The Honeymoon Killers (1969) | The one-of-a-kind cult true crime classic restored and back on the pull
The gritty black and white 1969 indie crime thriller, The Honeymoon Killers, had all the hallmarks of a truly forgettable film – scratchy sound, incongruous classical music, grainy camerawork, and some dodgy acting – but it all works to create what has become one of the great cult true crime films.
Filmed in a raw, fly-on-the wall style, the film centres on frustrated nurse Martha Beck (Shirley Stoler), who gets signed up her bossy, but well-meaning friend Bunny (Doris Roberts) to a Lonely Hearts club, where she meets Spanish lothario Raymond Fernandez (Tony Lo Bianco). Quickly sussing out Ray’s using the club to swindle mature women out of their savings, the smittened Martha decides to join him on the con, but on one condition – that he never sleeps with any of their intended victims…
Imagine Bonnie & Clyde as though filmed by Paul Morrissey (during his Factory days with Andy Warhol), with a script by John Waters, and a lead actress who could be Divine’s twin sister and you’d have this subversive thriller in a nutshell. Now the scenario is certainly bleak, cynical and cruel, but there’s also bags of humanity thrown into the mix and that’s down to the commanding performances of Stoler and LoBianco who bring to their matronly Martha and the muscular Ray a genuine sense of sympathy. There’s also a subtle touch of comedy, especially in the characterisations of the women being swindled.
Watching the coupling of these sociopaths unfold (as though shot on candid camera) is both gripping and frightening as it makes their amoral deeds (which eventually turn to murder) all more ghastly. But ultimately, you can’t help but feel for Martha, loathsome as she is, who just wanted to be loved.
Famously, the film’s screenwriter Leonard Kastle (who was actually an opera composer) took over as director when the original was fired. Amazingly, that was Martin Scorsese – so you can only imagine how different the film may have looked had he completed it. But I’m rather please that he didn’t…
The Honeymoon Killers is out now on Blu-ray and DVD from Arrow in the UK following a 4K restoration drawn from the the original 35mm camera negative, and includes the original mono audio remastered from the 35mm magnetic track and optional subtitles.
THE BONUS FEATURES
• Love Letters: a video piece featuring actors Tony Lo Bianco and Marilyn Chris and editor Stan Warnow
• Folie à Deux: Director Todd Robinson explores the true story of the Lonely Hearts Killers
• Body Shaming: Todd Robinson explores the film
• Beyond Morality: Fabrice du Welz, director of Alleluia, discusses the film that inspired him
• Booklet featuring an essay on the film and its real-life inspiration, plus archive materials
Posted on December 17, 2015, in American Indie, Cult classic, Must See, Must-See, Thriller and tagged American Indie, Leonard Kastle, Martha Beck, Martin Scorsese, Must See, Shirley Stoler, The Honeymoon Killers, The Lonely Hearts Killers, Thriller, True Crime. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.