Friday, January 19, 2018

The Honeymoon Killers

Written and directed by Leonard Kastle, The Honeymoon Killers is the story of a lonely and overweight woman who meets and falls for a man who could be a serial killer. The film is based on the real-life stories of Ray Fernandez and Martha Beck as they’re played respectively by Tony Lo Bianco and Shirley Stoler in a film that mixes drama with elements of the documentary. Also starring Marilyn Chris and Doris Roberts. The Honeymoon Killers is a riveting yet unsettling film from Leonard Kastle.

The film follows a lonely nurse whose friend submits her to a lonely hearts club where she meets a man who is revealed to be a con-artist as the two on a scheme to steal money from other lonely women. It’s a film that play into two people who take part in something where they go on a trip around America in conning women all over the country into taking their life savings and more. Leonard Kastle’s screenplay follow the life that Martha Beck was having before she met Ray Fernandez as she was a lonely nursing administrator that was no-nonsense until she gets a response from Fernandez through corresponding letters. Yet, she would deal with what Fernandez does following a time where he doesn’t respond to her letters as she is intrigued by what she does. Especially when she decides to put her mother in a nursing home and send money to her every month while she goes on the road.

Kastle’s direction is definitely engaging for the fact that it’s shot in a somewhat documentary style with its hand-held cameras and lots of close-ups. While the film does feature some work from Martin Scorsese and Donald Volkman during the early stages of the production, it is Kastle who would infuse something that does feel real even though the story is set in the late 1960s rather than the 1940s where the real-life story actually took place. Notably in the way he captures the relationship between Beck and Fernandez as well as using many of the film’s low-budget aesthetics in some of the crude lighting and grainy film stock. Still, Kastle uses these limitations to his advantage as it would play into elements of black humor with the close-ups and medium shots he conveys into the drama. The film’s third act is intense due to the violence where it’s more about the act and presentation rather its emphasis on focusing on the gory details. It all play into the descent of their romance with Beck becoming clingy towards Fernandez as it lead to them taking out their frustrations on those they’re targeting. Overall, Kastle crafts a gripping and ominous film about a couple who go on the road to scheme lonely women out of their money.

Cinematographer Oliver Wood does excellent work with the film’s black-and-white cinematography with its low-grade film stock and crude lighting to play into the grittiness of the film as it has this somewhat-documentary look for the scenes in the day and at night. Editors Stan Warnow and Richard Brophy do terrific work with the editing in creating some straightforward cuts to play into the drama and some of the suspense. The sound work of Fred Kamiel is superb for its naturalistic approach to the sound as it play into some of the dark and violent moments in the film’s third act. The film’s music consists of pieces by Gustav Mahler as it help add to the drama as well as some of the film’s most terrifying moments.

The film’s incredible cast feature some notable small roles from Dortha Duckworth as Martha’s mother, Mary Jane Higby as one of the victims of Beck/Fernandez’s scheme in Janet Fay, Marilyn Chris as one of the first victims of the scheme in Myrtle Young, Kip McArdle as the single mother Deliphine Price Downing, Mary Breen as Downing’s daughter Rachel, and Doris Roberts in a wonderful performance as Martha’s friend Bunny who would sign her up to the Lonely Hearts club. Finally, there’s the duo of Shirley Stoler and Tony Lo Bianco in phenomenal performances in their respective roles as Martha Beck and Ray Fernandez. Stoler provides that sense of loneliness and pent-up anger that emerges as a woman that needed companionship as well as feeling threatened by other women taking Ray from her. Lo Bianco’s performance is more low-key while displaying this air of charm but also frustration when he doesn’t get what he wants while he and Stoler have this chemistry that is just electrifying to watch.

The Honeymoon Killers is a sensational film from Leonard Kastle that features great performances from Shirley Stoler and Tony Lo Bianco. It’s a film that captures a real-life event of killings told in a gritty and grimy style that doesn’t play nice while displaying acts of violence that is about its impact rather than its look. In the end, The Honeymoon Killers is an incredible film from Leonard Kastle.

© thevoid99 2018

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