Crazy Love

Flashy documentary about a nerdy but successful Bronx lawyer named Burt Pugach who, in the late 1950s, started dating a local beauty named Linda Riss, nine years his junior and initially unaware that he was already married. Finally weary of Pugach's increasingly obsessive behavior and his refusal to leave his wife, Riss dumped him and took up with another man. An enraged Pugach, deciding that if he couldn't have this woman then no one would, then hired some thugs to come to Riss's house and throw acid in her face, blinding her for life.

This despicable crime made headlines all over New York back in the day – and yet the story only gets weirder.

(Note: Stop reading now if you want to see the movie and don't want any of the surprises ruined.)

After serving several years in jail for his crimes, when Pugach was released in the early '70s he was still obsessed with Riss. So much that he actually proposed marriage to her. Shockingly, Riss accepted. Thirty years later, they remain married – a couple of characters who bicker like the Kramdens, but who also seem genuinely fond of each other.

Crazy Love's bright graphics and wall-to-wall pop soundtrack are so peppy in tone that director Dan Klores almost seems to forget the horrifically cruel and self-serving act that ruined Riss's life and bound her to her tormentor out of what was possibly pure loneliness. Blind and bald after the acid attack, Riss was considered too much "damaged goods" to be found desirable by anyone else. That Pugach got exactly what he wanted may unfortunately serve as encouragement for certain men.

I'd like to believe that Klores, aware of the appalling nature of Burt Pugach's crime, felt that he didn't need to rub our noses in it. But I do wish his film felt a little more responsible to Linda Riss. She comes across as a cranky old blind lady today, and if you didn't know the couple's past, you would swear that the kooky Burt and Linda were made for each other. But the story only touches on the promise the poor woman's life once held, and I for one was left wondering whether Klores even cared. Still, there's enough ambiguity in his presentation to engender some fine after-movie conversation, and it is an expertly made documentary.