It’s time for a movie homage to Valentine’s Day. No, I don’t mean sticky love stories like other publications talk about. None of that Romeo and Juliet stuff for Fandomania. Instead, we’ll go with the opposite and offer a list of 13 Real-Life Lethal Movie Couples:
13. A Killing In Beverly Hills
Lyle and Erik Menendez, two spoiled sons of a successful businessman they perceived as domineering and threatening to their financial future, planned and carried out the bloody 12-gauge-shotgun murder of both sleeping parents, Kitty and José Menendez. The brothers were portrayed by Damian Chapa and Travis Fine in 1994’s TV movie A Killing in Beverly Hills. We’re supposed to feel sorry for them because they’re orphans.
12. Like Mother Like Son
Sante and Kenny Kimes were mother and son, as close as you can get, and then some. Grifters from the get-go, Sante taught her son to lie, cheat, steal and ultimately help her murder a wealthy New York woman who owned a building they wanted for themselves, as well as other murders. Mary Tyler Moore cast aside her bubbly image as Laura Petrie and Mary Richards and went all the way, playing psychotic killer Sante Kimes, with Gabriel Olds as her #1 son and accomplice in 2001’s Like Mother Like Son, aka A Most Deadly Family television movie. Both are still serving life sentences.
Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo were known as the Ken and Barbie Killers. She supplied him with virgins, including her own sister, to first deflower and then destroy, taping and narrating each escapade for later private viewing. They were portrayed by Laura Prepon and Misha Collins in the 2006 movie Karla, which had to tone down the actual actions of this deadly duo because they were too gross for the viewing public. After they were caught, Karla ratted on Paul in a plea deal (12 years for manslaughter). She was released from prison in 2005. Bernardo is serving a 25-year sentence for murder.
10. The Honeymoon Killers
Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck met through a lonely-hearts correspondence club and fell hard for each other. Ray was a skinny, feral, and untrustworthy leech, while Martha was fat, compulsive, and jealous. She became his common-law wife, and, together, they came up with a scheme where he seduced lonely women and proposed marriage, while Martha was passed off as his sister. They took the women’s savings and then murdered as many as 20 of them.
Odd that Francois Truffaut names this 1969 black and white movie as his favorite film, since it’s quite oppressive and hard to watch. Raymond is played by Tony LoBianco and Martha by Shirley Stoler. Other movies about Fernandez and Beck: Lonely Hearts (2006) with Jared Leto as Fernandez and Salma Hayek as Beck, and the foreign film Deep Crimson (1996). Fernandez and Beck were both fried in Sing Sing’s electric chair at the respective ages of 36 and 30. He said “I wanna shout it out; I love Martha! What do the public know about love?” and she said, “My story is a love story. But only those tortured by love can know what I mean.”
9. And The Sea Will Tell
Buck Walker and Stephanie Stearns were their real names. He was the killer, she was the enabler, in a grisly double murder on the island of Palmyra. Mac and Muff Graham were on their trip of a lifetime when they met Walker and Stephanie (called Jennifer Jenkins in the movie), who wanted the Grahams’ food, cigarettes, and yacht. Walker and Jenkins were portrayed by Hart Bochner and Rachel Ward in 1991’s miniseries, And The Sea Will Tell, based on a book by Stearns’s attorney, Vincent Bugliosi. Walker served 22 years of his life sentence and was paroled in 2007, aged 69, while Stearns was acquitted.
In 1924, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, both very rich, very smart, and under 21, were defended by famed attorney, Clarence Darrow (Orson Welles) for the Crime of the Century. The duo decided to murder 14-year-old Bobby Franks because they wanted to commit a perfect crime. This lethal couple were also the basis for Alfred Hitchcock’s film, Rope (1948), starring Farley Granger and John Dall. They were portrayed by Dean Stockwell and Bradford Dillman in 1959’s Compulsion and by Ryan Gosling and Michael Pitt in 2002’s Murder By Numbers. They have been the subject of plays and television shows and are still part of pop culture, having been referred to by Don Draper in an episode of Mad Men. Leopold & Loeb were sentenced to life plus 99 years; however, a prisoner attacked Loeb, slitting his throat with a straight razor. Leopold was paroled after serving 33 years and died of a heart attack at 66.
7. Too Young to Die?
David Gray and Attina Marie Cannaday were the subjects of a 1990 TV movie which starred Brad Pitt and Juliet Lewis as “Billy Canton” and “Amanda Sue Bradley.” Cannaday (Bradley) knifed Ronald Wojcik to death in Mississippi in 1982. Cannaday was a divorcée who married at 13 and divorced at 14. She was only 16 at the time of her murder trial. Gray (Canton) was 23 at the time of the trial. Although Cannaday received a life sentence plus two 25-year sentences, she was paroled in 2008. Gray is still serving his life sentence.
6. Heavenly Creatures
Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker were best friends who shared much more than a love of fantasy and sex in 1994’s Oscar-nominated Heavenly Creatures. They were portrayed by Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey, respectively. When the girls’ obsession for one another forced concerned parents to separate them, it brought out enough evil in their personalities to plan and carry out the murder of Parker’s mother by means of 45 frenzied blows from both girls, using a brick as weapon. Too young for the death penalty, each was sentenced to five years, then released on condition of never seeing or contacting each other again. After their release, Parker ran a children’s riding school in England, then moved to the remote Orkney Islands in Scotland, and Hulme became a best-selling author of detective fiction and has penned over 45 novels under the nom de plume Anne Perry.
5. Bonnie & Clyde
The real Bonnie & Clyde were almost as good looking as Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, who played them in the 1965 Oscar-nominated box-office smash. B&C robbed banks and killed only when necessary, or when they felt like it. I often wonder if the real B&C had that intense last-second-of-life, emotion-charged look at one another, like Dunaway and Beatty did, just before a hail of bullets riddled their bodies. That singular moment is still talked about today.
4. In Cold Blood
Perry Smith and Dick Hickock were cons who met at the state pen in Lansing, Michigan. A former cellmate told them of a large sum of money held in the safe of Holcomb, Kansas businessman, Herb Clutter. When they got out of prison, they visited the Clutter family intending to rob them, found no safe and no money, then slaughtered the entire Clutter family. The deadly duo were made famous by Truman Capote’s masterpiece, In Cold Blood. Dick and Perry were played by Scott Wilson and Robert Blake respectively, in the 1967 Oscar-nominated movie of the same name. Both were hanged at the same prison in which they had met.
Maybe you thought the Oscar-nominated 1995 movie Casino was just a good movie, but it was based on the real life lethal mob couple, Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal (Sam “Ace” Rothstein in the film) and Anthony Spilotro (Nicky Santoro in the film), portrayed by Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci, respectively. Rothstein is the smooth operator, while Santoro is the brutal enforcer and hitman. Rosenthal died in Miami of a heart attack at 79, and Spilotro and his brother were choked and buried alive in the desert a probable mob hit.
James Burke and Thomas DeSimone — again we have DeNiro and Pesci (Oscar winner) playing two real-life mob mugs in 2001’s Goodfellas. James can never be a made man because he’s Irish (named Jimmy Conway in the movie), and Thomas (named Tommy DeVito in the movie) is a psychotic with a real zeal for violence. It has been said that the real life duo was even more violent than depicted in this Oscar-nominated hit. DeSimone died at the age of 28, an alleged hit by John Gotti himself. Burke died in prison at 64 of lung disease.
1. Murder in the Heartland
18 year old Charlie Starkweather and his 13-year-old girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate, were two of the most infamous spree killers in U.S. history. Both still in their teens, they cut a swath across the mid-West states of Nebraska and Wyoming, leaving eleven bodies behind, including those of Fugate’s entire family, even her two-year-old sister. Their story has been immortalized in two major movies: the historically inaccurate and romanticized Badlands, 1973, with Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek, and the based-on-fact 1993 miniseries, Murder in the Heartland, with Tim Roth and Fairuza Balk. Starkweather was electrocuted at the age of 20. Caril, the youngest female in U.S. history to be tried for first-degree murder, was paroled after serving serving 18 years of a life sentence. It is said she lives a quiet life in Lansing, Michigan as a nurse’s aide.
These stories prove that there are many ways to say “I Love You.” Happy Valentine’s Day.