The Honeymoon Killers appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Despite its age and low-budget origins, The Honeymoon Killers offered a somewhat erratic but fairly positive visual presentation.
Sharpness mostly looked good. Some wider shots came across as a bit fuzzy, but those instances popped up infrequently. The majority of the flick seemed pretty crisp and detailed. I saw no issues connected to jagged edges or moiré effects, and I also noticed no concerns from edge enhancement.
Print flaws were minor for a movie of this age and budget. Specks appeared periodically, and I also saw occasional examples of marks, scratches, spots and light debris, but these elements stayed fairly modest and didn’t create overwhelming concerns. The film seemed reasonably clean overall. Black levels remained deep and tight, and contrast generally appeared positive. Low-light shots were fairly concise and well defined, as they only occasionally demonstrated slightly excessive denseness. I wouldn’t use The Honeymoon Killers to show off my system, but it presented a good image overall.
Low budget or not, I found it tough to take the poor quality monaural soundtrack of The Honeymoon Killers. Distortion ruled the mix. Dialogue suffered the worst from this problem, mainly since speech dominated the film. Only the quietest lines showed no edginess. Otherwise the dialogue became terribly rough and often turned impossible to understand. I needed to keep the English subtitles on during the whole movie since I could comprehend so little of the material. Even the lines I could understand sounded flat and lifeless. This movie offered possibly the worst recorded dialogue I’ve heard, at least in a movie made within my lifetime.
Effects seemed lackluster but at least they didn’t demonstrate much distortion. That largely occurred because they played a fairly minor role in the proceedings. Those elements were dull and muddy in general. Music showed up sporadically and came across as terribly shrill. The score was even more distorted than the speech and sounded terrible. The audio just narrowly avoided an “F”, as it narrowly squeaked past with a “D-“. I didn’t fault the transfer, as I’m sure the folks at Criterion did what they could with the source material. But that didn’t keep it from sounding atrocious.
The Honeymoon Killers comes with only a smattering of supplements. The main one provides a new interview with writer/director Leonard Kastle. Shot in the spring of 2003, this piece runs 29 minutes and 35 seconds. Kastle covers many topics related to the movie. He gets into its genesis and his involvement in it, the hiring – and quick firing – of Martin Scorsese as director, research, historical fact vs. movie fiction, production stories, reactions to the flick, his disdain for its title, and many other issues. Kastle comes across as rather full of himself and overly enamored with his movie, but he gets into lots of useful information. Those with an affinity for the movie will learn a lot about it here.
After the movie’s theatrical trailer, we get some text features. ”Dear Martha” provides an excellent historical essay by author Scott Christianson. He details the real life inspiration for the film. We learn biographical details about Ray and Martha and find out the details of their crimes. We also get to see lots of photos and documents related to them in this solid piece.
The Biographies area includes listings for actors Shirley Stoler, Tony Lo Bianco, Mary Jane Higby, and Doris Roberts, writer/director Leonard Kastle, producer Warren Steibel, cinematographer Oliver Wood, editor Stanley Warnow, and composer Gustav Mahler. (For the record, Mahler didn’t come back from the dead to write the flick’s score; they just used pre-existing works for it.) These entries offer basic information about the participants and don’t seem particularly deep. The “Biographies” domain also tosses in clippings from the film’s original press book.
Finally, the DVD’s booklet features one additional essay. We get a quick piece from film critic Gary Giddings. He gives us some information about the state of the era’s cinema and those behind Honeymoon as well as production notes. Giddings also tries hard to convince us this is a great movie.
I wish I could feel that way, and I usually like this kind of flick. Unfortunately, The Honeymoon Killers doesn’t do much for me. Too superficial and slow moving to really explore its subjects, I give it credit for general historical accuracy, but it doesn’t provide a rich examination of the material. The DVD presents pretty decent picture quality but suffers from abysmal audio. The collection of extras seems modest but the components add some decent information about the flick. For folks who like The Honeymoon Killers, the release seems worthwhile. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend the flick to anyone without a pre-existing passion for the material.