A psychosexual season of cinema begins at the Irish Film Institute this evening titled ‘Killer Couples’. Classic films from across the history of the medium that mix love and criminality will screen at the IFI throughout June.
Mixing salacious genre-films with more fact-based stories, ‘Killer Couples’ has been curated to explore films featuring couples complicit together in the act of murder. From gold-standard noir like Double Indemnity to the subservice teen film Heathers (currently being controversially, wrong-headily reimagined), to films inspired by real-life cases such as Richard Flesicher’s Compulsion, IFI are aiming not to glamorise the connection, but rather to provide a snapshot view of the artist and the audience’s fascination with sex and death, and the connection between the two. The nine film collection includes a wide-range of creative talents, with the words of Dalton Trumbo and Quentin Tarantino, the cameras of Sam Peckinpah, Billy Wilder and Peter Jackson and much more on offer from an intriguing mix of noir.
Check out the full selection of films below. Tickets are available now from the IFI. (Film descriptions below are from the IFI)
Double Indemnity – Wednesday 6th June 2018, 6.20pm
Double Indemnity is considered to have set the template for film noir. Based on a novella by James M. Cain, whose work would also provide the source material for films such as Mildred Pierce (Michael Curtiz, 1945) and The Postman Always Rings Twice (Tay Garnett, 1946), it is the story of insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray), who begins an affair with Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck), the wife of one of his clients. When her questions lead him to believe that she is considering murdering her husband, he resists at first before becoming a willing collaborator, leading to a maze of complications and double-crosses in this hardboiled classic.
Compulsion – Sunday 10th June 2018, 3.45pm
Richard Fleischer made a number of films throughout his career that focused on real life killers, including The Boston Strangler(1968) and 10 Rillington Place (1971). Compulsion is based on the infamous 1924 Leopold and Loeb case that also provided the inspiration Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948) and Tom Kalin’s Swoon(1992).
Here, close friends Judd Steiner (Dean Stockwell) and Artie Strauss (Bradford Dillman) are the egotistical pair who murder a boy simply for the thrill, convinced that their preparations and intellectual superiority will obviate all consequences. When this assumption proves incorrect, their case is taken by famed attorney Jonathan Wilk (Orson Welles, in a part based on Clarence Darrow).
The Getaway – Wednesday 13th June 2018, 6.20pm
Jim Thompson’s crime fiction has been adapted by directors such as James Foley (After Dark, My Sweet, 1990), Stephen Frears (The Grifters, 1990), and Michael Winterbottom (The Killer Inside Me, 2010), while Thompson also co-wrote the screenplay for Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing (1956).
Sam Peckinpah’s take on his work stars Steve McQueen as ‘Doc’ McCoy, inmate of a Texas prison, who persuades his wife Carol (Ali McGraw) to use her wiles on a corrupt and influential businessman in order to secure his release. In return, Doc is forced to participate in a bank robbery that quickly goes wrong, forcing the troubled couple on the run in an entertaining thriller replete with Peckinpah’s trademark balletic violence.
Lift to the Scaffold – Sunday 17th June 2018, 3.30pm
Louis Malle’s debut feature gave the conventions of film noir a Gallic twist, incorporating stylistic elements such as photography and lighting that would soon become familiar to viewers as characteristic of the Nouvelle Vague, set to a score by the legendary Miles Davis. Florence (Jeanne Moreau) and Julien (Maurice Ronet) are lovers intent on killing her husband, who is also his boss. Immediately after the deed, Julien is trapped between floors in a lift.
Meanwhile, his car and identity are stolen by Louis (Georges Poujouly) and Véronique (Yori Bertin), a young couple whose own night is about to take a murderous turn, complicating matters for both lethal pairs.
Pretty Poison – Wednesday 20th June 2018, 6.30pm
The first film from director Noel Black is a jet-black comedy stars Anthony Perkins as Dennis Pitt, recently released from a mental institution. A compulsive fantasist, Dennis finds an eager listener in teenager Sue Ann (Tuesday Weld), who is entranced by his tales of life as a CIA operative.
When he brings her along on a supposed mission to foil a Communist plot, the truth of what lies behind Sue Ann’s innocent face is revealed when she murders a security guard without hesitation. As the body count grows, Dennis is reduced to the status of horrified bystander, subject to her manipulation and cold-blooded nature.
The Honeymoon Killers – Saturday 23rd June 2018, 3.30pm
This is one of the great American crime movies and deserves better than its reputation as a minor cult classic. Ray (Tony Lo Bianco) is a swindler who uses the lonely hearts columns to prey on women by promising love and marriage.
Martha (Shirley Stoler) could have been one of Ray’s victims but instead becomes his lover and associate in crime. The couple prove to be a lethal combination when they operate as a brother-sister team, with Ray’s philandering and Martha’s jealousy leading to a string of gruesome murders. Director Leonard Kastle’s take on this material is fascinating and his treatment never less than inspired, resolutely refusing to glamourise either the killers or their victims.
Natural Born Killers – Sunday 24th June 2018, 3.30pm
Arguably the most infamous of films featuring killer couples, and one of the most controversial films ever made, Oliver Stone’s social and cultural satire has grown in power in the years since its release.
Mickey and Mallory Knox (Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis), who meet when Mickey saves her from her abusive home, embark on a killing spree given such coverage by the media that they become folk heroes before their capture. However, imprisonment proves a mere stepping stone to even greater mayhem. Stone’s film is a visceral experience, its frenetic style of shooting and editing perfectly in tune with an era of media saturation and questionable celebrity.
Gun Crazy – Thursday 28th June 2018, 6.30pm
With a screenplay by the then-blacklisted Dalton Trumbo, Gun Crazy features John Dall as Bart Tare, a young man who, despite his gentle nature, is fascinated by guns, spending some time in reform school as a teenager for the theft of one. Following a spell in the army, he meets and marries carnival sharpshooter Annie Laurie Starr (the late Irish actress Peggy Cummins).
However, Laurie’s life is one of crime, one in which she forces her husband to become complicit. Featuring a bravura one-take sequence of a bank heist, the film is something of a precursor to Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (1967) in its audacious blending of violence and sexuality.
Heavenly Creatures – Saturday 30th June 2018, 6.20pm
Something of an anomaly in a career that began with splatter comedy such as Bad Taste (1987) before moving on to Tolkien adaptations, Peter Jackson’s stylish and compelling Heavenly Creatures, based on real events, stars Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey in their screen debuts as Juliet Hulme (now better known as author Anne Perry) and Pauline Parker.
In 1950s New Zealand, the two teenagers, both outsiders, form an obsessive bond, creating their own elaborate fantasy world, over which they rule. Suspecting a sexual undercurrent to their relationship, Pauline’s mother Honora (Sarah Peirse) tries to keep the two apart, unleashing a desperation in the girls that leads to her murder.