Crazy Love

Crazy Love


Reviewed by: Susanna Krawczyk

Some stories are just too bad to be true. Unfortunately, this one is gospel.

Burt Pugach meets Linda Riss. They date. He’s jealous, possessive, violent, unpredictable and a liar. He’s also married. She finds out. She leaves. Sees other people. Pretty reasonable, yes? What comes next is not. Next, Burt harasses Linda, threatens her family, her friends, her fiancé. He calls her constantly and hangs around her house with a gun. She’s utterly terrified and goes to the police many times, but they are always “powerless” unless they catch him at it. Then he hires three thugs to throw lye in her face, stating “If I can’t have her, I’ll make sure no-one else wants her.”

Copy picture

Linda Riss was blinded in one eye and lost her hair in this attack. Today she is totally blind. Pugach went to jail for 14 years for his crime, but never once let up his harassment of Linda. Letters arrived daily. Linda fled to Europe to try for happiness, but she was tragically convinced that no-one would want her ever again. In her own heartbreaking words: “I was damaged merchandise.” All of this is totally horrifying, but what is worse is that, on his release, Linda agreed to meet up with Burt and, almost unbelievably, to take him back. They got married.

Truly, it has been a long time since I’ve heard such an affecting tale of abuse. The movie relies on face-to-face interviews with Riss and Pugach as well as a selection of Riss’ friends and Pugach’s utterly vile associate Bob, and so doesn’t put much of a spin on the events beyond what the people involved have to say, but the title and the general tone towards the end seem to suggest some sort of redemption – they’re together now, so surely things must be okay..? Never mind that it is perfectly clear that had Burt Pugach not blinded and disfigured Linda Riss she would never be with him. Never mind that his protestations of love don’t seem to have stopped him from having an affair with his secretary and allegedly threatening her with similar treatment when she ended their affair. Never mind Linda’s statement mentioned above, and others in which she makes clear that she went back to Burt because she felt he was the only man who would have her now.

Burt Pugach comes across as a possessive and obsessive lunatic, justifying his harassment and attack on Linda with love. He and the odious Bob both crack smiles at several points when talking about the incident, and Pugach shows no remorse at all. He states that he “certainly saw no point in his going to jail”, despite admitting that he was behind the blinding of Linda.

Credit to the filmmakers, there is no sense of judgement from that quarter. The couple are allowed to tell their own story and they do so with amazing candour, speaking emotionally and devastatingly. I felt this especially from Linda, who, despite being the victim of a terrible injustice, is not cowed or ashamed. She’s made her choice and she sticks by it, and I am glad that Dan Klores has given her the opportunity to speak up.

Reviewed on: 16 Aug 2007
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Documentary about a man who mutilates the woman he claims to love.

Director: Dan Klores, Fisher Stevens

Writer: Dan Klores

Starring: Jimmy Breslin, Burt Pugach, Linda Pugach

Year: 2007

Runtime: 92 minutes

Country: US

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