The Honeymoon Killers Movie Review

A cinematic oddity seen by few, The Honeymoon Killers is a landmark entry into the shockumentary genre -- the true story of an exceptionally dysfunctional couple who went a-murdering in the 1940s. Raymond Fernandez (played here by smarmy Tony Lo Bianco) was acting alone -- killing women he met through a personals service (and absconding with their wealth) -- and the rotund Martha Beck (Shirley Stoler) would have been his next victim, had she not proven herself equally sociopathic as Raymond. They started plying the killing trade together: Ray would woo the landlady and get her to marry him, Martha would pose as a relative. Eventually they would poison the woman and move on to the next victim. Maybe the next one would get it with a hammer, who knows.

The Honeymoon Killers is a fairly faithful rendition of the Fernandez-Beck affair, and rightly so: It's a story that needs little embellishment. Writer/director Leonard Kastle was a first-timer; he would never make another film, either. His amateurism shows: The sound is atrocious, and the story has odd jumps in it. Kastle's cameraman saves him more than once with inspired setups that sometimes leave the murders to the imagination, and sometimes don't.

No matter, because Honeymoon is all about the spectacle of these freaks as they go progressively more insane on a cross-country murdering spree. And strangely, they're in love -- as much as it's possible to call their relationship a loving one.

It's an equally strange choice for a Criterion release, but the company has taken risks like this before. The impact of The Honeymoon Killers on American cinema is unclear, though John Waters obviously stole a page or two from the film's depiction of an overweight, murderous banshee. A new interview with Kastle is an interesting addition to the disc, and an illustrated essay about the real-life killers and their convictions is equally compelling.


Comments

The Honeymoon Killers Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: NR, 1970

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