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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New interview with writer/director Leonard Kastle
  • Illustrated essay by Scott Christianson (Condemned: Inside the Sing Sing Death House) on the true crime story of "Lonely Hearts Killers" Ray Fernandez and Martha Beck
  • Original theatrical trailer

The Honeymoon Killers

2003 Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Leonard Kastle, Martin Scorsese
Starring: Shirley Stoler, Tony Lo Bianco
1969 | 108 Minutes | Licensor: Euro-London Films

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $29.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #200 | Out of print
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: July 22, 2003
Review Date: September 23, 2015

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SYNOPSIS

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 a lonely heart will go to find true love, from brutally immoral killings to a passion that transcends all bounds.

Forum members rate this film 7.5/10

 

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PICTURE

Leonard Kastle’s lone feature film, The Honeymoon Killers, is presented on DVD by The Criterion Collection on a dual-layer disc in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and enhanced for widescreen televisions. The high-definition transfer comes from a 35mm fine-grain master positive.

When this was originally announced I didn’t hold out a lot of hope for it considering its ultra-low budget, independent nature, and age, but was very surprised by what I got. Though damage is still present it really could have been a lot worse and it looks as though a lot of work has gone into fixing it. There are marks and scratches, tram lines, and various frame jumps and pulsing issues, but I was honestly expecting far worse and the damage present isn’t all that heavy. It has held up rather well.

The digital transfer itself also holds up nicely. Compression is pleasantly handled and isn’t an issue, and details are still fairly high (though it’s still nowhere near as detailed as the new Blu-ray Criterion is releasing). Contrast looks okay though I found the blacks maybe a little too heavy, drowning out some details here and there, but on the whole it still looks nice.

Though the release itself is over ten years old it still holds up rather nicely, its only real issue being the restoration isn’t as thorough as we’re probably used to now.

8/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The DVD presents a Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track. Limited by its age and shooting conditions the audio is quite tinny and hollow. The whole track sounds edgy and music can be especially harsh. Dialogue is mostly audible and clear but there are times where I needed to turn on the subtitles initially. Background noise is also present. I feel all that could have been done with it at the time was done, and it’s about as good as it gets (the current Blu-ray also sounds similar).

5/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion puts out a modest little economy edition for the film, the lone big video feature being a new interview with director Leonard Kastle, running a little over 29-minutes. Kastle, who had previously written operas, decided to get into filmmaking after being disgusted with Bonnie and Clyde, where the film seemed to glamourize violence with its pretty actors and style. He gives background information on how The Honeymoon Killers came to be from that, and the painful process of finding a director. After going through a few (including Martin Scorsese, who was fired for basically wasting film and taking too long, shooting things like beer cans in bushes) Kastle ended up taking over. He of course covers the limitations of low budget filmmaking, but they made do what they have. Amusingly the one thing they “splurged” on, a professional to do the blood effects in the hammer scene, ended up leading to them going to some real low level effects that ended up working better than what the professional had set up. Kastle covers its eventual distribution and the success it saw, showing up on various “best of” lists and seeing François Truffaut calling it his favourite film. Kastle has a tendency to “toot his own horn” despite him saying that that’s not what he’s trying to do, specifically when he gets into writing how shots should be done (though he admits that he owes a lot to cinematographer Oliver Wood, who was actually brought on by Scorsese) but he shares some great stories and keeps the entire thing lively and entertaining.

Criterion then includes an essay by Scott Christianson called ”Dear Martha…” that goes over the actual case and the following media blitz. Set up as a gallery you can page through, it presents a large collection of notes on the subjects while also providing a fairly large collection of photos, documents, and letters, which are all given decent close-ups so you can read what has been written. The film obviously took liberties and it’s nice to get some of the cleared up here. It’s fairly extensive and engrossing, making it a great addition to the release.

Criterion then provides a biography section providing short bios for key members of the cast and crew. Hidden in here you’ll also find the original press book for the film. You get a large photo of the front and inside (made to look like a newspaper) followed by close-ups of the various photos and their captions scattered about. There’s also a theatrical trailer and an essay by Gary Giddins, covering the film’s history and going over what he feels makes it effective.

It’s again a rather modest little release but the material here is at least good, all worth going through.

4/10

CLOSING

Though a new Blu-ray edition clearly tops this older release (at least in video and supplements) I have to say it still holds up fairly well. It does present a surprisingly strong digital transfer and a decent selection of supplements.


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