Martha Beck is the sort of girl that is going nowhere in life. Big boned, ginger and sullen as the day is long. She lives in back water part of the United States of America with her mother and cat. That is until her mother enlists her name in a lonely hearts club and she meets Raymond Fernandez (Ray). Ray is a smooth operator that knows a girl that is desperate and he knows that this girl is more than just desperate. Now Ray plays hard to get and Martha plays doe eyed woman. She tries to kill herself and it gets messy. He steals her heart and runs off to marry another woman. Martha follows and they both start a chain reaction of murders, money and madness.
If you want to take the film as it should be seen, do so from the time it was made and the subject it was made about. Made in the late 1960s and beginning the American obsession with serial killers and society at large, this was a film based as much on urban legend as truth. The ‘lonely Hearts Killers’ operated in the 1940s as a serial killing pair that took naive and desperate women for all they could. They gave these people a man after many had either lost one or otherwise a chance of happiness, when none was around. Then was exploited by them for financial gain, until said target was not viable anymore and they bumped them off.
This was a massive influence on much of the films I watched as teenager. Sardonic and sadistic, Darkly tragic and directed by a first timer to amazing skill. It simmers with all the tensions of the time and the fears of society about to turn from civilized (ummm kind of) to out-right prehistoric. I love its ability to maintain the horrible road movie along the route by its stripped down and very real aesthetic. The film looks low quality and is shot with an air of simplicity but this adds to its dynamic power. It feels raw and the story contents need this raw horror to be realistically defined. They need this continued measure of evil and malice to creep along and be present. The actors chosen are ideal also for this as they are a mix of panto villain and sleaze bag. The two leads are seen often as one desperate woman hanging on to a very deceiving man. I see it as two people that are monsters and will do anything for their fill. Both have hearts for each other and when the end comes…it still holds your gut hard. Alongside this, the film has a solid supporting cast of players. These people are not just victims but are played as 3 dimensions and add to the power of the story overall. An excellent feel for cinema comes across due to this and even when you feel that something might come along to break the spell it really does not do that. The film keeps you entranced and in fear for the moment of execution is always handled so well and so delightfully monstrous. It feels like a demon is unleashed on the screen. Called by Francois Truffart ‘his favourite American Film’ and a must watch if you have never seen it.
The film looks great and has been given new legs with the 4k restoration. I often get slated for my comments on this and as such feel that this deserves to be praised. All the additional features are superb and on both DVD and Blu ray come out great!
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of a brand new 4K restoration
- Original mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Love Letters, a video piece by Robert Fischer featuring actors Tony Lo Bianco and Marilyn Chris and editor Stan Warnow
- Folie à Deux: Todd Robinson, director of Lonely Hearts, explores the true story of the Lonely Hearts Killers
- Body Shaming: Todd Robinson explores the film
- Beyond Morality: Fabrice du Welz, director of Alleluia, discusses the film that inspired him
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Jay Shaw
- Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring No Average Killers, Johnny Mains’ extensive new essay on the film and its real-life inspiration, plus archive materials