Writer: Leonard Kastle
Composer: classical works of Gustav Mahler
Starring: Shirley Stoler, Tony Lo Bianco, Mary Jane Higby, Doris Roberts, Kip McArdle, Marilyn Chris, Dortha Duckworth, Barbara Casaon, Ann Harris, Mary Breen, Elsa Raven, Mary Engel, Guy Sorel, Michael Haley, Diane Asselin, William Adams, Eleanor Adams
More info: IMDb
Tagline: One of the most bizarre episodes in the annals of American Crime.
Plot: An obese, embittered nurse doesn't mind if her toupee-wearing boyfriend romances and fleeces other women, as long as he takes her along on his con jobs.
My rating: 8/10
Will I watch it again? Yes.
This is a great little flick that any fan of serial killer or true crime movies needs to see. Making a double feature night with this and then DERANGED (1974) would be a night I wouldn't pass up. The black and white photography is fantastic. Kastle does a great job of working with the actors to get real and natural performances. The leads are great. Stoler as Martha makes for a wonderful, jealous bitch and Lo Bianco does his tightrope act of balancing getting the successful con game and handling Martha. The classical music works but I'd love to have had a good Bernard Herrmann score instead. The kills are light in the first half of the flick. It's not until the final half hour or so where the bodies start to pile up and that's where the payoff is. In one kill, and this is one of the greatest unseen kills ever, there's a closeup on the victim's face and you hear the killers talk about offing her. One of them tells the other the whereabouts of a gun owned by the victim. They get the gun, all the while we're just seeing the horrified face of the victim, place it to her head and just after the camera pans away from her face, a shot is heard. Brilliant.
I've seen this one a few times now and the only thing that gets me in a negative way is the pacing. I REALLY like this film but I usually end up losing a little interest around the two thirds mark which is strange considering the great finale. Maybe it's the length in the setup or maybe it's because I usually start watching this one too late at night. I took the time last night to check out some of the extras on the Criterion DVD and I discovered that the real Martha (this is based on the true story of the killing spree brought on by Martha and Ray in the 1940s) was born about ten miles from my house. Cool.