Friday, May 20, 2011

Leonard Kastle (1929-2011)

More than forty years ago, two careers seemed to be going in opposite directions. Erstwhile film editor Martin Scorsese had been fired from his job directing The Honeymoon Killers for filming too slowly. His replacement was novice director Leonard G. Kastle, a classical composer by vocation with operas to his credit who had researched and co-written the film's true-crime inspired screenplay. Derided in its day despite defiant praise from Francois Truffaut, The Honeymoon Killers is now considered a canonical cult film and is included in the Criterion Collection of prestigious DVDs. Kastle returned to music and never directed another film. He died in Westerlo, New York, on May 18. A locally-reported obituary notes that Kastle made one last attempt to make a movie in 2001, after rediscoveries of Honeymoon Killers raised his cinematic profile, but he could not raise the funds to direct his screenplay Wedding at Cana, which on the description provided by the newspaper does sound intriguing. Nevertheless, Kastle's was not the loser's life we often associate with cult films, though the juxtaposition of his sole film work with his classical calling is arguably still the stuff of cultdom. He remained a respected musician and academic for decades beyond his brush with cinema. He may well have regarded Honeymoon Killers as as much a footnote to his own career as his career now appears as a footnote to movie history.

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