"What some people do for love, and the idiots who adore them"
The experience of watching “Crazy Love” is like being gradually stabbed by a dear friend. At first, it doesn’t make any sense and seems impossible to process, but once the reality of the situation hits you and the blade twists deeper, the swelling sense of horror is impossible to disregard.The minute he spied Linda Riss, Burt Pugach knew he had to possess her. “Crazy Love” is a documentary spotlighting the 50-year-long relationship between these two people, and the unpolluted lunacy that shadowed their every move.
When they first met, Burt was a 32-year-old married attorney who spotted the 20-year-old Linda on a New York street. It was obsession at first sight. Making it his life’s work to acquire Linda, the financially stable Burt pulled all the charm out of his back pocket he could muster to woo her, yet nothing worked. Linda was young and she wasn’t moved by Burt the same way he loved her. This left the womanizer with only one all-consuming thought: if he couldn’t have the young beauty, no one could. After watching his beloved land in the arms of another, Burt took matters into his own hands and hired thugs to blind Linda with lye on the eve of her engagement.
The resulting criminal trial in the summer of 1959 took the New York City media elite by storm and the daily twists and turns made front page headlines. Pugach and Riss became household names as their tale of love and woe grew to unwieldy proportions.
The ace up the sleeve of “Crazy Love” is the full cooperation of Linda and Burt, who are still to this day dealing with the fallout of the case. The two desire to tell their story to director Dan Klores and the result is a film that chillingly examines a seemingly causal life commitment from Burt to the fine art of stalking and the stunned effect it took on the couple’s friends and family over the decades it’s taken to sort the conflict out.
I’m reluctant to detail exactly how far “Crazy Love” tumbles down the rabbit hole if only because a good percentage of the film’s wallop comes from taking the film in with a blank slate. If you’re not familiar with the well-documented ordeal of Burt and Linda, than there is an endless serving of astonishment to take pleasure in, it’s almost heart-stopping. To see what lengths Bert goes to win over Linda is every woman’s nightmare; anyone with a proper head on their shoulders will curdle hearing the details of Bert’s obsessive behavior and his tango with the brink of sanity. If that wasn’t enough white-hair fright for one movie, Linda’s eventual response to her blinding is a twinge more ridiculous than anything fiction could come up with. Let’s just say the lonely heart will do funny things when backed into a corner.“Crazy Love” actually earns the cliché “it needs to be seen to be believed.” The tale of Bert and Linda took nearly 50 years to get to this point, and it still hasn’t settled properly yet. “Crazy Love” takes a ball of moldy tabloid journalism and manages to peel away the sensationalism to find the unbelievable core of this story again, and anyone with a weakness for larger-than-life snapshots of dementia and the exceptional stupidity of humanity will have a field day soaking up every last frame of this terrific documentary.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2007 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.