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CRAZY LOVE(director/: Dan Klores/Fisher Stevens; screenwriter: Dan Klores; cinematographer: Wolfgang Held; editor: David Zieff; music: Douglas J. Cuomo; cast: Burt Pugach (Himself), Linda Riss (Herself ), Jimmy Breslin (Himself); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Fisher Stevens; Sundance Channel; 2007)
“The in-your-face documentary recalls the sensational tabloid story from the 1950s.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The in-your-face documentary recalls the sensational tabloid story from the 1950s. It’s the kind of tasteless film that makes you feel so dirty for watching such exploitation that you feel you need a shower afterwards. Dan Klores (runs a large public relations firm) and producer Fisher Stevens co-direct the bizarre ‘life is stranger than fiction’ tale that tells of a pretty twenty-year-old Bronx Jewish receptionist, Linda Riss, who had liquid lye thrown in her face by three black thugs hired by her spurned former boyfriend Burt Pugach. The unattractive aggressive Jewish married 32-year-old stalker is a high-roller (owned a Cadillac, a small plane and a nightclub), who was a disbarred ambulance chasing (a negligence specialist) lawyer. The life-changing incident caused the naive Linda’s handsome normal boyfriend at the time, Larry Schwartz, to break off their marriage plans when the publicity died down.

Klores revisits the now 68-year-old blind dark glasses wearing victim and the chatty still remorseless 79-year-old attacker and lets them tell in their own words what happened then and since (reportedly they got paid to do the film). The director also uses extensive interviews with family, friends, a biographer, a lady cop and columnist Jimmy Breslin; also used are old photographs, home movies, TV and newspaper reports of the incident, and archival footage. The creepy Burt, a most revolting character, who served fourteen years in prison for the 1959 attack will shockingly marry in 1974, upon his prison release, the lonely desperate woman he disfigured and whose life he ruined. The insanely evil obsessive story, told in a kitsch way, is about the totally unsympathetic character that only an anti-establishment activist lawyer like William Kunstler could like enough to put in a good word for him to Linda. The untrustworthy and unethical Burt is a criminal who believes “If I can’t have her, no one will.” It plays out as a bogus ‘crime of passion’ story about blind love and of a desperate woman who marries her attacker because she needs him not to be alone, for financial security and for him to be her eyes. In 1996 Burt, while still married, was tried in a Queens court for threatening to blind another woman who spurned him; acting as his own lawyer, he beat the rap and had Linda backing him with her court testimony of him as a loving husband.

As veteran Newsday columnist Jimmy Breslin crudely observes, this guy is insane—end of story. The crazy love story turns out to be as slight as the newspaper headlines back in the day, as the cheesy film plays this pathetic story for all the cheap laughs it can get and too easily allows for the viewer to be made to feel superior to the freakish attention loving subjects put on display to proudly flaunt their abusive natures and pathologies. One can only feel disdain for him and pity for what she’s been through, and it makes you hold your nose together so you don’t gag at such a deranged marriage that defies common sense—but you really don’t want to judge it, even though you’re almost forced to.

One cynically wonders if Klores is now ready to follow-up this tabloid story with the ‘crazy love’ story of O.J. Simpson.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”