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The Honeymoon Killers - Criterion Collection [DVD] [1970] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

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Region 1 encoding. (requires a North American or multi-region DVD player and NTSC compatible TV. More about DVD formats)
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The Honeymoon Killers - Criterion Collection [DVD] [1970] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] + Carnival of Souls (Digitally remastered in colour) [DVD] [1962]
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Product details

  • Actors: Shirley Stoler, Tony Lo Bianco, Mary Jane Higby, Doris Roberts, Kip McArdle
  • Directors: Donald Volkman, Leonard Kastle
  • Writers: Leonard Kastle
  • Producers: Paul Asselin, Warren Steibel
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, DVD-Video, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: R (Restricted) (US MPAA rating. See details.)
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: 22 July 2003
  • Run Time: 108 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00009MEA3
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 173,865 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)



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

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Richard Bowden on 4 July 2007
Format: DVD
When fledgling director Martin Scorsese was removed from his first project after spending too much time on master shots, the film's scriptwriter, sometime opera composer Leonard Kastle eventually stepped into the breach. Like Howard Hawks before him, who had made Rio Bravo (1959) as a reaction against the perceived moral falsities of High Noon (1952), Kastle had also written his screenplay as a riposte to an earlier film. After seeing Bonnie And Clyde (1967), he felt that the glamorous crime duo in Penn's film bore little resemblance to reality. For his own treatment he settled on another notorious pairing from the annals of American crime: that of Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez, the 1940s' slayers dubbed by contemporary tabloids as 'The Lonely Hearts Killers', who met their due judicial end in San Quentin in 1951.

The Honeymoon Killers, as his film was finally called, is an account of Beck and Fernandez and their growing relationship during their notorious murder spree. Fernandez was a con man who preyed on spinsters, promising matrimony and then absconding with their savings. Once linked with Beck, his activities took a fatal turn and matters were complicated by their growing attachment. In fact, Kastle originally intended his film to be called 'Dear Martha', taking as its centre Martha's emotional engagement with her lover, rather than the cold facts of their crimes. It was the producers who ultimately opted for the more lurid title in an attempt to exploit the likely marquee appeal. In some ways it is apt, as we see Ray and Martha (introduced as his 'sister') meet and exploit several vulnerable women or discussing marriage with them before despatching with increasing levels of callousness, either before or after the event.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mr. B. Fraser on 11 Mar 2007
Format: DVD
This minor masterpiece is indeed thought provoking; it chronicles the nefarious and sinister activities of the'Lonely Heart Killers' a very real and true story that occured in the United States in the late '40's.

Killer couples have been around a long time, this film shot in stark and grainy black and white,shows how several wealthy women were despatched by this murdering pair.

Surprisingly graphic and disturbing scenes in the film, Shirley Stoller (as) Martha Beck, is particularly good in her portrayal as an overweght and extremely callous nurse. Recommended for the stout hearted.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By M. Dowden HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 31 Jan 2010
Format: DVD
This film from 1969 is a stark look at the lives of Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck, otherwise known by the press as 'the lonely hearts killers'. This film seems to hover between a documentary style along with a normal amateur movie, and is shot in grainy black and white, which gives it an added atmosphere; it is really quite good. Shirley Toler and Tony Lo Bianco who play the leads are quite believable as the evil pair.

Although only convicted for three murders it was rumoured at the time and is usually assumed that there were a lot more than this. This film sticks quite closely to the facts and doesn't sensationalize the story as so often happens nowadays. Raymond is a man who cons women out of money and valuables with the promise of mariage, but things change when he comes across Martha Beck. The two set themselves up as brother and sister to fool their victims, who they are quite prepared to dispose of if things don't go right. Although this film was originally classified at a high viewing age it really should be dropped to a 15 certificate for these days.

This is well worth viewing if you are into true crime stories and is a cult classic. If you look on the internet you can find more out about the couple and their executions, also I believe there are a couple of books on the case.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jacques COULARDEAU on 16 Dec 2010
Format: DVD
I here compare this film with its remake Lonely Hearts (2006).

The two films go together since the former is a remake of the latter. They have to be watched together, one after the other, no matter in what order. The story is pathetic and pitiful. A man takes advantage of the loneliness of some women to literally "abduct" them from sanity and "infect" them with infatuation, which enables him to clean them up of their possessions. But one really falls in love and she abducts him from sanity and infects him with her jealousy into killing the women on whose backs they live. A killing couple, supposedly brother and sister, who skim and milk the crowd of solitary and lonely middle class women.

The older film (1969) in black and white was a small budget thriller and it shows how jealousy is mounting and building up in the woman and how she manipulates the man into becoming a killer, till the moment she discovers he is a liar. Then she will cause his downfall herself and her own at the same time. Pure jealousy confronted to a lying partner in a situation that can only give birth to extreme jealousy. It is not easy to be a female pimp of a male gigolo. But the man and the woman are both perfectly composed and logical till the end. The beginning though seems too slow.

The more recent film (2006) shifts the vision of the criminal situation from a more or less objective unidentified abstract observer to a team of two cops following the murderers and the bloody trail they leave behind. And the observer is the partner of the main detective. This film shifts the criminal idea from pure jealousy in the woman to insanity in the man. He is a killer instead of being a manipulated gigolo.
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