Martha Beck (Shirley Stoler) is sullen, overweight and heartbreakingly alone. Desperate for affection, she joins Aunt Carrie?s Friendship Club and strikes up a correspondence with Ray Fernandez (Tony Lo Bianco), a suave, c... more »harismatic smooth talker who could be the man of her dreams?or a wicked con artist bound for trouble. Based on a true story and filmed in documentary-style black and white, The Honeymoon Killers is a stark portrayal of the desperate lengths a lonely heart will go to find true love, from brutally immoral killings to a passion that transcends all bounds.« less
"The true story of Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck is sad and depressing. Their arrests, trial and subsequent executions are vividly described through actual newspaper clips and photos in one of the extras on this remarkable DVD. The film itself is a striking b&w drama detailing their exploits as the "Lonely Hearts" killers. They met through a "friendship" club advertised in a sleazy tabloid and embarked on their grisly journey through several states using the same club as their stalking point. Fernandez, a Latin lover type gigolo/con-man, had originally planned to fleece Martha but decided her career as a registered nurse wouldn't yield much profit. Yet Martha went after him instead. She was single, overweight, depressed and felt she had nothing to lose. Plus she was smitten with him. At first, she just got in Fernandez's way. But she soon proved a valuable asset and they became a team posing as brother and sister as they stalked and fleeced needy single women while Fernandez worked his smarmy charms on them. How many women they killed is not actually known but the film depicts three and one's small daughter. Shirley Stoler is chilling (and sad) as Martha, hopelessly and jealously devoted to Fernandez. But Tony Lo Bianco is utterly fantastic as Ray Fernandez right down to the accent and snaky charm. Together, Stoler's and Lo Bianco's on-screen chemistry is totally believable. The photography is stark and low budget giving the story the seedy and creepy feel it needs. One of the murders is depicted so well it seems real. The music is several selections from the work of Gustav Mahler and is disturbingly appropriate. As for the DVD itself, the print is flawless and crisp but the sound is frustrating at times. I kept wanting to turn it up at points. Nevertheless, "Honeymoon Killers" is worth every cent for this excellent and underrated B-film crime drama and all the fascinating extras. What's more unnerving, is how chillingly close Stoler and Lo Bianco resemble the actual Martha Beck and Ray Fernandez in the old newspaper clippings. This was director Leonard Kastle's first and only feature film and he's featured in an interview. "The Honeymoon Killers" deserves cult status and this Criterion DVD does it justice. I cannot recommend it highly enough for true crime lovers and film purists. Watch for it."
STOP READING AND BUY THIS NOW!!!
Geoff Oldham | Tell City, IN USA | 07/19/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is turning into one of my favorite movies ever. It is so rich, dark and complex, genuinely shocking and disturbing, well written, well photographed, well acted... I just can't say enough good things about it.
This is also one of those movies that I think it is better to know as little as possible about before seeing it, so if I were you, I would turn the Internet off and go buy it right now. But since I know that if you don't know anything about it, you have no reason to buy it, I will tell you that it is a true crime drama that concerns a very perverse relationship, the bilking of innocents, and elements of very black humor. Okay, stop reading now and go buy it. I'm really serious, you NEED to see this.
SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT >>>>> I have watched this movie four times now, and it just keeps getting richer each time. Though it may not always seem like it, every single element is in place and the script and direction are as tight as they can possibly be. The remarkable thing about this movie is how the characters--ALL the characters, not just the main ones--are so richly delineated, and yet at the center of the film some puzzling ambiguities remain. What is it that Ray really sees in Martha? Is it that she says she'll kill herself for him? Or does he simply think he can make more money with an accomplice? And why doesn't Martha realize that what he's doing to all these other women is also happening to HER? How many times can she hear that he'll marry her after their next job?
There are scenes that stand out for their content, and scenes that stand out for their technique. Among the former are the scenes with Bunny [Doris Roberts, who later went on to be Ray's mother on Everybody Loves Raymond], who one could argue is responsible for the entire situation. It is she who submits Martha's name to the lonely hearts club, and it is her who actually first tells Raymond that Martha is going to kill herself. Then there is the shocking scene in which Martha leaves her elderly mother at home to die while she runs off to be with Raymond. The mother's bitter rage/sudden reversal and begging/bitter damnation is shocking, true, and desperately pathetic all at once. "Unforgettable" is a word too often applied to movies, but for me this scene is truly unforgettable. And this is only the first 20 minutes!
The performances are also astonishing. Shirley Stoler--I don't even know how well she's acting, because her character is such a powerhouse that it's hard to tell. To me she is utterly convincing. Tony Lo Blanco is a good actor, all narcissism, menace and sociopathy, and the film could not have the impact it does if he was not a LEGITIMATE SEX BOMB [just wait for the swimsuit scene]. He makes it very easy to see why all of these women would fall for him--and why you would still consider staying with him even if you knew what a slime he was.
And then there are all the individual women, each of whom stand out clearly from each other. There is an undercurrent of black humor to the film. You can't help but laugh and marvel at the women because are all so astonishingly pathetic, and yet there is a simultaneous feeling of pity and pain for them, because they're all SO PATHETIC. Of all of them, Mary Jane Higby as Janet Fay stands out for the moving vulnerability of her affection for Ray, the hilarity of the scenes demonstrating her cheapness, the persistence of her arguments during her fight with Martha, and the real terror she seems to be feeling as she begs for her life. The brutality of her murder is truly shocking.
The technique on display in this film is also electrifying. This is said to be Truffaut's favorite American film. I would LOVE to know what Hitchcock thinks about it, as many of the scenes are very Hitchcockian. The shots are often strange and off-kilter, for example, expressing Ray's cunning by showing only his mouth, or placing the character to the extreme right or left of a shot. There are several very long takes that are executed so well you may not even notice. The scene showing just the eyes of Delphine Downing as she watches helpless as Ray and Martha discuss shooting her is one of the highlights of the entire film. And throughout the film the light is either overexposed or perfectly balanced in such a way as to deliver a sense somewhere between menace and documentary. Furthermore, Kastle is able to suffuse the movie with an overwhelming sense of sex and violence, without showing a great deal of either. All the more surprising when one realizes that this is his first and only film.
This really is unlike any film I have ever seen. Everything is perfectly in place and delivers an experience that is both moving, funny, and deeply discomfiting. When you think about the horror and action films of the past 30 years, and all the stories and images they have included, for a film like this to maintain the power to truly shock is quite an achievement. Please, please watch this."
Manipulative affection in drama-documentary...
Kim Anehall | Chicago, IL USA | 01/29/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Honeymoon killers is based on the true events that took place during the late 40s when a heavy nurse, Martha Beck begins to exchange letters with the sly and manipulative Raymond Fernandez who she met through an add in a Lonely Hearts club. Raymond uses the club to con lonely women, but it turns out that Raymond and Martha have something in common. Together the two begin to pick victims and steal women's savings, which eventually leads to murder. Honeymoon Killers is a monstrous story that reveals the dark nature of Martha's passion for Raymond as they tour east USA leaving a trail of corpses. Yet, it is a sad story as Martha is incapable of recognizing their failing love as she desires the need to feel loved by Raymond. Honeymoon Killers is a black and white drama-documentary that leaves the audience with a good, yet mind numbing cinematic experience."
Wil-n-Tally | Tallahassee, FL United States | 08/16/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For years I had to watch a pan and scan video of this dark, sad movie. Now Criterion has released an enhanced widescreen DVD which is like a Holy Grail for lovers of this underground cult classic. This film makes the list of classic murderous, hetro couples genre along with BONNIE AND CLYDE, BADLANDS, THE GETAWAY and GUN CARZY. Ray Fernandez is a hot looking Latin stud; he fleeces lonley women who respond to his ad in the type of Lonely Hearts correspondence club found in the back pages of seedy magzines. He only takes their money and their hearts until he hooks up with a fat, miserable nurse named Martha. While pretending to be brother and sister, they go on a murderous spree as they hook up with spinsters, widows and an ugly assortment of women who look for love in the wrong place. Although there is only two scenes of actual violence, this is one of the most violent movies I have ever seen due to the ruthlessness, and cold blooded greed of Ray and Martha. It's dark, violent, and extremely brutal; not recommended for the squeamish."
Sleazy but captivating
Bomojaz | South Central PA, USA | 05/28/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It seems nobody told the two leading actors (Shirley Stoler and Tony Lo Bianco) in this crime drama that it was a low-budget affair, because they act as strongly as if they were in a major blockbuster. Stoller plays an obese nurse from Alabama looking for love; what she finds through a lonelyhearts correspondence club (today it would be Myspace) is Lo Bianco, a Spanish immigrant in NYC. They write to each other, and then he comes to visit her. He steals her money - that's his racket - but she sticks by him anyway, and they team up to bilk other desperate women in the same way. It gets pretty gruesome after that, with Stoler turning into a jealous murderer after Lo Bianco marries Marilyn Chris. The atmosphere throughout the picture is frighteningly claustrophobic, and, again, Stoler and Lo Bianco give all they've got in their roles. The Mahler score also fits in well with the action. Thematically it's fairly low-brow, but the acting and gritty photography make up for that."