B Movie Challenge: The Honeymoon Killers

Marriage is a tough thing. Think of all those counselors raking in all that money the newlyweds were given as wedding gifts (except for Aunt May, who regifted an old footbath). It’s also a beautiful circle of life kind of thing. Feelings in a marriage come and go continuously like the ring on your… well, ring finger; a constant circle that never ends (kind of what it feels like watching bad movies). Even in the best marriages, the first year can be the hardest (preach, Brother). Just ask Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck, The “Lonely Hearts” killers, who were suspected of killing up to twenty people in the first years of their supposed marriage. Most couples find it hard to admit they (CENSORED) their first year together, let alone, trying to avoid capital punishment (you know, the ol’ ball ‘n’ chain). With such a wild story it surprised no one that they turned this into a shotgun wedding of celluloid marital monstrosity called The Honeymoon Killers (I now pronounce you man and prisoner #8967584). 

The casting of the film is one of the highlights of this fairly decent production, which has some (pretty) ugly scenes (like a bridesmaid’s dress) and characters. Tony Lo Bianco (who went on to be in The French Connection and God Told Me To!) and Shirley Stoker (who went on to be in The Deer Hunter and Grumpier Old Men) steal almost every frame they are in. Lo Bianco is such a shady grifter, and Stoker’s patheticness makes you empathize so strongly with her character, you forget the sleaze and schlock of the film’s exploitative nature of true-life crimes (the real crime is it was not recognized during award season. Always a bridesmaid…). Originally lensed under the title Dear Martha by a soon-to-be Academy Award-winning director (more on this drama at the reception), the producers were not happy with how production was going and fired everyone. Eventually, Leonard Kastie was brought on board and the film was finished in enough time for a sweet little honeymoon in the Bahamas. The film, made for less than $200,000, eventually brought in $11 million (pop the champagne and give a speech)!

Nurse Martha is a lonely girl, desperate for love and the dreams she sees on TV and in the movies (these are the days of our murderous lives). Just when all hope is lost, here comes Ray, her knight in shining armor, riding a white stead (more like one of the horsemen of the apocalypse). After Ray rips her off (just another notch in his hustler belt) Martha tracks him down and, impressed with her skills, brings her in on his scams. Paulo Coelho said “When we love, we always strive to become better than we are,” and Ray and Martha do strive, killing victim after victim. The only thing is Martha is worried one day she’ll become one of the victims, especially when her jealousy comes to the (head) table. As their schemes get harder and quicker, it is only a matter of time before Martha gets the wedding bell blues (♫ Won’t you murder me, Rayyyyyyyyyyyy?♫) and turns them both into the police. As they get dragged off to prison (with cans attached to the bumper) in the final scene in the movie, Martha receives a letter in jail from Ray, telling her she is the only woman for him (I always cry at weddings).

Mazel-toving your way at 108 minutes, this is Kastie’s (who went on to work in Opera) only feature film and he replaced a young Oscar-winning Martin Scorsese, who was fired when the producers felt he was working too slow (people have regrets in life, even marriages). You can find this film streaming on HBO Max and others, but be sure to get a copy (when they are half off at B & N) of The Criterion Collection disk, with interviews and commentaries. So be on the lookout for some shady nuptials, shove some of that homemade mayonnaise cake in your partner’s mouth (gentleman, never do this), and fall in love with this little honeymoon in Vegas crime caper (you may kiss the bride. Thank you. Thank you, very much).

About Ian Klink

As a filmmaker, writer, and artist, Ian Klink’s work includes the feature film Anybody’s Blues and short stories for Weren't Another Way to Be: Outlaw Fiction Inspired by Waylon Jennings, Negative Creep: A Nirvana-Inspired Anthology, A-Z of Horror: U is for Unexplained, The Creeps, Vampiress Carmilla, The Siren’s Call, and Chilling Tales For Dark Nights. Born and raised in Iowa, Klink lives with his family in Pennsylvania where he shares his talents as a teacher of multimedia studies.

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