“No woman’s going to support me!”
An overweight nurse (Shirley Stoler) falls in love with a gigolo (Tony Lo Bianco) she meets through a Lonely Hearts club, and soon begins posing as his sister on trips to bilk lonely women — but how long can they get away with their scheme, especially when it turns murderous and Stoler’s jealousy is provoked?
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Black Comedy
- Criminal Couple On the Run
- Homicidal Spouses
- Serial Killers
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “unusual, violent sleeper is [both] a chilling reenactment of the grisly ‘Lonely Hearts’ murders that drew national attention in the late forties”, and a “fascinating, semi-comical examination of the true-life delirious romance between an ill-tempered, sexually frustrated 200-pound nurse named Martha Beck (well played by Shirley Stoler, who resembles her) and her speciously charming and handsome but not-so-smart Spanish lover, gigolo Ray Fernandez (a marvelous performance by Tony Lo Bianco).” He notes that the “film is cleverly scripted; has several odd yet interesting characters; probes America’s pathetic ‘lonely hearts’ subculture; and is one of the few ‘criminal couple-on-the-run’ movies that neither romanticizes the crimes (the murders are extremely shocking) nor glamorizes the criminals.” He points out that “director-writer Leonard Kastle was more interested in the relationship between the jealous Beck (who pretended to be Fernandez’s sister) and her unfaithful lover than in their crimes, but while he believed their love for each other was their one redeeming quality, it was not enough to fully redeem them after their murders.”
Peary argues that while “the direction by newcomer Kastle… is amateurish at times”, it “is quite innovative when it counts”: he “uses the camera skillfully so that we are aware of settings and spatial relationships”, such as creating “a sense of claustrophobia by placing Lo Bianco, his new romantic conquest, and huge Stoler in a tiny space so that they drive each other crazy.” Kastle gives his actors “free reign to create broad characters”, resulting in “several strong performances” — and he “uses the music of Gustav Mahler effectively, at times to counterpoint the triviality of what is happening on the screen.” Peary elaborates on all aspects of his praise for (and analysis of) this film in his first Cult Movies book, making it clear that “one-hit-wonder” Kastle was quite the polymath talent. It’s too bad for film fanatics that he never made another movie — music (opera in particular) was his first love — but in the meantime, we can appreciate (while shuddering in horror) the gruesome real-life “opera” he puts on for us here.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Tony Lo Bianco as Ray
- Shirley Stoler as Martha
- Strong supporting performances
- Oliver Wood’s cinematography
Yes, as a true cult classic.