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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

Posters

Theatrical Release: February 4th, 1970 (USA)

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Comparison:

 The Criterion Collection (Spine # 200) - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Criterion Collection  Region 'A' - Blu-ray vs. Arrow Video - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC LEFT
2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

Box Covers

 

 

 

  

Distribution

The Criterion Collection

Region 0 - NTSC

Criterion Collection - Spine #200 - Region 'A' Blu-ray Arrow Video
Region 'B' - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:47:40 1:47:59.473 1:47:38.285 
Video

1.85:1 Original Aspect Ratio

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

1.85:1 1080P / 23.976 fps Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 48,144,694,007 bytes

Feature: 31,693,670,400 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35..01 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

1.85:1 1080P / 23.976 fps Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 43,523,542,704 bytes

Feature: 31,565,110,656 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35..01 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

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

Bitrate

Bitrate: Criterion Blu-ray

Bitrate: Arrow Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 1.0) LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Subtitles English, None English (SDH), None English (SDH), 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

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

 

1.85:1 1080P / 23.976 fps Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 48,144,694,007 bytes

Feature: 31,693,670,400 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35..01 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Edition Details:

• Interview with writer-director Leonard Kastle from 2003 (29:38)
• Love Letters, a new interview program by Robert Fischer, featuring actors Tony Lo Bianco and Marilyn Chris and editor Stan Warnow (24:59)
• “Dear Martha . . . ,” a new video essay by writer Scott Christianson, author of Condemned: Inside the Sing Sing Death House (22:56)
• Trailer (2:20)
• PLUS: An essay by critic Gary Giddins

Blu-ray Release Date: September 29th, 2015
Transparent Keep case

Chapters:20

Release Information:
Studio: Arrow
 

1.85:1 1080P / 23.976 fps Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 43,523,542,704 bytes

Feature: 31,565,110,656 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35..01 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Edition Details:

Love Letters, a video piece by Robert Fischer featuring actors Tony Lo Bianco and Marilyn Chris and editor Stan Warnow (25:01)
Folie à Deux: Todd Robinson, director of Lonely Hearts, explores the true story of the Lonely Hearts Killers (30:53)
Body Shaming: Todd Robinson explores the film (6:08)
Beyond Morality: Fabrice du Welz, director of Alleluia, discusses the film that inspired him (9:05)
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Jay Shaw

Trailer (2:19)
Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring No Average Killers, Johnny Mains’ extensive new essay on the film and its real-life inspiration, plus archive materials

DVD included!

Blu-ray Release Date: November 9th, 2015
Transparent
Blu-ray case

Chapters: 12

 

 

 

Comments

NOTE: These Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

 

ADDITION: Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray November 15': Exact same 1080P and max'ed out bitrate as well as the same 24-bit linear PCM mono audio transfer as the Criterion. I doubt anyone could distinguish between the two HD presentations.

 

So it comes down to the extras. All four documentaries are from Robert Fischer's amazing Fiction Factory (all start with his logo, anyway) including the repeating Love Letters, the 25-minute interview program featuring actors Tony Lo Bianco and Marilyn Chris and editor Stan Warnow - also found on the Criterion. But unique to this release are Folie à Deux which provides 1/2 hour of Todd Robinson, grandson of one of the original investigating officers, explores the true story of the Lonely Hearts Killers, as dramatized in The Honeymoon Killers and Robinson's own Lonely Hearts (2006.) Body Shaming  has Todd Robinson paying a personal tribute to his film's distinguished predecessor for about 6-minutes. Beyond Morality has Fabrice du Welz, director of Alleluia (2014), discussing the film that inspired his very different treatment of the same story. There is also a trailer. The package has a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Jay Shaw and an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring No Average Killers, Johnny Mains’ extensive new essay on the film and its real-life inspiration, plus archive materials. Being dual-format a second disc DVD is included.

 

Another brilliant Blu-ray treatment of this intriguing film. I can't determine one being superior than the other. Arrow continue at their wonderful high levels. Region 'B' audiences should be extremely pleased - another very strong recommendation!

 

***

 

ADDITION: Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray September 15': The Criterion Blu-ray is advertised as "a new 4K digital restoration'. It's significantly brighter than the old SD transfer - looking a bit tighter, and with far more impressive contrast. It's authentically thick and supports the grain structure. The visuals are very clean with no damage. It appears to look as good as it can and there is more information in the frame than the 2003 DVD. It is dual-layered with a max'ed out bitrate and presents very pleasingly in-motion.

 

The audio also remains authentic with a linear PCM mono track at 1152 kbps. This is probably where the original production had some weakness with the clarity of the audio but it sounds much better than the DVD - consistent and tighter. There are optional English subtitles and the Blu-ray disc is region 'A'-locked.

 

Criterion include some new extras but include their own 2003, 1/2 hour, interview with writer-director Leonard Kastle where he talks about about his lone film, why he hasn’t made another since. New, we get Love Letters, a new 25-minute interview program by Robert Fischer from his Fiction Factory, featuring actors Tony Lo Bianco and Marilyn Chris and editor Stan Warnow. “Dear Martha . . . ,” is a new 23-minute video essay by writer Scott Christianson, author of Condemned: Inside the Sing Sing Death House. It includes rare photos, clippings, and documents from Martha Beck and Ray Fernandez's trial and incarceration. There is also a trailerand the package contains a liner notes booklet with an essay by critic Gary Giddins.

 

A film that further impresses each time you see it - always fascinating. The Blu-ray offers exceptional value with the new extras and the 4K restoration transfer. A very easy recommendation. Buy with confidence.

***

ON THE DVD: 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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2) Blu-rays BOTTOM

 

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Box Covers

 

 

 

  

Distribution

The Criterion Collection

Region 0 - NTSC

Criterion Collection - Spine #200 - Region 'A' Blu-ray Arrow Video
Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 

 




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