Though it was pre-produced by Martin Scorsese, who left the project after arguments with the producers, The Honeymoon Killers
wound up being written and directed by Leonard Kastle, one of cinema's great one-hit wonders. The Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
of 1969, The Honeymoon Killers
follows hefty nurse Martha Beck (Shirley Stoler, who looks like a humourlessly malevolent Roseanne) and her low-rent gigolo lover Raymond Fernandez (Tony Lo Bianco) as they take up serial murder for profit and passion, luring middle-aged women into marriage through lonely-hearts ads, then killing them and raiding their savings. Based on a genuine crime case history, it is filmed in the candid-camera style of a Frederick Wiseman documentary. The intense scenes (such as the couple's frightening love-play: escalating arguments that end in awkward killings) unfold with a fly-on-the-wall dryness, showcasing the extraordinary acting of the leads and their cameo victims. A rare film in which genuine romantic love does not excuse the central couple's amoral behaviour, this still manages to generate some sympathy for the truly monstrous Martha. The washed-out black and white photography and sometimes scratchy soundtrack (the score is sampled from Mahler) have a deliberately amateurish feel which adds to the film's chilling power, lodging it into the memory.
On the DVD: Along with a lurid trailer and gallery of images are filmographies for Stoler, Lo Bianco and (redundantly) Kastle. The widescreen transfer is excellent, representing perfectly the film's rough-hewn look but also bringing out a lot of detail--like Stoler's freckles, which have looked like grain on video releases. --Kim Newman