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Tagline: One of the most bizarre episodes in the annals of crime.

Cool Dialogue: “If you love me, you’ll do it.”

Pizza: Joe Peeps

Preshow Entertainment: The 14th Annual Young Comedians Special



Scorsese had only made one movie, WHO’S THAT KNOCKING AT MY DOOR, before he started directing THE HONEYMOON KILLERS (1969). But he was too detail oriented, which took too much time away from the production. Within a week, he had exited (on his own volition vs. fired, depending on who is telling the story). The film was made without him, and wound up making the New York Times Top 10 film list in 1970. Truffaut said it was his favorite American film. I can’t help but wonder how Scorsese’s version would have turned out.

THE HONEYMOON KILLERS lacks any professionalism whatsoever, yet in spite of (or perhaps because of) this, it’s gritty and captivating. There are reasons that prestige DVD label Criterion released a remastered edition, including bonus features. One reason is the story, because it’s not really about murders. No, it’s much creepier than that. It’s a story about love. It’s about what can happen when two twisted people meet, fall in love, and feed off each other’s maleficences. We’ve seen it a million times on TV, where it’s more popular than ever to dramatize murder in the form of True Crime documentaries, or what SOUTH PARK calls - Murder Porn. We all know couples like these characters (except for the part about them being murderers); people who love each other yet can’t stop fighting. It’s as if George Costanza’s parents were killers.

honeymoon-killers-png by Random Movie Club
[Click Photo to Enlarge]
The movie is based on the true story of Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck, a/k/a The Lonely Hearts Killers, who preyed upon single women only to fleece and occasionally murder them. Though they were believed to have committed 20 murders in the 1940s (the film places the events in the 1960s), they were tried and convicted of only three. They sizzled to death on the very same day in that famous prison - Sing Sing. This was no small story back then. In fact, the public’s (and police’s) hunger for justice was so furious that Fernandez and Beck were questioned not only without attorneys, but with reporters and photographers present. So famous, compelling, and even fascinating is their story that THE HONEYMOON KILLERS is not the only time it was told on a screen. At least three other movies were made (two called LONELY HEARTS, one called DEEP CRIMSON - see side panel), as well as episodes of such shows as DEADLY WOMEN and COLD CASE.

Alabama nurse Martha Beck (Shirley Stoler), frustrated with life (and perhaps her weight), has anger issues. In the first few minutes of THE HONEYMOON KILLERS, she’d lectured two employees, kicked a wagon off the sidewalk, and threw her bag of pretzels on the floor. She did that after her friend Bunny (believe it or not, played by EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND mom Doris Roberts) encouraged lonely Martha to sign up for a matchmaking-by-mail club, a Lonely Hearts Club. But she does sign up, and that’s how she meets Latin charmer Raymond Fernandez (Tony Lo Bianco, months away from shooting THE FRENCH CONNECTION). Almost immediately, Martha gives Raymond money, and just as fast, he’s gone. But lonely (and insane, though we don’t know that yet) Martha’s had a taste of happiness and she’s not about to let it go. She goes to New York City to see Ray, who tells her everything – he’s a con man who preys on lonely hearts. We see just how sick this relationship is, because…she doesn’t care. She loves him. Enough to abandon caring for her mother (in real life, Martha left her two children) and stay with Ray. So now we have the scam artist and the woman who loves him unconditionally, and it doesn’t take long for her to join in on the crimes. She travels to each mark’s house with Ray, pretending to be his sister. No one ever mentions how this man with a Spanish accent has a sister from Alabama.


Martha’s only human (and insane), so it’s only a matter of time before jealousy sets in and her anger issues rise. And that’s when Raymond and Martha’s murder streak begins. Though the movie only has a few murders, they’re pretty brutal, one physically another psychologically - close-up on one victim’s eyes as she helplessly…because she was drugged…hears Ray and Martha’s plan to kill her, and watches them prepare. We don’t see them, instead we stay on the woman’s eyes, making it even creepier.


As time goes on, Martha’s jealousy doesn’t get any better. Refusing to let Ray sleep with their marks, she becomes furious with just the thought of it. One time, when she catches him, Martha actually tries to kill herself. (I’ve told you twice that she’s insane…maybe next time you’ll listen to me.)

In Albany to visit victim Janet Fay (Mary Jane Higby), Ray and Martha enter the Kenmore Hotel. I’m not sure if that happened in real life, but I do know this - the Kenmore is where gangster Legs Diamond was killed in back in the 30s. Anyway, they convince Janet to relocate to Valley Stream (30 minutes from where I grew up), and it’s here that the most horrific event occurs.

There’s an innocence to the way this film was made, so much so that I found myself forgiving some of the worst acting I’ve seen. That said, Lo Bianco is great as the toupee-wearing Ray, a man who’s always looking for the next scam. When dropping a victim off on a bus, he goes directly to a payphone to call his next victim. As he does so, he checks the coin return for change with such a matter-of-fact unconscious move, it’s as if it were part of the procedure of making a call. How can a murderer seem so normal? Stoler, a bit stiffer, is best when she gets hot-headed (years later, she would play the part of Mrs. Steve on PEE-WEE’S PLAYHOUSE).

This was Director of Photography Oliver Wood’s second movie, and he’s been working steadily ever since, DP-ing on such films as DIE HARD 2, FACE/OFF, the first three BOURNE movies, and most recently, ANCHORMAN 2. Given budgetary limits, Wood shows tons of promise with his stark B & W, and I daresay, “student film” technique. A shot of Lo Bianco descending the stairs comes to mind.

Leonard Kastle, who had never written or directed a movie in his life was practically handed the keys by default. He actually wrote operas. But in many ways, this movie is dramatically operatic, with its wretched characters, barbarous murders, and awfully dark story. THE HONEYMOON KILLERS was put together by Kastle and a TV producer named William Steibel, who was doing FIRING LINE with William Buckley at the time. Not knowing much about movies but wanting to make one, they got a guy to invest what they thought was enough money, but wasn’t. This is one of the reasons Kastle ended up directing (Who are they going to get on that kind of budget, Scorsese?) as well as writing. Having never written a script, Kastle procured screenplays from some of his favorite directors – Fellini, Pasolini, Truffaut…and having never directed a movie, Kastle (I surmise from the info I’ve read) shot a lot in a 1:1 shooting ratio. Kastle and Steibel’s inspiration was Arthur Penn’s BONNIE AND CLYDE, but in reverse. I’ll explain that. They thought BONNIE AND CLYDE was too fake because Beatty and Dunaway were so beautiful. They wanted their movie to be more real, even going so far as to pore through court records from the actual events.


After THE HONEYMOON KILLERS, Kastle wrote another script, WEDDING AT CANA, which he tried to get produced throughout the remainder of his life (even having a reading in 2001, 30 years after he wrote it). I bet he was trying to get it made up until the day he died in 2011.

Lonely Hearts Ads

Preshow Entertainment: The 14th Annual Young Comedians Special

We’ve watched a lot of these. It’s an HBO series that began in the late 70s (when it was called ON LOCATION) and went into the 90s. This installment, hosted by Richard Lewis, was from 1991.

Newcomer Drew Carey (this is his first IMDB credit) was one of the comics and he worked the crowd with confidence. Jeff Stilson was more of the Seinfeld ilk. His material held up well, even though he did the typical relationship stuff. Warren Hutcherson did nothing but black jokes.

HBO 14th Annual Young Comedians

The show was stolen by Jon Stewart and his, even 23 years ago, mostly political humor. Still in his late 20s, he looked like he was ready for his bar mitzvah. He had the sharpest jokes, including this gem: "I masturbate. A lot. And yet I don't floss because it's too much of a hassle. That's where I'm at emotionally. Ten seconds of joy over a lifetime of tooth decay."

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