Film review: Talky 'Crazy Love' hard to watch

Published: Friday, June 15 2007 12:00 a.m. MDT

CRAZY LOVE — ** 1/2 — Documentary feature about the relationship between Burt and Linda Riss Pugach; rated PG-13 (vulgarity, profanity, slurs, violence, nude art)

The story behind "Crazy Love" is pretty fascinating. But the storytelling in this documentary isn't always so fascinating.

Unfortunately, some of the unorthodox and questionable filmmaking methods employed here were made necessary because so little footage exists of the events the movie discusses.

Filmmakers Dan Klores and Fisher Stevens have had to re-create those events with photos and eyewitness testimony, and as a result this documentary is too talky. And there are some bad-taste elements that may make it challenging for some members of the audience.

The accurately titled "Crazy Love" examines the extremely dysfunctional, nearly 50-year relationship of former negligence-attorney Burt Pugach and ingenue Linda Riss.

The two began dating in the late 1950s, only to have her end the relationship when Burt grew too obsessive. In fact, when it appeared Linda was going to marry another man, Burt paid someone to throw lye in her face.

He was arrested and convicted for that horrifying crime and served more than a dozen years in prison. But after he gained an early release — having nearly been killed in the infamous Attica prison riots — Linda agreed to marry the man who blinded and disfigured her.

Co-directors Klores and Stevens' film doesn't glamorize this unique "fairy tale" or gloss over Burt's misdeeds. In fact, open disdain for Pugach is made obvious by several of Linda's former and current friends. (The movie also includes snippets from a tabloid-television report about an incident in which Burt, while married to Linda, supposedly threatened to kill another woman.)

Obviously, it's not an easy film to watch. But neither is it a story you'll easily shake off or forget any time soon.

"Crazy Love" is rated PG-13 for crude sexual language and references, occasional profanity and slurs based on race, some brief rioting violence (newsreel footage), and some nude statues. Running time: 92 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com

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