This documentary about the story of Burton Pugach and Linda Riss is so twisted, but leaves an amazing impression. It's the kind of stuff that tabloid writers couldn't make up, and a saga that will probably be watched by those who lived through it, especially New Yorkers.
Director Dan Klores is so attentive to the story and its elderly principals that even if the handling of the subject is a little rudimentary, these cinematic notes on a scandal is one that gives meaning to "turning a blind eye."
Initially, in 1957 on the Rosh Hashanah holiday, the two meet cute on a Bronx park bench with Pugach a very established lawyer ten years older than the photogenic 20-year-old.
As part owner of a nightclub and having a private plane, the relationship blossoms. But, it turns out he's married with a handicapped daughter. Riss ultimately leaves him after he's exposed on a fake divorce for a more genuine suitor while down in Florida.
Pugach turns more menacing, that, in a shocking turn of events, pays a minion to blind her with lye so she could never be with another man. The psychotic, now disbarred attorney handles his own odd court case which includes a suicide attempt.
Klores uses old film clips and photos while having the events commented on mainly by Riss, Pugach, and their dearest friends in linear fashion. There are the opinions of Jimmy Breslin and NY Post journalist Andrea Peyser.
The imprisoned Pugach (in 1961) writes to Linda while in prison as her eyesight gradually erodes as the scarred woman is unable to find love anymore. Lobbying lawyer William Kunstler turns out to be a matchmaker as he helps Riss get money from a reconciliatory Pugach.
In 1974 Pugach is freed and proposes to her in front of a television camera. Big Apple denizens are in disbelief again as she accepts. Then, in the '90's Pugach, who has worked his way back up as a paralegal, is on charges against a mistress while he lives with Riss in Queens. Again, serving as his own defense, Pugach does better for himself. He is found guilty of one minor offense.
What kind of person could stand for a husband called by Peyser "a more miserable excuse of a husband than Joey Buttafuoco"? Someone like Linda with her large eyeglasses who holds a "No. 1 lawyer" coffee cup and can keep him on a tight lease.