serial killer. Think Sleepless in Seattle if Meg Ryan’s character was 10 -15% more creepy than she already is.
These days, we mostly associate Mike Myers with movies in which he’s either Wayne Campbell, Shrek, Austin Powers or some presumably-offensive caricature cobbled together with goofy wigs and/or several pounds of latex. Even when he pops up in random supporting roles, he’s usually wearing some kind of bizarre Gene Parmesan-esque disguise.
But in So I Married and Axe Murderer, Myers gets to spend 90 minutes playing … a normal human being? Even in interviews promoting the film back in 1993, Myers claimed: “I play myself.” And Myers really proves his chops as a legit charming rom-com lead – albeit in a rom-com that largely involves playfully flirting with oodles of raw meat.
When Myers’ character, Charlie, begins to suspect that his girlfriend, and soon-to-be wife, is really a mysterious axe murderer that the tabloids have dubbed “Mrs. X,” Myers gets to shift into another comedic gear, riffing on the kind of paranoid everyman you’d see in a Hitchcock film (which, again, involves little-to-no fart jokes or cartoonish foreign accents).
That being said, Charlie’s wacky Scottish dad is also played by Mike Myers. While this clearly anticipates the Peter Sellers-like multitasking we’d later see in the Austin Powers series, here at least the conceit is somewhat motivated. While it doesn’t make sense that, say, Austin Powers looks shockingly similar to Fat Bastard and Goldmember, at least Charlie resembling his own father isn’t too difficult to swallow.
But it’s in its Hitchockian mode that the movie really takes off, essentially riffing on two classics from the Master of Suspense: Shadow of a Doubt and Suspicion. Both involve protagonists who fear that someone close to them is capable of murder. In Shadow of a Doubt, our heroine (perhaps not coincidentally also named Charlie) suspects that her uncle is really the “Merry Widow Murderer.” Not unlike with “Mrs. X,” Charlie learns about the killer from a newspaper article shared by a family member.
And in Suspicion, a young woman marries a charming playboy, played by Cary Grant, but comes to believe that he is planning to murder him. So I Married An Axe Murderer even re-stages one of the most famous scenes from Suspicion, in which Grant brings his wife a glass of milk that might be poisoned – of course since So I Married An Axe Murderer is set in San Francisco in the ‘90s, so the potentially-tainted beverage naturally becomes a smoothie.
In addition to the overt Hitchcock influence, the genuinely creepy climax seemingly borrows from The Shining, cutting between a full-blown axe assault in a creepy hotel and the long journey of a side character coming to the rescue – and just imagine if Dick Halloran had to hitch a ride to the Overlook with an irritable Charles Grodin.
Part of what makes the movie work so well is the casting; Nancy Travis plays Charlie’s possibly homicidal love interest, Amanda Plummer plays her weird sister, and Anthony LaPaglia plays Charlie’s cop buddy. One could easily see the same actors playing the same roles in a non-comedic, purely suspenseful version of this movie. While they help ground the film’s reality, the comedy comes from either Myers, or the comic actors who make memorable cameos throughout the movie; in addition to Grodin we get Steven Wright as a shifty pilot, Alan Arkin as a meek police chief, and best of all, Phil Hartman as “Vicky” the Alcatraz tour guide.
Look, it’s not a perfect film; there are some really clunky jokes, confusing plot points, and a repetitive soundtrack that will make you want to personally strangle each member of “The Boo Radleys.” Still, it’s a ton of fun and doesn’t deserve its reputation as a cinematic disaster. In many ways, the movie was unfairly judged before it even came out. The script, by Robbie Fox, was kicking around Hollywood for years, originally pitched in the ‘80s with the title Fatal Attraction (before we associated that title with horny Michael Douglas and boiled bunny rabbits) and at various points it nearly starred actors such as Chevy Chase, Garry Shandling and Woody Allen – the latter of which wouldn’t work, since we’d all be rooting for the axe.
Fox went public with his frustrations over the project prior to the film’s release,, since his script was drastically re-written by Myers and his (appropriately-named) friend Neil Mullarkey – plus it was reportedly punched up by writers including Conan O’Brien and Carrie Fisher. There were advance reports of “massive problems and reshoots.” Then the film bombed at the box office, and was generally crapped-on by critics.
It’s unclear whether or not the perceived failure of So I Married An Axe Murderer spooked Myers, who never again starred in a film that called for him to portray a down-to-earth dude. Just a few years later he was wearing buck teeth and glasses for Austin Powers, and just a few years after that, he was in a giant cat suit that still haunts our nightmares. But had this film been more widely embraced at the time, one could easily imagine Myers augmenting his broad comedies with more dramedies and romantic comedies, the way Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler have done.
Perhaps the best example of the chasm between what Myers did in this film, and what his career exclusively became, is his recent Netflix series The Pentaverate. Technically, the show is a spin-off of So I Married An Axe Murderer, based on a one-off joke made by the Stuart character:
But tonally, it’s … well there’s no way to explain that isn’t better than just sharing this clip of Shrek head-butting Bigfoot to the sounds of Smash Mouth.
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Thumbnail: TriStar Pictures