02 August 2014

The Honeymoon Killers (1969)
108 min.
Directed by Leonard Kastle.
With Tony Lo Bianco, Shirley Stoler, Doris Roberts, Mary Jane Higby, Kip McArdle, Marilyn Chris, Dortha Duckworth, Barbara Cason, Ann Harris.
Energized by a pair of masterful performances from Stoler and Lo Bianco, and boasting an effectively subdued atmosphere, The Honeymoon Killers is a triumph of low budget filmmaking.

Registered nurse Martha Beck (Stoler) is dour, middle-aged and overweight.

So she's thrilled when she meets handsome catch Ray Fernandez (Lo Bianco) via a Lonely Hearts correspondence club.

The two strike up a budding romance. But Martha discovers studly Ray is nothing more than a skilled gigolo out to woo his ladies, and then abscond with their bank savings! (Well, nobody's perfect, Martha decides.)

Soon, the two lovers have developed a sinister - but lucrative - method of fiscal survival; Ray lures lonely women out on dates and proposes marriage to them, while Martha pretends to be his caring sister.

Then, they take the women's savings and murder them without conscience. Ah, true love!

Based on the real life killings committed by Beck and Fernandez in the late 1940s (they're believed to have murdered approximately 20 different women), Honeymoon Killers belongs to an elite handful of drive-in style revelations, such as Deranged (1974) and Dead People (1973).

Which is to say, it's a confident addition to the horror genre: exceedingly well made, expertly acted, and competently directed.

Stoler is a joy to watch, her frumpy frame and sadsack demeanor no match for her unique brand of fiery, knitted-brow determinism. Likewise, Lo Bianco disappears into the role of Ray, a suave and charming playboy with his eye always on fattening his wallet.

Together, the duo form a combustible maelstrom that proves mesmerizing, heartbreaking, and shocking, all at once.

A must see. Also known as The Lonely Hearts Killers.

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