Honeymoon Killers (1970) - Leonard Kastle

The Honeymoon Killers is a nasty little piece of trim that cuts like a knife and stings like an electric razor to the groin. Martha Beck is an oversize Alabama nurse desperate for love and marriage. Raymond Hernandez is a smooth-talking con artist eager for a quick lay and an easy mark. Grab a pot, stir, add water and you have a nice strong mutually supportive relationship not to mention one of the largest murder sprees in American history.

You know the drill. Boy meets girl, girl falls in love, boy shows girl pictures of all girls he has wooed and married and cheated out of financial solvency before killing, girl says all right not bad bet you I can do you one better let’s go on rampage, boy says cool, boy and girl embark on a killing spree heretofore unrivaled in terms of either geographic scope or godless iniquity, girl gets jealous and turns boy in, girl and boy go to jail, boy and girl repent and write each other from separate prison cells apologizing for any harm they may have caused, girl and boy get electrocuted.

Simple, right? If only this were Mississippi Burning. Written and directed by a professional composer named Leonard Kastle following the departure of first director Martin Scorsese over budgetary concerns, the film refuses to judge its star-crossed lovers any more than a geriatric would a gallstone. If love is the answer, then ritual killing is a close second; violence is a fact of life and, as in life like in bed, sometimes it comes in spurts.

Kastle is a serious filmmaker, unafraid to track a homeless man defecating or cut away when the suggestion of an abrupt stabbing proves more powerful than a full-screen entry wound. Ray and Martha plot, kill, poison, and in one scene, hammer in heads of unsuspecting victims with glee, but the violence is never excessive, the camera never lingers too long. Rather, like a steely conductor, Kastle prefers to focus on the lovers themselves, mining tension in every glance, distrust in every spat, adding saltpeter to already lethal mix of plutononium and potassium nitrate.

Some films make you laugh. Other films just make you tired, angry, ready to hurt yourself or others. Honeymoon Killers is neither. The acting is heavy. The score is ominous to brooding. The sex, though off-screen, is implicitly hot. It’s your life. If you want to sit home all day and examine your johnson, by all means enjoy. If you want rent sick flick that literally grabs you by the shirtcuffs and tosses you across the room like a poor, confused child, then you’ve come to the right place. Highly recommended.

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