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A rich examination of 'Crazy Love'

The Baltimore Sun

The enthralling documentary Crazy Love is about how a high-flying lawyer's obsession with a young beauty blinded her, metaphorically and literally. As Dan Klores did with his great boxing documentary Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story, this writer-director goes deep with a tale that dominated New York tabloids a half-century ago. The material is much trickier and more prone to sensationalism than the Griffith story. Griffith beat Benny "the Kid" Paret to death in a title bout after Paret hurled a homophobic Spanish epithet at him but emerged in Klores' rendering as a vulnerable man of violence with an aching conscience. In Crazy Love, Burt Pugach, an ambulance chaser who dabbled in show business, reveals himself as an irredeemable narcissist.

The love Pugach feels for the warm, modest Linda Riss is so determined and proprietary, you wonder whether it should be called even crazy love. At best, it comes off as a mania, at worst a mechanistic desire that must be quashed or quenched. Pugach proves to be a Mephistophelean manipulator who funds a movie to get close to demi-stars like Keefe Brasselle and a nightclub to impress girls with full-blown singing stars like Johnny Mathis.

Crazy Love (Magnolia) A documentary by Dan Klores. Rated PG-13. Time 92 minutes.

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