A couple of truly revolting, sleazeball, human scum prey relentlessly and mercilessly upon the most desperate, pathetic, and lonely women who are looking for love and companionship.
The film is based on a true story of Raymond Martinez Fernandez and Martha Jule Beck an American serial killer couple who are believed to have killed as many as 20 women during their murderous spree between 1947 and 1949. They became known as "The Lonely Hearts Killers" for meeting their victims through lonely hearts ads in Romance magazines. Hawaiian born Fernandez served a stint in Spain's Merchant Marine and then British Intelligence during World War II during which a steel hatch fell on top of him, fracturing his skull and injuring his frontal lobe. This injury may well have affected both his judgement and his social and sexual behavior. He eventually moved to New York City and began a lucrative con business answering personal ads posted by lonely women. He would wine and dine them, then steal their money and possessions. Most were too embarrassed to report the crimes. In 1947, he answered a personal ad placed by Martha Beck.
Martha Seabrook due to a glandular problem as a child was overweight and underwent puberty prematurely. Martha studied nursing but had trouble finding a job due to her weight. She was undertaker's assistant and prepared female bodies for burial. She moved to California, where she worked in an Army hospital as a nurse, there she became pregnant. The father refused to marry her, and she returned to Florida and had a child. She became pregnant again and married a Pensacola bus driver named Alfred Beck but divorced six months later. She found employment at the Pensacola Hospital for Children and found escape in the fantasy world of Romcoms, Romance mags, and novels. She placed a Lonely Hearts ad in 1947 that was answered by Raymond Fernandez.
|Ray Fernandez (Tony Lo Bianco)composing his letter|
In The Honeymoon Killers the story is updated to the 1960s and the film begins with an overweight, chocolate gobbling, Martha Beck (Shirley Stoler) sloging away working as a head nurse in Mobile, Alabama rather than Pensacola. She lives alone with her mother (she has no kids in the film version). A friend, Bunny (played by Doris Roberts) writes in Martha's name to a "lonely hearts" club ad. Ray Fernandez (Tony Lo Bianco) a professional con artist lothario who has been preying on lonely women for quite some time has his scam down to a science. He filters out the most susceptible women. He answers Martha's letter, writing that this is his "first" foray into the Lonely Hearts Club world, and that he has never ever done this before. This is his standard M.O., he writes the same letter to all his marks, it;s his hook.
|Martha Beck (Shirley Stoler) reading Ray's letter|
|Mother, Bunny and Martha|
|Ray Seduces Martha|
|Ray skedaddles back to New York with Martha's money|
|Ray gets a call from Martha who tells him she tried to commit suicide when he left|
|Martha about to do something "special"|
Ray visits Martha and seduces her. Ray doing his usual shtick gets some loot from Martha and skedaddles. Martha distraught and desperate calls Ray at the of Bunny and tells him she tried to commit suicide when he left. Ray touched by such devotion tells Martha that she'll have to get rid of her mother and come to New York if she wants to be with him. Martha dumps her mother in a nursing home follows Ray to New York. Tony reveals to Martha his true profession and she begins to assist him in selecting his victims, writing his letters, and accompany him on his jobs. He passes her off as his sister. Martha smoothly slides into the grift.
|While a victim bathes....|
|Martha and Ray steal her money and jewels|
Lonely lady after lonely lady are seduced by the slick and suave attentions of Ray who promises Martha he will never sleep with any of the other women. Things get complicated when he marries a pregnant woman Myrtle Young (Marilyn Chris). Myrtle and Martha sleep in one room while Tony sleeps next door. Myrtle is a pretty horny bride and she sneaks off to the other room where Ray is sleeping to jump his bones, all the while Martha is pretending to sleep.
|Myrtle, Ray, Martha|
|Myrtle tries to make it with Ray....|
|...while Martha spies on them|
Their next victim is the elderly Janet Fay of Albany, New York, (Mary Jane Higby). They go up to Albany and check into a hotel. They go and meet Janet and after getting acquainted for a few days they drive her to the house he shares with Martha in Valley Springs, Long Island. There Martha and Ray put their plan into action.
Ray on blank sheets of paper has Janet write "SURPRISE" and then sign her name at the bottom of the sheets. He tells her that he will mail the letters to all her friends and that when they get the letters they will all call each other to ask about what the surprise is. Later after they are married, he and Janet will call her friends and tell them that they are married and that that was the surprise. In reality they white out the Surprise and will use the signed sheets to conduct whatever business they need to.
|Albany Hotel Kenmore|
|Martha eavesdropping Janet and Ray|
|In the basement making plans while Janet is locked out upstairs|
|"It's OK Janet the door is stuck I'll go around to the outside basement door"|
|Nothing like sex after murder|
|Janet's grave in the basement of the Valley Springs house|
Ray and Martha plant Janet down in the basement tossing into the hole on top of her body the two pictures of Jesus that Janet as Martha declares sarcastically "always took with her." The two dirtbags then hop in their sled and head off to Michigan and their next victim. They spend a few months living with Rainelle Downing (Mary Breen) and her young daughter.
When Ray takes the daughter to pick up a puppy Rainelle tells Martha that she wants her to help her convince Ray to marry her as quick as possible because she has missed her period. Martha gets out her pills and tells Rainelle to take them and that it will solve her problem. Rainelle takes a few but gets sick, she runs to the bathroom and comes out telling Martha that it all was a false alarm, apparently she had her period. Martha, now openly in a jealous rage, tries to force the rest of the pills down her throat. At this moment Ray and the daughter return, the daughter sees Martha struggling with Rainelle and screams. Martha grabs the girl and takes her out of the room while Ray gets Rainelle's revolver and blows her brains out.
|end of Rainelle|
|What do we do with the daughter|
|Let's go see mommy and the puppy down in the cellar|
Later down in the cellar, when Ray wants to drop the daughter off at the Salvation Army, Martha nixes the idea saying that she'll blab, and that they have to get rid of her. Martha looks over at the slop sink and turns on the faucet.
Fernandez and Beck were convicted of Janet Fay's murder—the only one for which they were tried—and sentenced to death. On March 8, 1951, both were executed by electric chair in Sing Sing.
DVD is available from the Criterion Collection, 8/10.
The story was reworked again as Lonely Hearts (2006) telling the story from the police investigation angle, and placing the story back in the correct time frame, however the svelte Salma Hayek cast as Martha Beck was quite ridiculous.