Documentary Revisits Curious Case of Lunatic Lawyer Who Blinded His Mistress
Back in the Fifties, Burt Pugach was an ambulance-chasing attorney who made enough money via shady fee-splitting schemes to open up his own nightclub in Manhattan. He even had plenty left over to lavish a jet set lifestyle on Linda Riss, the attractive receptionist he fell in love with at first sight. Without letting on that he was married, he had swept the impressionable 20 year-old off her feet with private plane rides and by wining and dining her at hot spots like the Copacabana.
But while the 32 year-old adulterer was scheming to take the virginity of his naive mistress, his poor wife was stuck at home, attending to the needs of their severely retarded daughter, 24/7. When Linda learned that her duplicitous suitor already had a family, she broke off the whirlwind relationship, and began dating available guys her own age.
This didn’t sit well with Burt, who became insanely jealous and started stalking her. He hired thugs to toss rocks through her windows and to beat her up, hoping that she would be frightened into returning to him. However, instead of capitulating, she went down to the 47th Precinct, pleading for police protection. Unfortunately, without proof that her ex was behind the assaults, she was left to fend for herself.
Burt totally went ballistic upon the announcement of Linda’s engagement to a lad named Larry Schwartz. Warning, “If I can’t have her, nobody will,” the lunatic lawyer got a gun and contemplated committing murder. Then, he thought better of it and paid a goon named Al Newkirk and a couple of other brothers from the ‘hood to throw acid in her face. The lye blinded Linda, who told anybody who would listen that Burt had to be behind her disfigurement.
This time, the cops tapped his phone line and heard him hatching a plan to cover his tracks by having a hit man “kill those three niggers.” Needless to say, he was arrested, tried and convicted, and sent up the river to Sing Sing in 1959 to rot behind bars for 30 years. Ordinarily, that would have slammed the door on this shocking tale for the tabloids, except for a bizarre twist following Pugach’s early parole for good behavior.
Over the intervening 16 years he spent incarcerated, Burt’s wife placed their child in a mental institution, sold their house, and skipped town. Linda, meanwhile, never married, having been left by her fiance, and grew dependent on her mother who was by now in failing health. As a consequence, faster than you can say “Joey Buttafucco and Amy Fisher,” the creepy psycho tracked her down and proposed.
As riveting as a train wreck, Crazy Love is a documentary which recounts all of the above, plus some of the sordid details of the couple’s ensuing, stormy 28-year marriage. Along the way, the picture serves up an array of mind-boggling updates, like the fact that Burt has continued his womanizing ways, even landing back in jail temporarily after one girlfriend accused him of breaking her wrist for dumping him after she became fed-up with his empty promises to leave Linda.
A fascinating flick for anyone looking for a new reason to hate lawyers.
Excellent (4 stars)
PG-13 for profanity, sexual references, and mature themes.
Running time: 93 minutes
Studio: Magnolia Pictures