This Shocking True Crime Documentary Profiles the Most Toxic Romance of All Time—And It’s Streaming Now

Crazy Love documentary

I’m back with another dark documentary recommendation and I think I may have outdone myself this time. Crazy Love (which is co-directed by Dan Klores and actor Fisher Stevens) is one of the most upsetting films I’ve seen. The relationship profiled within is plagued by violence, manipulation, deceit, and unadulterated evil. The details recounted in the doc are heartbreaking. Worse yet, this story doesn’t have a satisfying conclusion. In fact, the doc leaves off on such a tragic note that I wanted to erase the entire ordeal from my memory. But it’s forever seared into my brain. 

Crazy Love recalls the troubled relationship between Burt Pugach and Linda Riss, a couple that met in New York City in the late ‘50s. The pair had a contentious relationship from the start. But matters only became more harrowing as their union progressed. In spite of the odds being stacked against them, the couple always found their way back to one another. The doc chronicles the highs and lows of their union and attempts to provide answers as to why each of them chose to stay when they had every reason to leave. 

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I don’t think a room full of clinicians could definitively speak to the various forms of dysfunction that bonded this pair. But the filmmakers certainly make a valiant effort to provide context, going in-depth on both subjects’ early years, painting a picture of what may have led them to stay the course. We learn that both Linda and Burt had troubled childhoods and experienced various forms of neglect and abuse. Burt was regularly beaten by his controlling mother and Linda lacked any real security and longed for the love and attention of a father figure. Over time, it becomes evident that each party was lacking something they found in the other. 

Crazy Love takes an especially sinister turn when Burt becomes disenchanted with Linda for breaking up with him for neglecting to mention he is married and ultimately refusing to leave his wife. During their time apart, Linda came dangerously close to moving on with a man who really seemed to love her. In fact, she came within a week of marrying him. But Burt wasn’t willing to let that happen. Convinced that if he couldn’t have her, no one could, Burt hired three men to throw lye in Linda’s face. That left her nearly blind and permanently disfigured. 

Burt was eventually incarcerated for his role in the attack on Linda. But that didn’t stop him from trying to win her favor. He stalked her from prison, sending her letters and gifts. When he somehow made parole, Burt made every effort to worm his way back into Linda’s life. Seeing as her disfigurement made dating more complex, Linda was put in a uniquely vulnerable position. Perhaps because Burt showed a level of devotion that she struggled to find from other men after the lye incident, she accepted his marriage proposal. 

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The very idea that Burt permanently disfigured a woman and rendered her vulnerable to his incessant advances is a tragic twist on Stockholm Syndrome. It’s infuriating to think that Burt managed to victimize Linda and then used the harm he caused her to get what he wanted. That can only be described as a special kind of twisted.  

The final segment of Crazy Love presents a series of clippings pulled from the headlines and footage from television appearances. Each paints a picture of Linda going on to defend Burt for what he did to her and even justifying his actions after he took a new mistress. She further stood by him following reports that he threatened violence against the new woman.

As you can probably gather, the entire documentary is heartbreaking. It’s tragic to watch two people who should have never come together in the first place defy logic and attempt to make a doomed union work at all costs. They say that love conquers all but this wasn’t love. This was a combination of lust, obsession, entitlement, and a series of mental health conditions that culminated in what can only be described as a match made in hell.

If you’re curious to experience Crazy Love for yourself, you can find it streaming on Watch Documentaries.



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