By Terry Fleming • February 14, 2023
Hello Boils and Ghouls! The Thrift Keeper here (named for my devilish ability to find the Best Bargains among Blood-Curdling titles!), and now that the most horrifying of all possible holidays is over (Valentine's Day—YUCK!), I'd like to help re-darken your horizons by talking about Romance Gone Wrong!
They say that almost fifty percent of marriages end in divorce, and if you consider all the love-affairs that fall flat on their face BEFORE the typical person marries Mr. or Ms. Right (or Right Now—or Right-For-Seven-to-Eight-Years-On-Average), then you can REVEL IN THE WRONGNESS of Love Gone Bad your entire life!
ALMOST ALL ROMANCES END IN RUIN! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
So why not contribute to the grief? Not everyone is fortunate enough to find a Possessed Plastic Murderous Life-Mate, as I did with my Winifred. But that doesn't mean you can't enjoy leaving a veritable runway of broken hearts in your wake, or otherwise sewing the seeds of amorous chaos wherever you might flit about! So allow me to provide you with some gruesome inspiration for being exactly the sort of Cad or Jezebel you always dreamed of being! Never forget what Honest Abe Lincoln said about marriage:
Meaning at best it's a SNOOZEFEST, but I beg to differ with Mr. Penny—marriage can also be absolute HELL! Take Blood and Money, for instance, the true crime story of a marriage gone daffy in the Texas dust! It's got everything: scandalous affairs, obsessed fathers, gangland reprobates, suburban hellcats, and let's not forget mortal spousal treachery! Next up is Ladykiller, another true tale, this time of a Texas cop (what is it about Texas?) who shoots and kills his wife ("accidentally," of course) and then goes on to use the power of his badge to procure a veritable harem for himself. A Socialite Scorned: The Murder of a Tucson High-Roller tells the story of a blonde bombshell accustomed to the Good Life—so much so, she decides to redefine the term to include a dead husband! And lastly, how about A Deadly Affair, a true story that shows how far an attorney can go to get rid of a (pregnant, no less) wife, and all the irritating complications of same (like a verdict of second-degree murder!).
Now, let's veer away from reality to something more, shall we say, aesthetic. Yes, I'm speaking of Gothic Romance, where every affair is haunted, the erotic is typically DRENCHED IN VICTORIAN SHAME, and there is no escape, ever, from the demons of your past! HUBBA HUBBA, IN OTHER WORDS!
Do you believe obsession is the ultimate form of amorous dedication? Do you think drafty castles or moldering mansions to be the perfect backdrops for a torrid romance? And do you like your romances torrid, by the way? Then you might not realize it, but you could be Goth!
A Gothic Romance 101 course would include the study of two key characters: Heathcliff and Rochester, brought to you by those kooky Brontë sisters!
Heathcliff, from Wuthering Heights, is a man on fire. Taunted, tormented from a young age, denied the love of his life, he goes off to make his fortune, only to return and adopt a scorched earth policy on everyone who scorned him! HOT STUFF, right? Not only does he NOT get the girl, but he kinda, um, has a hand in her death (for which he suffers for the rest of his life, slowly hardening into a furious gourd of a man). WHOOPS!
Edward Fairfax Rochester, from Jane Eyre, is shifty and strange, weird and wealthy. The titular character, Jane, is immediately intrigued (hey fellas, take note! We creepy weirdoes are sexy to brainoids like Jane!). Jane goes to work for him and all sorts of antics occur (such as Rochester asking her to marry him when—OOPS —he just so happens to have an insane first wife stashed away, which, to me, shouldn't be a mark against him. My first wife Daisy is currently living in my bell tower, patiently cleaning the dead bats out, mummifying them, and then dressing them in tiny ball gowns and having high tea with them. I know I'd feel insulted if my Winifred condemned me for that. After all, when I divorced Daisy, I could've sent her back to the swamp where I found her. At least now she has a roof over her head, and many dead, leathery-winged friends to keep her company). And even though Jane and Rochester do find love at the end (gross), it's only after he loses several body parts, which is something I recommend for every romantic affair (in a Boxing Helena sort of way).
When it comes to movies of love gone wrong, I could mention all the obvious titles, like Fatal Attraction, The War of the Roses, Intolerable Cruelty, Gone Girl, Dangerous Liaisons, Basic Instinct, and The First Wives Club. But as you may have guessed, I enjoy the weirder variety of toxic romance, and it doesn't get much more bizarre than the couple Denis Leary has to confront in The Ref. Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis aren't all what they seem as a couple in Kalifornia. Juliette specialized in brutal romances for a bit, and also starred in Natural Born Killers. And speaking of killer couples, let's not forget Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen in Badlands, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde, and Christian Slater and Winona Ryder in Heathers (honorable mention goes to Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette in True Romance. And while we're talking Patricia Arquette, she had quite the rotten affair with Bill Pullman in the David Lynch mindbender Lost Highway. And Patricia's sister Rosanna Arquette went even further out with her amorous obsessions—involving car crashes, no less—in the grisly David Cronenberg classic Crash. Oh, and come to think of it, Rosanna also co-starred in a movie where she was one of the worst first dates in history in After Hours).
Let's wrap it up with some fave fiction of mine concerning what happens when Cupid's arrow is dipped in poison. Heartburn was Nora Ephron's way of fictionalizing her own traumatic marriage with journalist Carl Bernstein (Nora liked the writers. Her first husband was Dan Greenburg. After she divorced Bernstein, she married True Crime author Nicholas Pileggi—author of Casino, which featured a cursed marriage between a Casino boss and a former prostitute, played in the movie version by Robert de Niro and Sharon Stone). Daisy Buchanan and The Great Gatsby have quite an infatuation going on (till it all falls apart, of course). There are so many betrayals in Anna Karenina, it's hard to keep track! Soft Maniacs by Maggie Estep will shock and horrify (i.e., delight!), and Charles Bukowski's novel Women will show you how much damage one drunken middle aged writer can do to his bevy of female admirers.
So view or read every title listed here to cleanse your psychological palette of all this cringey lovey-dovey Valentine's Day stuff, lest you have a fit from the sugar shock of it all!