He Killed Them All is District Attorney Jeanine Pirro’s account of her dealings with real estate heir and suspected murderer Robert Durst. For over a decade Pirro tried to pin the murder of Durst’s ex-wife Kathie on, well Robert Durst. If you’ve seen The Jinx do you really need to read this book? Well if you’re obsessive and need to read everything then yes, if not then save yourself some time, and if you can’t stand strong female personalities then you need to skip this book.
The early 2000s was a great time for DVD releases. It was also a really hard time to keep up with them all when you’re a fan of nearly every film genre. It was incredibly time consuming and a bummer to have to pick and choose which releases you went without. For me it was a no-brainer… Criterion releases (they were the first company to release Honeymoon Killers on DVD). I could buy three films for the price of one Criterion DVD. It’s a bit appalling considering I am such a huge fan of cult movies that I have only just now seen the Honeymoon Killers but the Cult Classics line is bringing some great films to NZ/Australian Cult film fans and the DVDs are dirt cheap at $10 while Criterion’s edition of Honeymoon Killers is still $25-$30 US excluding shipping.
The Honeymoon Killers follows Martha Beck (Shirley Stoler) and Raymond Fernandez (Tony Lo Bianco) as the two embark on a romantic relationship and con lonely women. The couple were known in real life as “The Lonely Hearts Killers” and are believed to have killed 20 women between 1947 and 1949.
Martha is a nurse who lives at home with her senile mother, is overweight, and has a pretty bitter personality. Her friend Bunny signs her up with “The Lonely Hearts Club” and through the club she meets Ray, a charming and confident New Yorker. The two fall in love, but Martha isn’t Ray’s first conquest and after Ray heads back to New York Martha threatens to kill herself thus worming her way into his life where the two con lonely women to fund their lifestyle: Ray the suave Spaniard and Martha his sister.
Although the murders took place in the 1940s the film is set in the 1960s and the hair, the fashions and sets give it a certain “sexiness”. I think it would have been a lot more dreary had they set it in 1940s, despite the lead actress being plump (real Martha was too) she still exudes a John Waters-esque aesthetic and I loved her look (the actors did their own hair and makeup). I swear Divine and Cookie Mueller must have been inspired by Shirley Stoler’s performance, the way those two combine snideness with fabulousness reminded me much of Shirley’s performance. It’s also well documented that John Waters is a fan of the film and he quite often makes his actors watch movies for inspiration.
Even though it is an older film it was still quite a confronting viewing. There’s a grisly scene with a hammer (special effects were a condom filled with red hair dye); slapping of a child and off-screen murder of said child which was pretty gut-wrenching, it kind of turns you against Martha as you realise she’s more Myra Hindley than Bonnie Parker. The cinematography verges on a Cinéma vérité-style and helps to create this realistic, stripped back tone with murky scenes where crimes are committed in the dark haphazardly. Obviously if your metric for “shocking” viewing is video nasties and torture porn this ain’t going to disturb you, but in terms of its simpleness it at times manages to be really forceful. It is very much to do with the way it combines violence and sexuality: the ice cold emotionless Martha who slaps a child and then murders her all so nothing gets in the way of her being with her lover.
The first 15 minutes of the film make it seem like really exaggerated John Waters meets The Room and is completely hilarious but if you give it time it becomes a really great film. Martha’s emotional eating and weight become a source of humour which lends a bit of sympathy to her otherwise sociopathic behaviours.
At only $10 this film is a complete must have along with 99% of Cinema Cult’s releases. I am now off to check out the film loosely based about the case staring James Gandolfini and read every book I can about the case.
There are no extras and the audio is pretty hissy and crackly, but aside from that well worth adding to your collection.
Some random trivia:
- The Honeymoon Killers is Francois Truffaut’s favourite American film.
- Martin Scorsese was hired to direct but was fired for working too slowly and a few of the scenes he directed are in the film.
- The film was banned in Australia in the 1970s
- Shirley Stoler is Mrs Steve in Pee Wee’s Playhouse and was also in Frankenhooker and the Deer Hunter
Nazi Hunters is an eight episode documentary series that focuses on Nazi war criminals and the various Nazi Hunters who brought them to justice and/or executed revenge. The Mossad, French couple Serge and Beate Klarsfeld and Simon Wiesenthal are just some of the Nazi Hunters featured.
Herberts Cukurs – aka the the Hangman of Riga, Cukurs was a Latvian aviator and member of the Arajs Kommando, a unit within the Latvian police who were loyal to the Gestapo SD. He is thought to be responsible for the death of 30,000 Jews. Mossad agents track him down in São Paulo and executed him in 1965.
My Name is “A” By Anonymous is a disturbing, unsettling film that explores the consequences of adolescence gone awry. Based on real events, its plot is an adaption of the story of Alyssa Bustamante, the teenage thrill killer from Missouri who killed her neighbour, 9-year old Elizabeth Olten in October 2009. Obviously with such touchy subject matter, My Name is “A” By Anonymous is no light viewing. It drags the viewer into the demented world of young girls who commit violence against themselves and others whilst looking at the conditions which lead to these extreme acts.
The Snowtown murders (aka The Bodies in Barrels Murders) occurred in South Australia between 1992-1999. The main perpetrator John Bunting, recruited various friends and acquaintances to assist in the disposing of undesirable types such as paedophiles, homosexuals and junkies. Their victims were often subjected to prolonged torture with assorted household implements and electrocution before death. Newcomer Justin Kurzel with his cast of untrained actors has attempted to bring the crimes back to life with his first feature film, Snowtown.
The opening scenes are all about establishing the grim atmosphere that is to pervade the following 2 hours and they do so effortlessly, capturing that hopelessly scummy feel of the welfare-reliant hordes. We are introduced to Jamie Vlassakis, his brothers and their solo mum Elizabeth, essentially poor white trash living in a rundown area of suburban Australia. Not long after their mother leaves them with a neighbour, who subsequently abuses and takes nude photographs of the boys, friendly John Bunting starts hanging around the house and eventually becomes Elizabeth’s live-in boyfriend.
The first thing John makes clear is that he fucking hates paedophiles, so with the boys help (and some mashed ‘roo offal) he terrorizes the aforementioned neighbour into moving. Regular gatherings are held at Elizabeth’s home where John riles up the locals with his scathing anti-paedo rhetoric and attempts to provoke them into action. The murders seemingly begin as a continuation of John’s heroic vigilantism, merely dispatching local kiddie fiddlers, but then degenerate into frenzied lust-murders as John starts taking out acquaintances and generally anyone who gets in his way.
An interesting aspect of how the director handled this story is that it is told from Jamie’s perspective; we witness his struggles with first identifying a father figure in Bunting then being forced to assist with the killings, including that of his step-brother. Another unexpected angle is that the film is less concerned with gruesome, splatter-y serial murder and more about the mundane human side of it. So there are numerous scenes of familial blandness, which add infinitely to the overall bleak mood. And that’s not to say there aren’t confronting scenes of torture and violence, but that when they do appear they have that much more impact.
Utilizing an unprofessional cast (aside from Daniel Henshall who plays Bunting) was an astute foresight on Kurzels behalf, as the film would have been completely laughable had it starred the usual suspects from Neighbours, Home and Away, etc. Kurzel’s attention to detail in reproducing the dated ’90s fashion, having a Sega Master System constantly chirping away in the background, and references to swish new Nike Air’s enhances the already vivid ambiance as well.
With Snowtown director Justin Kurzel has crafted an incredibly dark and authentic piece of filmmaking that, via evocative cinematography, sparse sound design and flawless acting – and without resorting to over-the-top shock tactics – manages to infuse the proceedings with a harsh tone of realism that will stay with you long after the screen’s gone black.
Extras-wise, aside from the requisite commentary, trailer and deleted scenes, there’s a short film, Blue Tongue, that stars a young Sianoa Smit-McPhee (Neighbours, Hung) as a vindictive little girl trying to attract a boys attention. There’s also 2 music videos directed by Kurzel for The Mess Hall, a short featurette on the Snowtown Murders and a 20 minute interview with the director.
Larry Clark’s films are known for their often controversial subject matter involving young kids and their experimentations with drugs, sex and violence. Bully has a healthy blend of all three subjects only this film takes it all a step further…
Based on the real life events of a group of middle class kids in Florida, Bully tells the tragic story of two friends Bobby and Marty. Bobby is dominant and controlling and often beats Marty, running him down at any moment he can. Enter Lisa, a girl with all the usual strings attached: she falls in love with Marty, gets pregnant and then starts to bitch about his friend (although she has every right to considering he keeps raping her). Lisa comes up with the idea that the only way to solve everyone’s problems is to kill Bobby…
I haven’t read the book Bully: A True Tale of High School Revenge that the film is adapted from, so I am sure that some of the characters’ traits have been embellished for dramatic effect such as Bobby’s fascination with gay porn and his obsessive compulsive actions, although maybe not . In the cast and crew extras someone does mention that the real Lisa commented that the actual murder was not planned like the movie depicts.
Bully definitely holds up to repeated viewing, I‘ve probably seen it about six or seven times as I watched it a lot when it first came out . The murder sequence in Bully is probably the most realistic re-enactment of a murder I’ve seen. The discordance of it all was profoundly effective in drawing you in, my heart still pounds every time I watch it and I always get a queasy stomach. The kids were just so unorganized, not even aware of what they were doing (some thought they were merely giving Kent the bash). It’s one of the most gut wrenching scenes I have ever watched because it is just a complete visceral mess. The kid must have taken forever to die, he pleads with his friends to stop and they just run around stabbing him, some laugh, some cry and some just stare blankly. You have to think these are just your average kids going nowhere, doing nothing but how did it come to this? How could they rationalize murdering someone and not even think of the consequences? If you take nothing from Bully you can’t deny its interesting portrayal of the workings of the teenage mind. Big name actors and glamorization aside, it’s a pretty realistic depiction of drug fucked hedonistic teens. From the clothes to the music Clark has an amazing ability to portray wayward teens in an authentic visual and psychological manner.
If you haven’t seen Bully I’d highly recommend you do.
The Siren Visual release of Bully features cast and crew interviews with Brad Renfro, Nick Stahl, Rachel Miner, Michael Pitt, Bijou Phillips (who is horrifically trashy and so amazing in her role) and Larry Clark; these interview shorts offer some interesting titbits. There’s also a trailer.
- Director: Larry Clark (USA, 2001)
- Studio: Siren Visual
- Runtime: 108 minutes
Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life is a true crime documentary by Werner Herzog that deals with the topic of capital punishment. I don’t really want to go into any specifics of the case it focuses on as it’s better to come into the film blind. To arouse your interest it deals with two young men / death-row inmates who are awaiting execution in a Texas penitentiary for three murders.