The Honeymoon Killers (1970)

honeymoon killers poster 1970 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 8/10

Fun tacky, sleazy, trashy feel

Weak acting, so-so visuals

Movie Info

Movie Name:   The Honeymoon Killers

Studio:   AIP

Genre(s):  Drama/Mystery/Suspense/Romance/B-Movie

Release Date(s):   February 4, 1970

MPAA Rating:   R

honeymoon killers martha beck raymond fernandez shirley stoler tony lo bianco

Hey…I got an idea on how we can make some money!

Martha Beck (Shirley Stoler) lives a lonely life. When her friend Bunny (Doris Roberts) puts Martha’s name in to a “lonely hearts” dating club, Martha meets Raymond Fernandez (Tony Lo Bianco) who could be the answer to her dreams. Raymond is a grifter and has been using the lonely hearts club to meet his potential victims, but Martha could change all that. When Raymond and Martha team up, the grifts get more and more dangerous.

Written and directed by Leonard Kastle, The Honeymoon Killers is a true-crime film based on the murders committed by Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck between 1947 to 1949. Originally intended to be directed by Martin Scorsese (who was working too slow), the subject matter led it to be ban in some countries.  The low budget movie found critical acclaim and a cult following including François Truffaut. The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #200).

honeymoon killers drowning martha beck raymond fernandez tony lo bianco shirley stoler

The passion!

True crime and grindhouse-esque films go hand in hand. The movie really ramps up the “trash” aspect of the two characters and with over-the-top acting, the film crossover from real drama to surreal melodrama…and it works.

The movie is based on real events but did change things up. The story was modernized (for the time) and a lot of the events were glossed over including more about the background of Beck and Fernandez. The movie also changes the ending of the story for a more moral choice (from a rather amoral person). As a work of historical fiction, it doesn’t necessarily work, but as sheer entertainment, it is a fun film.

The cast is also low budget, but everything swirls together and works. Shirley Stoler and Tony Lo Bianco are good as the characters despite acting which is very unnatural, and many of the “lonely hearts” they rob are also strong. I particularly like Mary Jane Higby who becomes the first intentional murder victim of the killers…she plays the perfect spinster woman. There is also a small role by everyone’s favorite mother/grandmother Doris Roberts as Martha’s friend Bunny.

honeymoon killers isnt it cute maryjane higby

Wait…this isn’t cuuuuute!

The movie looks low budget, but this adds to the style of the film. It has a sleazy feel as a result and the unconventional cast adds to it along with the story. It doesn’t feel a lot like other movies from the time and seems to rise above a typical grindhouse (it also does it minus the gratuitous grindhouse nudity).  The movie is often noted for its realism and naturalism in its vision.

The Honeymoon Killers feels influential when you watch it. Not surprisingly, John Waters lists it as one of his favorite films (and you could substitute Divine for Shirley Stoler), and you can see aspects of the film and story in films like Natural Born Killers. It is cheap, grimy, slimy, low budget, and a guilty pleasure…but something about the film connects.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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