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STUDIO: Pathfinder Home Entertainment
RUNNING TIME: 89 Minutes
• Post-mortem w/ cast and crew
• Deleted scenes
• Filmmaker bios
• Still galleries
smear campaign on a serial killer."
James Ellroy (LA Confidential) functions as de facto host, with appearances by those involved with the case of
Robert Berdella — journalists, cops, and the one man who escaped from the
"Bob" Berdella was not a nice man. He coaxed or abducted young men
into his house, where he performed torturous "experiments" on them,
noting various effects down on sheets of loose-leaf paper. He tried out Drano
injections to the larynx, various electrical stimuli, and filling orifices with
paste and caulk. When he tired of such sciences, he sexually abused the boys.
police suspect was his sixth victim, he made a mistake with the restraints. The
boy, Chris Bryson, escaped and told the police what had happened to him. Berdella
kinda lost out on his fun, after that.
Gene Wilder sez, "No. Wait. Stop."
glancing at the cover of his disc, it’s a bit hard to determine what type of
film it is. Documentary? Dramatization? On-the-cheap horror? Nothing explicitly
states that what you’re about to watch is a non-fiction bit of propaganda in
the guise of a documentary. Just to clear up semantics, here, I’m using
propaganda to mean a rigidly single-minded argument with small presence — if
any — of countering evidence.
thesis of Bazaar Bizarre is very simple: Bob Berdella was a sack of shit.
This is a thesis so simple that you wouldn’t think it would take long to
convince the audience of its truth; but you know those audiences, always
questioning evidence. What kind of shit? What is the capacity of this sack? The
audience demands satisfaction.
do the filmmakers, primarily writer/director Benjamin Meade, provide us with?
An hour-and-a-half of footage designed to convince we skeptical viewers that a
notorious serial killer was not a good person.
there’s the potential argument that Bazaar is designed to try and blow
away some of the fascination audiences have with serial killers. We love
stories about them, true or not. The trouble is that the filmmakers are
actually contributing to Berdella’s mythology by focusing so much attention on
You got mighty fine hands, Sal. For the time being.
buy that there was any agenda for this film, other than to spread the word that
Berdella wasn’t a cool guy, because its construction is so single-minded. There’s
no nuance to the interviews or the context of key segments. It’s just a
straight-line march from here to lynching land. Along the way, you’ll be
treated to kitschy music videos (featuring novelty songs about Berdella,)
venomous interjections by James Ellroy, and poorly-shot and -acted
dramatizations of the crimes. Heavy-handedness abounds!
places where the filmmakers didn’t force their grubby mitts are the occasional
interview segment. There are a couple worth nothing: those with Chris Bryson,
the escaped victim, who recounts in detail some of the tortures that Berdella
put him through, as well as the particulars of his escape. Alongside all the
efforts to dehumanize Berdella, this interjection of humanity is pretty damn
refreshing. The other interview of note is with a doctor at a
performed penis reattachment surgery on Berdella multiple times, which meant it
was unlikely that he could experience any sort of sexual pleasure at all.
wrinkle in Berdella’s character is flattened out almost immediately by a return
to the over-earnest Ellroy, who reminds us once again that Berdella was a Bad
Man. But this infatuation, this continuous demonizing, removes all weight from
Ellroy’s condemnations. Every sequence in the film adds to the man’s myth,
while the ostensible intent of the film is to destroy the memory of him.
unnecessary celluloid bile, unless you’re the type of guy who gets a thrill
when people get what they deserve. If you want a true-crime documentary, rent Capturing
the Friedmans. The filmmakers of Bazaar Bizarre are too concerned
with being judge, jury, and executioner of the man’s character to be taken
Look for their latest CD, "Music To Eternally Push a Boulder Up a Hill To," in stores now!
bonus front, you get a ten minute postmortem with cast and crew, in lieu of a
commentary. They discuss their individual roles in the creation of the film and
share a few anecdotes about its history.
also four deleted scenes, including an excised music video (if only they all
had been…) and some effects shots. There’s also an interview that didn’t make
it with one Jim Wheat, proprietor of a booth in the market where Berdella had
once housed his "Bazaar Bizarre," from which the film gets its name.
special features include biographies of James Ellrory and Bejamin Meade, a
trailer, and some still galleries.
4.5 out of 10