The Honeymoon Killers


1h 46m 1970
The Honeymoon Killers

Brief Synopsis

A lonely nurse and her gigolo lover murder a string of widows.

Film Details

Also Known As
Dear Martha, The Lonely Hearts Killers
MPAA Rating
Genre
Romance
Crime
Thriller
Release Date
Jan 1970
Premiere Information
New York opening: 4 Feb 1970
Production Company
Roxanne Co.
Distribution Company
Cinerama Releasing Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 46m
Color
Black and White, Color

Synopsis

When Martha Beck, an unmarried, 200-pound nurse in a Mobile, Alabama, hospital, sends her name in to a lonely hearts club, she receives a letter from Spanish immigrant Ray Fernandez. A meeting is arranged, and Martha is immediately attracted to the suave gigolo. She persuades Ray to invite her to stay at his home in New York, where he tells her of his practice of using his appearance and charm to persuade middle-aged women to part with their money. Soon Martha, posing as Ray's sister, joins her new lover in his travels. They start by swindling Doris, a New Jersey schoolteacher, but soon Martha's jealousy causes her to add murder to their list of crimes. When Ray marries Myrtle Young, a pregnant Arkansas woman, to obtain $4,000 for legitimizing the baby, Martha gives the woman an overdose of sleeping pills. Later, in Albany, Martha bludgeons to death rich widow Janet Fay while Ray strangles her. In Grand Rapids, Michigan, they move in with Delphine Downing, an attractive widow with a 2-year-old daughter, but when Ray gets the widow pregnant, the insanely jealous Martha shoots her and drowns the child. Aware that Ray has been consistently unfaithful to her, Martha telephones the police and discloses the murders. While awaiting trial, Martha and Ray correspond with each other, still avowing their love.

Film Details

Also Known As
Dear Martha, The Lonely Hearts Killers
MPAA Rating
Genre
Romance
Crime
Thriller
Release Date
Jan 1970
Premiere Information
New York opening: 4 Feb 1970
Production Company
Roxanne Co.
Distribution Company
Cinerama Releasing Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 46m
Color
Black and White, Color

Articles

The Gist (The Honeymoon Killers)


"Ray and Martha are in love. They're on a honeymoon. The bride is in the trunk." -Tagline from the one-sheet for The Honeymoon Killers, 1970 from Cinerama

On March 8, 1951 two criminals were executed via the electric chair at Sing Sing prison. The first was Raymond Fernandez followed minutes later by his lover, Martha Beck. The notorious pair were known all over the world as "The Lonely Hearts Killers".

During the period of about a year starting in 1948, Beck and Fernandez would meet unsuspecting and lonely females via "lonely heart" letters; women would correspond in an attempt to meet and build a romantic relationship, hopefully resulting in marriage. Fernandez would "marry" these women (with Beck pretending to be Raymond's sister) and subsequently rob and often murder them. Ironically, it was through this correspondence that Martha met Raymond. It was a match made in hell.

Martha Beck was a lonely, heavyset nurse with two children who led a very sad existence, one that revolved around reading romance novels, trashy True Confession-type pulps, going to movies and working at the hospital. She decided to submit her profile to a "lonely hearts club" and after a long period, received a response. It was then that she met Raymond Fernandez, a handsome Spaniard who wrote that he was a wealthy businessman who had come to America in search of new business endeavors. Of course, all of this was a lie. However, Martha herself had lied in her own profile; hiding the fact that she had two children and was quite overweight.

Martha was instantly enamored with Raymond and proved she would do anything to be with him; even attempting suicide after Raymond had written to her saying she had "misunderstood his feelings for her." It was then that Raymond allowed her to visit him in New York City and learned that he did enjoy her company. After losing her nursing job, Martha abandoned her children and began to live with Raymond. It was then that Raymond unveiled to her how he made his "living", through duping and fleecing vulnerable, lonely women. Martha became his partner in crime and the couple quickly began a cross country spree of con jobs, robbery and murder.

The couple was arrested on February 28, 1949. They confessed to their life of crime, complete with all of the sordid details of sex and violence that seemed straight out of a sleazy pulp novel. A sensational trial followed, with Beck and Fernandez achieving almost celebrity status. The press was obsessed with the issue of Beck's weight and the lurid details of the couple's sex life. When Beck took the stand on July 25, 1949 she said, "I loved him enough to do anything he asked me to!" Spectators were so fascinated by the unsavory details of the case that there were virtual riots with people trying to push their way into the courtroom. Ultimately, the jury found Beck and Fernandez guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced them to die in the electric chair. Up until the very end, the couple professed their love for each other, still corresponding via letters before their executions.

It was inevitable that such a bizarre and intense story would find its way to movie screens. In the late sixties, producer Warren Steibel and a young opera writer named Leonard Kastle set the wheels in motion for a big screen version of Raymond and Martha's obsessive and deadly love story. Unimpressed with the then-current crime drama, Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and its attractive, glamorous lead characters and almost romanticized view of crime, Kastle set out to make a film that was the antithesis of this, an "anti-Bonnie and Clyde". In his film, Kastle wanted to show crime and its perpetrators as an ugly, vicious thing; to show its lead characters as a pair of desperate, pathetic and un-glamorous people.

The result was The Honeymoon Killers, released in 1970, starring two New York stage actors, Tony Lo Bianco and Shirley Stoler as Raymond and Martha. The low-budget film was filmed in black and white and utilized a very un-Hollywood, independent approach to filmmaking; almost all of the film was shot on locations, using natural lighting. As it has been noted in many resources, this style gave the film the unusual quality of a sleazy tabloid magazine come to life which was completely appropriate for the subject material.

In an interview, Stoler complimented cinematographer Oliver Wood's approach to the visual look of the film; "If any one person were to take responsibility for the quality of The Honeymoon Killers, it would have to be the cinematographer, Oliver Wood. He loved very long takes and, with lighting, likes that diffused look. He didn't do anything to cover the lamps or dim the light, preferring whatever was naturally there. There's one scene where the two women are in bed, Martha slapping the other woman, and suddenly the screen went black. Everyone thought the film broke. But then a lamp turns on, as Tony Lo Bianco sits in a dark room. That was just one of Oliver's ideas. I thought he was brilliant - he created that film, especially the look of it, which tried for that pulp-ish True Detective quality."

The excellent and unusual assortment of actresses cast in the film also provided a realistic edge to the look and tone of the film. Stoler fondly recalled working with the actors; "...the chemistry of casting was very good. The actors seemed to be reacting to the situations in the film as they would react to the same situations in real life. Tony Lo Bianco, playing Martha Beck's lover, Ray Fernandez, was especially good. I would say that the filmmakers used Tony's ego, although he didn't know it, to arrive at the character. You can tell by the way he walks through scenes. Mary Jane Higby, who played Janet Fay, was fabulous. She used to be in soap operas in radio. She knew exactly what she was doing, an absolute master."

Producer: Paul Asselin, Warren Steibel
Director: Leonard Kastle
Screenplay: Leonard Kastle
Cinematography: Oliver Wood
Film Editing: Richard Brophy, Stanley Warnow
Cast: Shirley Stoler (Martha Beck), Tony Lo Bianco (Raymond Fernandez), Mary Jane Higby (Janet Fay), Doris Roberts (Bunny), Kip McArdle (Delphine Downing), Marilyn Chris (Myrtle Young).
BW-106m. Letterboxed.

by Eric Weber
The Gist (The Honeymoon Killers)

The Gist (The Honeymoon Killers)

"Ray and Martha are in love. They're on a honeymoon. The bride is in the trunk." -Tagline from the one-sheet for The Honeymoon Killers, 1970 from Cinerama On March 8, 1951 two criminals were executed via the electric chair at Sing Sing prison. The first was Raymond Fernandez followed minutes later by his lover, Martha Beck. The notorious pair were known all over the world as "The Lonely Hearts Killers". During the period of about a year starting in 1948, Beck and Fernandez would meet unsuspecting and lonely females via "lonely heart" letters; women would correspond in an attempt to meet and build a romantic relationship, hopefully resulting in marriage. Fernandez would "marry" these women (with Beck pretending to be Raymond's sister) and subsequently rob and often murder them. Ironically, it was through this correspondence that Martha met Raymond. It was a match made in hell. Martha Beck was a lonely, heavyset nurse with two children who led a very sad existence, one that revolved around reading romance novels, trashy True Confession-type pulps, going to movies and working at the hospital. She decided to submit her profile to a "lonely hearts club" and after a long period, received a response. It was then that she met Raymond Fernandez, a handsome Spaniard who wrote that he was a wealthy businessman who had come to America in search of new business endeavors. Of course, all of this was a lie. However, Martha herself had lied in her own profile; hiding the fact that she had two children and was quite overweight. Martha was instantly enamored with Raymond and proved she would do anything to be with him; even attempting suicide after Raymond had written to her saying she had "misunderstood his feelings for her." It was then that Raymond allowed her to visit him in New York City and learned that he did enjoy her company. After losing her nursing job, Martha abandoned her children and began to live with Raymond. It was then that Raymond unveiled to her how he made his "living", through duping and fleecing vulnerable, lonely women. Martha became his partner in crime and the couple quickly began a cross country spree of con jobs, robbery and murder. The couple was arrested on February 28, 1949. They confessed to their life of crime, complete with all of the sordid details of sex and violence that seemed straight out of a sleazy pulp novel. A sensational trial followed, with Beck and Fernandez achieving almost celebrity status. The press was obsessed with the issue of Beck's weight and the lurid details of the couple's sex life. When Beck took the stand on July 25, 1949 she said, "I loved him enough to do anything he asked me to!" Spectators were so fascinated by the unsavory details of the case that there were virtual riots with people trying to push their way into the courtroom. Ultimately, the jury found Beck and Fernandez guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced them to die in the electric chair. Up until the very end, the couple professed their love for each other, still corresponding via letters before their executions. It was inevitable that such a bizarre and intense story would find its way to movie screens. In the late sixties, producer Warren Steibel and a young opera writer named Leonard Kastle set the wheels in motion for a big screen version of Raymond and Martha's obsessive and deadly love story. Unimpressed with the then-current crime drama, Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and its attractive, glamorous lead characters and almost romanticized view of crime, Kastle set out to make a film that was the antithesis of this, an "anti-Bonnie and Clyde". In his film, Kastle wanted to show crime and its perpetrators as an ugly, vicious thing; to show its lead characters as a pair of desperate, pathetic and un-glamorous people. The result was The Honeymoon Killers, released in 1970, starring two New York stage actors, Tony Lo Bianco and Shirley Stoler as Raymond and Martha. The low-budget film was filmed in black and white and utilized a very un-Hollywood, independent approach to filmmaking; almost all of the film was shot on locations, using natural lighting. As it has been noted in many resources, this style gave the film the unusual quality of a sleazy tabloid magazine come to life which was completely appropriate for the subject material. In an interview, Stoler complimented cinematographer Oliver Wood's approach to the visual look of the film; "If any one person were to take responsibility for the quality of The Honeymoon Killers, it would have to be the cinematographer, Oliver Wood. He loved very long takes and, with lighting, likes that diffused look. He didn't do anything to cover the lamps or dim the light, preferring whatever was naturally there. There's one scene where the two women are in bed, Martha slapping the other woman, and suddenly the screen went black. Everyone thought the film broke. But then a lamp turns on, as Tony Lo Bianco sits in a dark room. That was just one of Oliver's ideas. I thought he was brilliant - he created that film, especially the look of it, which tried for that pulp-ish True Detective quality." The excellent and unusual assortment of actresses cast in the film also provided a realistic edge to the look and tone of the film. Stoler fondly recalled working with the actors; "...the chemistry of casting was very good. The actors seemed to be reacting to the situations in the film as they would react to the same situations in real life. Tony Lo Bianco, playing Martha Beck's lover, Ray Fernandez, was especially good. I would say that the filmmakers used Tony's ego, although he didn't know it, to arrive at the character. You can tell by the way he walks through scenes. Mary Jane Higby, who played Janet Fay, was fabulous. She used to be in soap operas in radio. She knew exactly what she was doing, an absolute master." Producer: Paul Asselin, Warren Steibel Director: Leonard Kastle Screenplay: Leonard Kastle Cinematography: Oliver Wood Film Editing: Richard Brophy, Stanley Warnow Cast: Shirley Stoler (Martha Beck), Tony Lo Bianco (Raymond Fernandez), Mary Jane Higby (Janet Fay), Doris Roberts (Bunny), Kip McArdle (Delphine Downing), Marilyn Chris (Myrtle Young). BW-106m. Letterboxed. by Eric Weber

Insider Info (The Honeymoon Killers) - BEHIND THE SCENES


The original title for the film was Dear Martha, in reference to Raymond's letters to Martha. Cinerama wanted to go with a more "exploitative" title, hence leading to the more sensational The Honeymoon Killers.

Director Martin Scorsese was the original director for the film, but was fired due to "creative differences". He was replaced with Donald Volkman who was subsequently replaced by Leonard Kastle.

According to Stoler and Kastle, actress Marilyn Chris tried out for the role of Martha Beck. She wasn't quite what they were looking for, so Chris suggested Stoler. However, Marilyn Chris was still used in the film, cast as the doomed Myrtle Young (the wife poisoned via pills administered by Beck).

- The story of Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez has been filmed several times since the release of The Honeymoon Killers: Lonely Hearts (1991) with Beverly D'Angelo and Eric Roberts, the Spanish languageDeep Crimson (1996) and, most recently, Lonely Hearts (2006) with Salma Hayek and Jared Leto.

Compiled by Eric Weber

SOURCES:
AFI
NYT review
Cult Movies by Danny Peary
imagesjournal.com
www.criterion.com
en.wikipedia.org
home.comcast.net/~flickhead/Shirley-Stoler.html
mleddy.blogspot.com
www.notcoming.com
dvdmg.com/honeymoonkillers.shtml
www.crimelibrary.com
www.speakersinternational.com/celebrities/lo_bianco_tony/
www.current.org

Insider Info (The Honeymoon Killers) - BEHIND THE SCENES

The original title for the film was Dear Martha, in reference to Raymond's letters to Martha. Cinerama wanted to go with a more "exploitative" title, hence leading to the more sensational The Honeymoon Killers. Director Martin Scorsese was the original director for the film, but was fired due to "creative differences". He was replaced with Donald Volkman who was subsequently replaced by Leonard Kastle. According to Stoler and Kastle, actress Marilyn Chris tried out for the role of Martha Beck. She wasn't quite what they were looking for, so Chris suggested Stoler. However, Marilyn Chris was still used in the film, cast as the doomed Myrtle Young (the wife poisoned via pills administered by Beck). - The story of Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez has been filmed several times since the release of The Honeymoon Killers: Lonely Hearts (1991) with Beverly D'Angelo and Eric Roberts, the Spanish languageDeep Crimson (1996) and, most recently, Lonely Hearts (2006) with Salma Hayek and Jared Leto. Compiled by Eric Weber SOURCES: AFI NYT review Cult Movies by Danny Peary imagesjournal.com www.criterion.com en.wikipedia.org home.comcast.net/~flickhead/Shirley-Stoler.html mleddy.blogspot.com www.notcoming.com dvdmg.com/honeymoonkillers.shtml www.crimelibrary.com www.speakersinternational.com/celebrities/lo_bianco_tony/ www.current.org

In the Know (The Honeymoon Killers) - TRIVIA


The entire soundtrack to the film is from composer Gustav Mahler's "Symphony No. 6 in A minor- Tragic".

Emmy Award-winning actress Doris Roberts (best known for TV's Everybody Loves Raymond) plays the role of Bunny, Martha's friend who innocently submits Martha's name to the "lonely hearts" club.

The role of Martha Beck was probably actress Shirley Stoler's most well known part. She went on to play another memorably villainous character in Lina Wertmuller's Seven Beauties (1975), in which Stoler played a grotesque Nazi commandant. The actress would later play bit part character roles in various films like Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), Frankenhooker (1990) and Miami Blues (1990). Her most curious appearances would be as Mrs. Steve, a recurring role on the Saturday morning live-action show, Pee-wee's Playhouse!

French director Francois Truffaut said The Honeymoon Killers was "his favorite American film."

This is director Leonard Kastle's sole directorial attempt. To date, this is the only film he has made.

Two separate rock bands called The Honeymoon Killers, one based in New York City, the other in Belgium, were named after the film.

Compiled by Eric Weber

SOURCES:
AFI
NYT review
Cult Movies by Danny Peary
imagesjournal.com
www.criterion.com
en.wikipedia.org
home.comcast.net/~flickhead/Shirley-Stoler.html
mleddy.blogspot.com
www.notcoming.com
dvdmg.com/honeymoonkillers.shtml
www.crimelibrary.com
www.speakersinternational.com/celebrities/lo_bianco_tony/
www.current.org

In the Know (The Honeymoon Killers) - TRIVIA

The entire soundtrack to the film is from composer Gustav Mahler's "Symphony No. 6 in A minor- Tragic". Emmy Award-winning actress Doris Roberts (best known for TV's Everybody Loves Raymond) plays the role of Bunny, Martha's friend who innocently submits Martha's name to the "lonely hearts" club. The role of Martha Beck was probably actress Shirley Stoler's most well known part. She went on to play another memorably villainous character in Lina Wertmuller's Seven Beauties (1975), in which Stoler played a grotesque Nazi commandant. The actress would later play bit part character roles in various films like Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), Frankenhooker (1990) and Miami Blues (1990). Her most curious appearances would be as Mrs. Steve, a recurring role on the Saturday morning live-action show, Pee-wee's Playhouse! French director Francois Truffaut said The Honeymoon Killers was "his favorite American film." This is director Leonard Kastle's sole directorial attempt. To date, this is the only film he has made. Two separate rock bands called The Honeymoon Killers, one based in New York City, the other in Belgium, were named after the film. Compiled by Eric Weber SOURCES: AFI NYT review Cult Movies by Danny Peary imagesjournal.com www.criterion.com en.wikipedia.org home.comcast.net/~flickhead/Shirley-Stoler.html mleddy.blogspot.com www.notcoming.com dvdmg.com/honeymoonkillers.shtml www.crimelibrary.com www.speakersinternational.com/celebrities/lo_bianco_tony/ www.current.org

Yea or Nay (The Honeymoon Killers) - CRITIC REVIEWS OF "THE HONEYMOON KILLERS"


Responses to The Honeymoon Killers:

"...The Honeymoon Killers has something else - a more concentrated, less cluttered, clearer vision than you are likely to have found in even the best conventional crime movies. Unusually seedy in all its particulars, utterly unflattering to all its characters, sufficiently horrible (but never gratuitously shocking) in the details of its murders, Kastle's film succeeds as a kind of chamber drama of desperate attraction and violent death."
– Roger Greenspun, New York Times, February 5, 1970.

"Shot in cruel black and white....the movie's a claustrophobic triumph of ambience, all high-watt lightbulbs, vinyl seat covers, polyester prints, canned sound, abrupt explosions of Mahler, and overall clamminess."
- Michael Atkinson, Village Voice

"Much of the genius of Kastle's first (and, to date, only) film comes from its ability to keep throwing sympathy in the direction of its monstrous protagonists, giving them hopelessly square victims prone to singing "America the Beautiful" in the bath or taking a future husband and sister-in-law out for a luxurious dinner at an old-folks cafeteria....Kastle's willingness to throw in such taboo-flouting moments of black comedy (usually to the strains of Gustav Mahler) often makes The Honeymoon Killers play like a less obviously tongue-in-cheek version of an early John Waters film. But when it erupts into violence, the laughs stop cold. That nauseous mixture of laughs and shocks, and the fact that real passion drives Kastle's characters even when they plot against each other, is what makes The Honeymoon Killers such an enduring one-off.
- Keith Phillips, The Onion AV Club

"One of the most astonishing independent films of the past 40 years. It's uncompromising and brutal. It's stark and unsettling. Filmed in documentary-style in black and white, The Honeymoon Killers looks terrifyingly real. You feel guilty while you're watching it, as if you're peeking through a keyhole and seeing things you were never meant to see."
- Gary Johnson, Images: A Journal of Film and Popular Culture

"The Honeymoon Killers is a fantastic – if somewhat overlooked – piece of fact-based entertainment; it works as a reminder of one of America's most infamous murder sprees, and it tells the tale with remarkable tenacity and restraint."
- Scott Weinberg, The Apollo Movie Guide

"The most striking achievement about the movie is that writer-director Kastle makes no concessions to audience's expectations. Here is a coherent film, and a first one at that, that refused to make any compromises--marketability, aesthetics, or morality. A classic independent film, The Honeymoon Killers is as chilly and scary as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986). It is a testament to the film's integrity that 23 years after it was made, its edge, intensity and impact are still very much in evidence."
- Film critic Emanuel Levy, emanuellevy.com

"The lurid title promises cheap thrills, but prepare yourself. This unjustly neglected sleeper has not lost its disturbing power to shock...harrowing, but essential viewing."
- VideoHound's Complete Guide to Cult Flicks and Trash Pics

"*** stars. Low-budget item has deservedly developed a cult reputation over the years."
- Leonard Maltin's Movie & Video Guide

"Made on a very low budget...made with care, authenticity and attention to detail. The acting throughout the film never falters."
- Variety Movie Guide, edited by Derek Elley

"Stoler and Lo Bianco (and, in a wonderful supporting performance as the pair's final victim, veteran actress Mary Jane Higby) triumph over the occasional distraction of the low production values. Not all of the performers fare so well; in particular, the victims, for instance, tend to overact so they seem amateurish. Within the film's framework, their deaths almost appear punishment for being so annoying. Is it funny? Of course it is. But it's ghastly, too. The uneasy mix of the funny and the grotesque pulls you both ways."
- Jake Euker, PopMatters

Compiled by Eric Weber

Yea or Nay (The Honeymoon Killers) - CRITIC REVIEWS OF "THE HONEYMOON KILLERS"

Responses to The Honeymoon Killers: "...The Honeymoon Killers has something else - a more concentrated, less cluttered, clearer vision than you are likely to have found in even the best conventional crime movies. Unusually seedy in all its particulars, utterly unflattering to all its characters, sufficiently horrible (but never gratuitously shocking) in the details of its murders, Kastle's film succeeds as a kind of chamber drama of desperate attraction and violent death." – Roger Greenspun, New York Times, February 5, 1970. "Shot in cruel black and white....the movie's a claustrophobic triumph of ambience, all high-watt lightbulbs, vinyl seat covers, polyester prints, canned sound, abrupt explosions of Mahler, and overall clamminess." - Michael Atkinson, Village Voice "Much of the genius of Kastle's first (and, to date, only) film comes from its ability to keep throwing sympathy in the direction of its monstrous protagonists, giving them hopelessly square victims prone to singing "America the Beautiful" in the bath or taking a future husband and sister-in-law out for a luxurious dinner at an old-folks cafeteria....Kastle's willingness to throw in such taboo-flouting moments of black comedy (usually to the strains of Gustav Mahler) often makes The Honeymoon Killers play like a less obviously tongue-in-cheek version of an early John Waters film. But when it erupts into violence, the laughs stop cold. That nauseous mixture of laughs and shocks, and the fact that real passion drives Kastle's characters even when they plot against each other, is what makes The Honeymoon Killers such an enduring one-off. - Keith Phillips, The Onion AV Club "One of the most astonishing independent films of the past 40 years. It's uncompromising and brutal. It's stark and unsettling. Filmed in documentary-style in black and white, The Honeymoon Killers looks terrifyingly real. You feel guilty while you're watching it, as if you're peeking through a keyhole and seeing things you were never meant to see." - Gary Johnson, Images: A Journal of Film and Popular Culture "The Honeymoon Killers is a fantastic – if somewhat overlooked – piece of fact-based entertainment; it works as a reminder of one of America's most infamous murder sprees, and it tells the tale with remarkable tenacity and restraint." - Scott Weinberg, The Apollo Movie Guide "The most striking achievement about the movie is that writer-director Kastle makes no concessions to audience's expectations. Here is a coherent film, and a first one at that, that refused to make any compromises--marketability, aesthetics, or morality. A classic independent film, The Honeymoon Killers is as chilly and scary as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986). It is a testament to the film's integrity that 23 years after it was made, its edge, intensity and impact are still very much in evidence." - Film critic Emanuel Levy, emanuellevy.com "The lurid title promises cheap thrills, but prepare yourself. This unjustly neglected sleeper has not lost its disturbing power to shock...harrowing, but essential viewing." - VideoHound's Complete Guide to Cult Flicks and Trash Pics "*** stars. Low-budget item has deservedly developed a cult reputation over the years." - Leonard Maltin's Movie & Video Guide "Made on a very low budget...made with care, authenticity and attention to detail. The acting throughout the film never falters." - Variety Movie Guide, edited by Derek Elley "Stoler and Lo Bianco (and, in a wonderful supporting performance as the pair's final victim, veteran actress Mary Jane Higby) triumph over the occasional distraction of the low production values. Not all of the performers fare so well; in particular, the victims, for instance, tend to overact so they seem amateurish. Within the film's framework, their deaths almost appear punishment for being so annoying. Is it funny? Of course it is. But it's ghastly, too. The uneasy mix of the funny and the grotesque pulls you both ways." - Jake Euker, PopMatters Compiled by Eric Weber

The Honeymoon Killers


"Ray and Martha are in love. They're on a honeymoon. The bride is in the trunk." -Tagline from the one-sheet for The Honeymoon Killers, 1970 from Cinerama

On March 8, 1951 two criminals were executed via the electric chair at Sing Sing prison. The first was Raymond Fernandez followed minutes later by his lover, Martha Beck. The notorious pair were known all over the world as "The Lonely Hearts Killers".

During the period of about a year starting in 1948, Beck and Fernandez would meet unsuspecting and lonely females via "lonely heart" letters; women would correspond in an attempt to meet and build a romantic relationship, hopefully resulting in marriage. Fernandez would "marry" these women (with Beck pretending to be Raymond's sister) and subsequently rob and often murder them. Ironically, it was through this correspondence that Martha met Raymond. It was a match made in hell.

Martha Beck was a lonely, heavyset nurse with two children who led a very sad existence, one that revolved around reading romance novels, trashy True Confession-type pulps, going to movies and working at the hospital. She decided to submit her profile to a "lonely hearts club" and after a long period, received a response. It was then that she met Raymond Fernandez, a handsome Spaniard who wrote that he was a wealthy businessman who had come to America in search of new business endeavors. Of course, all of this was a lie. However, Martha herself had lied in her own profile; hiding the fact that she had two children and was quite overweight.

Martha was instantly enamored with Raymond and proved she would do anything to be with him; even attempting suicide after Raymond had written to her saying she had "misunderstood his feelings for her." It was then that Raymond allowed her to visit him in New York City and learned that he did enjoy her company. After losing her nursing job, Martha abandoned her children and began to live with Raymond. It was then that Raymond unveiled to her how he made his "living", through duping and fleecing vulnerable, lonely women. Martha became his partner in crime and the couple quickly began a cross country spree of con jobs, robbery and murder.

The couple was arrested on February 28, 1949. They confessed to their life of crime, complete with all of the sordid details of sex and violence that seemed straight out of a sleazy pulp novel. A sensational trial followed, with Beck and Fernandez achieving almost celebrity status. The press was obsessed with the issue of Beck's weight and the lurid details of the couple's sex life. When Beck took the stand on July 25, 1949 she said, "I loved him enough to do anything he asked me to!" Spectators were so fascinated by the unsavory details of the case that there were virtual riots with people trying to push their way into the courtroom. Ultimately, the jury found Beck and Fernandez guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced them to die in the electric chair. Up until the very end, the couple professed their love for each other, still corresponding via letters before their executions.

It was inevitable that such a bizarre and intense story would find its way to movie screens. In the late sixties, producer Warren Steibel and a young opera writer named Leonard Kastle set the wheels in motion for a big screen version of Raymond and Martha's obsessive and deadly love story. Unimpressed with the then-current crime drama, Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and its attractive, glamorous lead characters and almost romanticized view of crime, Kastle set out to make a film that was the antithesis of this, an "anti-Bonnie and Clyde". In his film, Kastle wanted to show crime and its perpetrators as an ugly, vicious thing; to show its lead characters as a pair of desperate, pathetic and un-glamorous people.

The result was The Honeymoon Killers, released in 1970, starring two New York stage actors, Tony Lo Bianco and Shirley Stoler as Raymond and Martha. The low-budget film was filmed in black and white and utilized a very un-Hollywood, independent approach to filmmaking; almost all of the film was shot on locations, using natural lighting. As it has been noted in many resources, this style gave the film the unusual quality of a sleazy tabloid magazine come to life which was completely appropriate for the subject material.

In an interview, Stoler complimented cinematographer Oliver Wood's approach to the visual look of the film; "If any one person were to take responsibility for the quality of The Honeymoon Killers, it would have to be the cinematographer, Oliver Wood. He loved very long takes and, with lighting, likes that diffused look. He didn't do anything to cover the lamps or dim the light, preferring whatever was naturally there. There's one scene where the two women are in bed, Martha slapping the other woman, and suddenly the screen went black. Everyone thought the film broke. But then a lamp turns on, as Tony Lo Bianco sits in a dark room. That was just one of Oliver's ideas. I thought he was brilliant - he created that film, especially the look of it, which tried for that pulp-ish True Detective quality."

The excellent and unusual assortment of actresses cast in the film also provided a realistic edge to the look and tone of the film. Stoler fondly recalled working with the actors; "...the chemistry of casting was very good. The actors seemed to be reacting to the situations in the film as they would react to the same situations in real life. Tony Lo Bianco, playing Martha Beck's lover, Ray Fernandez, was especially good. I would say that the filmmakers used Tony's ego, although he didn't know it, to arrive at the character. You can tell by the way he walks through scenes. Mary Jane Higby, who played Janet Fay, was fabulous. She used to be in soap operas in radio. She knew exactly what she was doing, an absolute master."

Producer: Paul Asselin, Warren Steibel
Director: Leonard Kastle
Screenplay: Leonard Kastle
Cinematography: Oliver Wood
Film Editing: Richard Brophy, Stanley Warnow
Cast: Shirley Stoler (Martha Beck), Tony Lo Bianco (Raymond Fernandez), Mary Jane Higby (Janet Fay), Doris Roberts (Bunny), Kip McArdle (Delphine Downing), Marilyn Chris (Myrtle Young).
BW-106m. Letterboxed.

by Eric Weber

The Honeymoon Killers

"Ray and Martha are in love. They're on a honeymoon. The bride is in the trunk." -Tagline from the one-sheet for The Honeymoon Killers, 1970 from Cinerama On March 8, 1951 two criminals were executed via the electric chair at Sing Sing prison. The first was Raymond Fernandez followed minutes later by his lover, Martha Beck. The notorious pair were known all over the world as "The Lonely Hearts Killers". During the period of about a year starting in 1948, Beck and Fernandez would meet unsuspecting and lonely females via "lonely heart" letters; women would correspond in an attempt to meet and build a romantic relationship, hopefully resulting in marriage. Fernandez would "marry" these women (with Beck pretending to be Raymond's sister) and subsequently rob and often murder them. Ironically, it was through this correspondence that Martha met Raymond. It was a match made in hell. Martha Beck was a lonely, heavyset nurse with two children who led a very sad existence, one that revolved around reading romance novels, trashy True Confession-type pulps, going to movies and working at the hospital. She decided to submit her profile to a "lonely hearts club" and after a long period, received a response. It was then that she met Raymond Fernandez, a handsome Spaniard who wrote that he was a wealthy businessman who had come to America in search of new business endeavors. Of course, all of this was a lie. However, Martha herself had lied in her own profile; hiding the fact that she had two children and was quite overweight. Martha was instantly enamored with Raymond and proved she would do anything to be with him; even attempting suicide after Raymond had written to her saying she had "misunderstood his feelings for her." It was then that Raymond allowed her to visit him in New York City and learned that he did enjoy her company. After losing her nursing job, Martha abandoned her children and began to live with Raymond. It was then that Raymond unveiled to her how he made his "living", through duping and fleecing vulnerable, lonely women. Martha became his partner in crime and the couple quickly began a cross country spree of con jobs, robbery and murder. The couple was arrested on February 28, 1949. They confessed to their life of crime, complete with all of the sordid details of sex and violence that seemed straight out of a sleazy pulp novel. A sensational trial followed, with Beck and Fernandez achieving almost celebrity status. The press was obsessed with the issue of Beck's weight and the lurid details of the couple's sex life. When Beck took the stand on July 25, 1949 she said, "I loved him enough to do anything he asked me to!" Spectators were so fascinated by the unsavory details of the case that there were virtual riots with people trying to push their way into the courtroom. Ultimately, the jury found Beck and Fernandez guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced them to die in the electric chair. Up until the very end, the couple professed their love for each other, still corresponding via letters before their executions. It was inevitable that such a bizarre and intense story would find its way to movie screens. In the late sixties, producer Warren Steibel and a young opera writer named Leonard Kastle set the wheels in motion for a big screen version of Raymond and Martha's obsessive and deadly love story. Unimpressed with the then-current crime drama, Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and its attractive, glamorous lead characters and almost romanticized view of crime, Kastle set out to make a film that was the antithesis of this, an "anti-Bonnie and Clyde". In his film, Kastle wanted to show crime and its perpetrators as an ugly, vicious thing; to show its lead characters as a pair of desperate, pathetic and un-glamorous people. The result was The Honeymoon Killers, released in 1970, starring two New York stage actors, Tony Lo Bianco and Shirley Stoler as Raymond and Martha. The low-budget film was filmed in black and white and utilized a very un-Hollywood, independent approach to filmmaking; almost all of the film was shot on locations, using natural lighting. As it has been noted in many resources, this style gave the film the unusual quality of a sleazy tabloid magazine come to life which was completely appropriate for the subject material. In an interview, Stoler complimented cinematographer Oliver Wood's approach to the visual look of the film; "If any one person were to take responsibility for the quality of The Honeymoon Killers, it would have to be the cinematographer, Oliver Wood. He loved very long takes and, with lighting, likes that diffused look. He didn't do anything to cover the lamps or dim the light, preferring whatever was naturally there. There's one scene where the two women are in bed, Martha slapping the other woman, and suddenly the screen went black. Everyone thought the film broke. But then a lamp turns on, as Tony Lo Bianco sits in a dark room. That was just one of Oliver's ideas. I thought he was brilliant - he created that film, especially the look of it, which tried for that pulp-ish True Detective quality." The excellent and unusual assortment of actresses cast in the film also provided a realistic edge to the look and tone of the film. Stoler fondly recalled working with the actors; "...the chemistry of casting was very good. The actors seemed to be reacting to the situations in the film as they would react to the same situations in real life. Tony Lo Bianco, playing Martha Beck's lover, Ray Fernandez, was especially good. I would say that the filmmakers used Tony's ego, although he didn't know it, to arrive at the character. You can tell by the way he walks through scenes. Mary Jane Higby, who played Janet Fay, was fabulous. She used to be in soap operas in radio. She knew exactly what she was doing, an absolute master." Producer: Paul Asselin, Warren Steibel Director: Leonard Kastle Screenplay: Leonard Kastle Cinematography: Oliver Wood Film Editing: Richard Brophy, Stanley Warnow Cast: Shirley Stoler (Martha Beck), Tony Lo Bianco (Raymond Fernandez), Mary Jane Higby (Janet Fay), Doris Roberts (Bunny), Kip McArdle (Delphine Downing), Marilyn Chris (Myrtle Young). BW-106m. Letterboxed. by Eric Weber

The Honeymoon Killers


In 1949 a grisly killing spree was splashed across the papers. Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck, dubbed the "Lonely Hearts" killers because of their penchant for using personals to lure lonely widows to their doom, were convicted of murder and sent to Sing Sing's electric chair in 1951. Although they were only convicted on one charge, it is widely accepted that they may have killed as many as twenty people. TV producer Warren Steibel remembered this infamous couple and asked Leonard Kastle, then a 39-year-old composer known for an opera on Mormons, to do some research and write a script. Their first choice to helm the project was a promising young director by the name of Martin Scorsese, but his personal vision clashed with the producer's desire for a quick turnaround and he left after only a few scenes. Scorsese was replaced with Donald Volkman who, conversely, didn't show the necessary personal drive to finish the project, and Kastle was thus offered the driver's seat.

Although Kastle was an amateur, he had some very strong feelings about another popular film that was making waves around that time; Bonnie and Clyde (1967). Namely, he hated it. He especially didn't like the way the two criminals were portrayed by beautiful stars and how the violence was overly stylized. In his view, this simply romanticized and made martyrs of two genuine villains. Kastle wanted his film, which he had originally titled Dear Martha, to be an anti-Bonnie and Clyde. When a distributor was finally found (with the caveat that the title be changed to The Honeymoon Killers), viewers saw a disturbing story play out in a verite style, shot by cameraman Oliver Wood, that was accentuated by black and white cinematography and using only diegetic light. And the two criminal love birds on display certainly didn't look like glamorous celebrities; they looked like relatively normal people, an odd couple you might find at a thrift store but shy away from making any eye contact with. Shirley Stoler, as Martha Beck, exudes manic jealousy and a ruthless mean streak. Tony Lo Bianco, as Ray Fernandez, balances out his good looks with a sleazy demeanor and a snake-oil charm that leaves one absolutely horrified by film's end.

The film was so disturbing that when it was shown in Britain the censors removed all the violent scenes. Kastle managed to plead his case and essentially pointed out how the censors had made a moral film immoral, because now the crimes were no longer disturbing. Kastle won out, and the scenes were reinserted. As it is, The Honeymoon Killers (1970) now belongs to that raw stock of film-making that made late sixties and early seventies cinema in America so exciting, alongside such low-budget and influential films such as John Cassavetes' Faces (1968) and George Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968). The Criterion dvd of The Honeymoon Killers features a cleaned-up high-definition transfer (but, be warned, there is only so much that can be done with the muddy sound and instances of bad dubbing), a video interview with Kastle (which includes a hilarious description of Scorsese filming a beer can in the bushes), two essays (with archive material so extensive you can even see the hand-written last meal requests by both Martha and Ray), an original theatrical trailer, and cast and crew biographies. With all these perks, any sofa surfer can now get a sense of why, as Gary Giddins observes in his liner notes essay, the films' "fans have included Michelangelo Antonioni and Francois Truffaut."

For more information about The Honeymoon Killers, visit The Criterion Collection. To order The Honeymoon Killers, go to TCM Shopping.

by Pablo Kjolseth

The Honeymoon Killers

In 1949 a grisly killing spree was splashed across the papers. Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck, dubbed the "Lonely Hearts" killers because of their penchant for using personals to lure lonely widows to their doom, were convicted of murder and sent to Sing Sing's electric chair in 1951. Although they were only convicted on one charge, it is widely accepted that they may have killed as many as twenty people. TV producer Warren Steibel remembered this infamous couple and asked Leonard Kastle, then a 39-year-old composer known for an opera on Mormons, to do some research and write a script. Their first choice to helm the project was a promising young director by the name of Martin Scorsese, but his personal vision clashed with the producer's desire for a quick turnaround and he left after only a few scenes. Scorsese was replaced with Donald Volkman who, conversely, didn't show the necessary personal drive to finish the project, and Kastle was thus offered the driver's seat. Although Kastle was an amateur, he had some very strong feelings about another popular film that was making waves around that time; Bonnie and Clyde (1967). Namely, he hated it. He especially didn't like the way the two criminals were portrayed by beautiful stars and how the violence was overly stylized. In his view, this simply romanticized and made martyrs of two genuine villains. Kastle wanted his film, which he had originally titled Dear Martha, to be an anti-Bonnie and Clyde. When a distributor was finally found (with the caveat that the title be changed to The Honeymoon Killers), viewers saw a disturbing story play out in a verite style, shot by cameraman Oliver Wood, that was accentuated by black and white cinematography and using only diegetic light. And the two criminal love birds on display certainly didn't look like glamorous celebrities; they looked like relatively normal people, an odd couple you might find at a thrift store but shy away from making any eye contact with. Shirley Stoler, as Martha Beck, exudes manic jealousy and a ruthless mean streak. Tony Lo Bianco, as Ray Fernandez, balances out his good looks with a sleazy demeanor and a snake-oil charm that leaves one absolutely horrified by film's end. The film was so disturbing that when it was shown in Britain the censors removed all the violent scenes. Kastle managed to plead his case and essentially pointed out how the censors had made a moral film immoral, because now the crimes were no longer disturbing. Kastle won out, and the scenes were reinserted. As it is, The Honeymoon Killers (1970) now belongs to that raw stock of film-making that made late sixties and early seventies cinema in America so exciting, alongside such low-budget and influential films such as John Cassavetes' Faces (1968) and George Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968). The Criterion dvd of The Honeymoon Killers features a cleaned-up high-definition transfer (but, be warned, there is only so much that can be done with the muddy sound and instances of bad dubbing), a video interview with Kastle (which includes a hilarious description of Scorsese filming a beer can in the bushes), two essays (with archive material so extensive you can even see the hand-written last meal requests by both Martha and Ray), an original theatrical trailer, and cast and crew biographies. With all these perks, any sofa surfer can now get a sense of why, as Gary Giddins observes in his liner notes essay, the films' "fans have included Michelangelo Antonioni and Francois Truffaut." For more information about The Honeymoon Killers, visit The Criterion Collection. To order The Honeymoon Killers, go to TCM Shopping. by Pablo Kjolseth

Quotes

Mama, I'm not your little girl!
- Martha Beck

Trivia

Originally to be directed by Martin Scorsese, but he was replaced due to creative differences by Donald Volkman who was subsequently replaced by Leonard Kastle.

Notes

Intended for release by American International Pictures in 1969 as The Lonely Hearts Killers. The working title of this film is Dear Martha. Based on the lives of Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck, who were executed for murder in 1951.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1990

Released in United States 1996

Released in United States August 18, 1985

Released in United States Winter February 1970

Re-released in United States June 26, 1992

Re-released in United States October 16, 1992

Shown at "Truffaut Plus", a Film Society of Lincoln Center Retrospective August 18, 1985.

Shown at Munich Film Festival June 23-July 1, 1990.

Martin Scorsese was initially hired to director but left the project within a few weeks. He was replaced by Donald Volkman who also left in a couple weeks. Leonard Kastle handled the direction of the last four weeks of the shoot.

The cast members took care of their own makeup and hairstyles.

Released in United States 1990 (Shown at Munich Film Festival June 23-July 1, 1990.)

Released in United States 1996 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) as part of program "Out of the Seventies: Hollywood's New Wave 1969-1975" May 31 - July 25, 1996.)

Released in United States Winter February 1970

Re-released in United States June 26, 1992 (Los Angeles)

Released in United States August 18, 1985 (Shown at "Truffaut Plus", a Film Society of Lincoln Center Retrospective August 18, 1985.)

Re-released in United States October 16, 1992 (New York City)