Dan Klores' documentary Crazy Love proves that truth really is stranger than fiction as it spins the tale of an infamous crime of passion--and its unbelievable result.
No question about it; Crazy Love lives up to its title--and then some. The story of Burt Pugach and Linda Riss' rocky relationship will leave you shaking your head and, yes, even chuckling at the mind-boggling quirks of human nature. The pair met in the Bronx in the '50s when Burt, a successful personal injury lawyer, spotted lovely Linda sitting on a bench and decided, then and there, that he had to have her. But Burt's dogged, glamorous courtship (private planes! nightclub stars!) couldn't erase the fact that he was already married; when Linda broke up with him and got engaged to someone else, he went ballistic, ultimately paying a pair of thugs to throw lye in her face and blind her. The sensational case was all over the papers, and Burt eventually went to jail for the crime--only to get paroled 14 years later and wind up marrying the woman who was still the girl of his dreams.
If you didn't know better, you'd swear that most of the people interviewed in Crazy Love were straight out of central casting. Outspoken, brash, and as thoroughly New York as bagels and marble rye, Burt, Linda, and their friends and relatives are as entertaining a bunch as any fictional characters could be. Even knowing the sordid details of their ups and downs, it's hard not to sympathize with both Burt--now a roly-poly type who doesn't seem capable of hurting a fly, much less the love of his life--and Linda, a say-it-like-it-is gal decked out in jewelry and a big-haired wig who seems like the type of forthright dame Shirley MacLaine would love to play. Other folks involved in the story--including the female cop who started out protecting Linda from Burt and later helped arrange their reconciliation--weigh in with their own unique take on the couple's long, strange trip.
Eschewing narration in favor of a few discreet time stamps and peppy period music cues, Klores mostly just sits back and lets Burt and Linda tell their unbelievable tale--which works perfectly, since it's one that doesn't need any embellishment. Perhaps most impressively, Klores manages to frame the story--which, looked at objectively, is a horrifying account of obsession and abuse--in an engagingly lighthearted way without condescending to his subjects. You may not understand how Linda could take Burt back after everything he did to her, but you don't dismiss her as a brainless broad, either. In the end, watching them kibitz at each other as they putter around their apartment and grab a bite to eat, Linda's theory she's gotten her revenge by making Burt put up with her for almost 30 years doesn't throw you for any more of a loop than anything else the pair has said or done. Ah, young love!
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 stars.