- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Leonard Kastle’s brilliant, fact-based 1969 indie The Honey- moon Killers is sort of the “”Night of the Living Dead” of art-house psycho noirs. It has been rescued from video oblivion by the archivists at Home Vision Entertainment via their new Criterion Collection DVD ($29.95). It’s our…

Video pick of the week

Originally titled “Dear Martha” and set to be directed by a young Martin Scorsese before writer Kastle assigned himself that chore, “The Honeymoon Killers” chronicles the shocking exploits of the real-life 1940s “Lonelyhearts Killers,” lethal lothario Ray Fernandez (Tony Lo Bianco) and hefty death nurse Martha Beck (Shirley Stoler, later of Lina Wertmuller’s “Seven Beauties” fame).

With Ray supplying the seductive charm and Martha the merciless violence, the duo, posing as brother and sister, cut a deadly swath through suburban America’s lonely female population even as they cemented their own emotionally needy romantic bond.

Both Mr. Lo Bianco and Miss Stoler turn in chillingly flawless performances, baring their vulnerabilities while cruelly dispatching their desperate prey. Veteran radio actress Mary Jane Higby, in a rare film appearance, rings equally, achingly true as Janet Fay, the most pathetic of the killers’ victims. Shot in stark, verite-styled black and white, the deliberately unglamorous film not only packs an unforgettable punch, but also comes equipped with a layer of dark wit.

A lengthy new bonus interview with one-shot auteur Kastle, a music composer by trade, provides a back story that’s every bit as fascinating as the film itself. Other extras include Scott Christianson’s illustrated essay on the actual Fernandez-Beck case, a film-appreciation booklet by critic Gary Giddins, and the original theatrical trailer.

Comparison-minded viewers, meanwhile, also might want to check out Mexican director Arturo Ripstein’s equally powerful take on the same case, 1996’s Deep Crimson, available via New Yorker Video ($29.95 VHS only).

Tele-video

Two very different TV series make their DVD debuts this month. Based on the nonfiction book “The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood” and directed by actor and Baltimore native Charles S. Dutton, HBO Video’s gritty Emmy Award-winning six-hour miniseries The Corner ($39.98 for the two-DVD set) offers an unflinching look at a dangerous drug intersection and its struggling habitues.

Artisan Entertainment offers more escapist fare with its Best of ‘Bonanza’ Volume I ($24.98 2-DVD set). The collection assembles eight prized episodes from the long-running (1959-1973) sagebrush series starring Lorne Greene and screen offspring Michael Landon, Pernell Roberts and Dan Blocker. Vintage episode guest stars include Lee Marvin, Ida Lupino, Jack Carson and Howard Duff. Both sets are available now.

The ‘A’ list

In upcoming action developments, Paramount Home Entertainment presents an extras-packed edition of William Friedkin’s chase thriller The Hunted ($29.99), starring Benicio Del Toro as a renegade assassin and Tommy Lee Jones as his tireless pursuer. Special features include commentary by director Friedkin, four “making-of” documentaries, eight deleted scenes and an original theatrical trailer.

Warner Home Video counters with the martial-arts adventure Cradle 2 the Grave ($27.95), teaming Jet Li and DMX, in a DVD stocked with martial-arts profiles, music videos and more.

In a lighter, if ear-challenging, vein, octogenarian comic Rodney Dangerfield searches for elusive respect as The 4th Tenor (also via Warner, $24.98), an opera send-up co-starring Robert Davi and Anita de Simone, arriving with three additional scenes and a behind-the-scenes featurette. All three titles are also available on VHS.

Collector’s corner

Image Entertainment digs deep into the cinematic gold mine for a brace of classic revivals making their DVD debuts. In Fritz Lang’s intense 1937 melodrama You Only Live Once, a young Henry Fonda and Sylvia Sidney portray tormented lovers on the lam from the law. Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotten and Michael Wilding star in Alfred Hitchcock’s lavish Under Capricorn, the 1949 Technicolor suspense film set in Australia of the 1830s ($19.98 each).

Home Vision Entertainment looks to a more recent movie past with its special edition of Mike Nichols’ 1973 talking-dolphins fantasy Day of the Dolphin ($29.95), featuring George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere, Paul Sorvino and, it goes sans saying, talking dolphins galore. Bonus features include interviews with screenwriter (and off-screen dolphin voice) Buck Henry and co-stars Leslie Charleson and Edward Herrmann.

Phan mail

Dear Phantom: Is the classic Korean War film Steel Helmet available on DVD?

Paul Harris, via e-mail

Unfortunately, writer-director Sam Fuller’s brilliant 1951 combat classic has yet to receive a DVD release. It is available on VHS ($14.24) from Movies Unlimited (moviesunlimited.com).

Send your video comments and queries to Phantom of the Movies, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002 or e-mail us at: [email protected] Check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.


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