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(aka "Dear Martha" or "The Lonely Hearts Killers")


directed by Leonard Kastle and Donald Volkman
USA 1969


Martha Beck (Shirley Stoler) is sullen, overweight and heartbreakingly alone. Desperate for affection, she joins Aunt Carrie’s Friendship Club and strikes up a correspondence with Ray Fernandez (Tony Lo Bianco), a suave, charismatic smooth talker who could be the man of her dreams—or a wicked con artist bound for trouble. Based on a true story and filmed in documentary-style black and white, The Honeymoon Killers is a stark portrayal of the desperate lengths to which a lonely heart will go to find true love, from brutally immoral killings to a passion that transcends all bounds.


The movie follows the killers from just before their meeting (through a lonely hearts club correspondence) until just before their trial. Although it takes only the slightest (and most essential) liberties with the facts of the Beck-Fernandez case, "The Honeymoon Killers" is basically a fiction film of a type virtually unknown in recent years, except as transmuted in the myth-making romanticism of, say, a "Bonnie and Clyde." Within the limits of its type it is one of the best and, curiously, most beautiful American movies in recent years....

But "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.

Excerpt of review from Roger Greenspun located HERE


Theatrical Release: February 4th, 1970 (USA)

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DVD Review: The Criterion Collection (Spine # 200) - Region 0 - NTSC

DVD Box Cover

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The Criterion Collection

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:47:40

1.85:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 7.87 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: The Criterion Collection

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.85:1

Edition Details:
• Interview with writer/director Leonard Kastle (29:36)
• Illustrated essay by Scott Christianson
• Original theatrical trailer
• Biographies of the Film's Participants
• Original Press Book
• Fully Illustrated Booklet

DVD Release Date: July 22nd, 2003
Keep Case

Chapters 21

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When a film is championed by the likes of Michelangelo Antonioni and François Truffaut (with the latter calling it the best American film that he had ever seen), you can be reasonably sure that you're in store for a special work of art. Thankfully, Leonard Kastle's "The Honeymoon Killers" does not disappoint. While it occupies the true-life crime drama genre, the film, which tells the story of the cross country con/killing spree of Martha Beck and Ray Fernandez, is less interested in the lurid details of the murders than it is in the motivations and intricacies of the relationship between its two protagonists. What we get then is something far less slick and stylized than Arthur Penn's then recent "Bonnie and Clyde" and instead a film that perfectly balances the macabre and the mundane, noir and the absurd; in short, a masterpiece.

While it won't be mistaken for one of their best efforts, Criterion's anamorphic transfer of the film does a nice balancing act of cleaning up the image, while maintaining the original gritty look of Kastle's vision. The black and white cinematography generally looks quite beautiful here, with the pulpy and somewhat grainy image looking true to the presentation that theatergoers probably got in 1970. There's little visible damage and no artifacting to speak of. On the whole, pretty darn good.

As per Criterion policy of the day, the disc comes with a competent, but uninspiring English language Dolby Digital 1.0 track. There really are no problems to speak of (dialogue is clear, no background noises), but just don't expect to be wowed by it. Optional English subtitles are also included.

The disc comes with a generous amount of extras. First we get a lengthy (approximately 30 minutes) interview with Kastle, where he discusses his career, the making of the film, and several other topics. Those interested in the film will undoubtedly find this informative. Next, there's an illustrated essay entitled "Dear Martha" in which true-crime author Scott Christianson traces the exploits of the real life Honeymoon Killers. Next, there's the original press book, with the film's trailers, and biographies of the film's stars rounding the package out.

This is one of Criterion's most criminally underrated packages, and has what are probably the loveliest menus in the collection. Do yourself a favor and pick it up. Very, very highly recommended.




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Region 0 - NTSC



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