Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Honeymoon Killers: An Explotative Serial Killer Classic

        A classic low budget film from the 1970s that has since accrued cult status. And while the main actors are good at their roles, many of the extras were brought onboard for dubious reasons- perhaps just because they were willing to work for free- and the acting shows this. While much of the acting may be tough to get through, I am under the impression that it translates well into the romance languages, as it was much more popular outside of the United States. In fact influential director Fran├žois Truffaut called it his favorite American film.
        It was banned for seemingly trivial reasons in various countries. The Australian censorship boards banned it due to obscenity. An attempt was made again in 1972, after the introduction of Australia's R 18 rating, but it was banned for "violence and indecency". A very odd decision as there is only one real scene of violence in the entire film.

Raymond Fernandez's mugshot
        The film is loosely based on the Lonely Hearts Killers case from the 1940s. A rare serial killer couple Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck killed up to 20 women between 1947 and 1949. They earned their moniker by their method of selecting victims, ie via the lonely hearts ads in big city newspapers. Fernandez, a former British intelligence agent, suffered a head wound which damaged his frontal lobe leading to his to aberrant sexual behavior. While in prison for theft, his cellmate taught him voodoo and black magic. He later claimed black magic gave him irresistible power and charm over women.
Martha Beck mugshot
         Beck was a nurse, sexually abused by her brother, with significant weight problems. She was also a hopeless romantic, devouring junk romance novels and films. She met Fernandez using the same lonely hearts ads that she lured other women in. She became absolutely devoted to Fernandez, even sending her own children away to be raised by the Salvation Army so she could further assist his criminal enterprises. She often posed as Fernandez's sister, to lend him a much needed air of respectability. Their victims, feeling more secure knowing there was another woman in the house, often agreed to stay with the pair. Beck also convinced some victims that she lived alone and that her "brother" was only a guest. Beck was violently jealous and would go to great lengths to make sure Fernandez and his victim never had sex. But when it did happen, she subjected both to her vicious temper.
          Their end came in Grand Rapids, Michigan where they met and stayed with Delphine Downing, a young widow with a two-year-old daughter. Eventually the pair ended up drugging and shooting the mother, then later drowning the child when she wouldn’t stop crying. They buried the bodies in the basement, then inexplicably stayed at the house several more days. Suspicious neighbors reported the Downings' disappearances, leading to Beck and Fernandez’s arrests.
          It was, of course, a sensationalized story. Apart from the three murders that could be positively attributed to them, the state of New York (where they were eventually extradited to) slapped another 17 murders on them, all of which the pair denied. Whether they were guilty or not, the solved crime statistics went up in New York City that year. The pair’s last words before execution were of their undying love for each other. Beck stating, “"My story is a love story. But only those tortured by love can know what I mean. I am not unfeeling, stupid or moronic. I am a woman who had a great love and always will have it. Imprisonment in the Death House has only strengthened my feeling for Raymond." And Fernandez going out with the shorter, "I wanna shout it out; I love Martha! What do the public know about love?"
          The film plays fast and loose with many of the events and characters from the real life story, despite what the opening credits claim. Some of that was for dramatic effect, others due to a lack of budget. Most notably would be beck’s contrition at the end, the historical Beck had absolutely no remorse. But a viewer can still get the general gist of the case from this sleeper.
          One additional note, apparently the initial director of the film was supposed to be Martin Scorsese, but was fired a week into shooting. This was because Scorsese was filming every scene in master shots and not shooting close-ups or other coverage, making the film impossible to edit.
          The entire film is below. Enjoy and Caveat Emptor.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Early Egyptian Sexual Poetry

          These poems only survive on papyrus scraps, bits of pottery, and flakes of limestone from the later part of the New Kingdom, though they must have descended from an oral tradition. From the decorations on the tomb walls, with nearly nude girls singing and dancing, we can assume that these songs were performed with music and dance at banquets and festivals.
          They often use the term “brother” and “sister,” which in ancient Egyptian are terms of endearment, as we would call a person “baby” or “honey”. Many poems imagine situations in which the lovers might meet. The boy might wrestle a fish from the water (an erotic symbol in Egyptian times). The girl would make her dress transparent and expose her charms to entice the boy.
                                    Am I Not Here With You?
Am I not here with you?
              Then why have you set your heart to leave?
                         Why don’t you embrace me?
Has my deed come back upon me?
If you seek to caress my thighs.
Is it because you are thinking of food
              that you would go away?
                         Or because you are a slave to your belly?
Is it because you care about clothes?
              Well, I have a bedsheet!
Is it because you are hungry that you would leave?
              Then take my breasts
                         that their gift may flow forth to you.
Better a day in the embrace of my beloved
              than thousands on thousands anywhere else!

                                      I Wish I Were Her Nubian Maid
I wish I were her Nubian maid,
              her attendant in secret,
                         as she brings her a bowl of mandragoras.
It is in her hand,
            while she gives pleasure.
In other words:
she would grant me
              the hue of her whole body.
I wish I were the laundryman
              of my beloved’s clothes,
                         for even just a month!
I would be strengthened
               by grasping the garments
                         that touch her body.
For I would be washing out the moringa oils
              that are in her kerchief.
Then I’d rub my body
                with her castoff garments,
                         and she . . .
O how I would be in joy and delight,
              my body vigorous!
I wish I were her little signet ring,
              the keeper of her finger!
I would see her love
              each and every day,
And I would steal her heart.

                              I Passed Close By His House
I passed close by his house,
              and found his door ajar.
My beloved was standing beside his mother,
              and with him all his brothers and sisters.
Love of him captures the heart
              of all who walk along the way—
a precious youth without peer,
              a lover excellent of character!
He gazed at me when I passed by,
              but I must exult alone.
How joyfully does my heart rejoice, my beloved,
              since I first saw you!
If only mother knew my heart
              she would go inside for a while.
                         O Golden One, put that in her heart!
Then I could hurry to my beloved
              and kiss him in front of everyone,
                         and not be ashamed because of anyone.
I would be happy to have them see
              that you know me,
                         and would hold festival to my Goddess.
My heart leaps up to go forth
              that I may gaze on my beloved.
How lovely it is to pass by!