Benjamin Meade probably had the best of intentions when he set out to make a film about a serial killer named Robert Berdella, famous for raping, torturing and killing at least a half a dozen men in Kansas City, Missouri in the mid eighties. The facts surrounding the case are certainly salacious enough to make for a pretty interesting movie and given that, unlike certain crimes, it hasn't been done and done again in the movies, there was ample opportunity for a low budget filmmaker like Meade to put together a pretty interesting movie on the subject. Getting famous crime writer James Ellroy onboard also seemed like a plus, but the decision to basically just shoot him on the couch rambling kind of takes the excitement out of his participation.
When Berdella was caught by the cops, they found all manner of evidence in his possession that linked him to a whole lot of other nastiness that had taken place in the area over the years, while one of Berdella's escaped victims, Chris Bryson, was able to deliver testimony as to what exactly he'd been put through. When Meade's film begins, we're given a fairly quick rundown of what happened and how, before learning just how Berdella was caught when Bryson jumped naked from a window in the house where Berdella was keeping him and ran down the street.
This basically segues into the rest of the film which is made up of amateurish reenactments (one of which, involving a van of hippy types, seems to have been lifted from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre?) and dry narration from Ellroy who pontificates on the evils of serial killers and continually states the obvious. Do we need James Ellroy to tell us that serial killers are bad people? Ideally we can figure this out on our own, as there's really no way to put a positive spin on serial killing, but Ellroy is insistent and he makes sure to drive this point home time and time again throughout the film.
We do get a few interviews with people who were involved in the case and we learn that Berdella made his living by operating a store that sold odd occult related items, which is where the film gets its odd name (his store was called Bazarre Bizarre) and that Berdella would chop up the male prostitutes he chose as his victims and put them out in the garbage, but the film never goes past the sensationalist details. There's no attempt here to get into Berdella's head at all or find out what made him the way he was. Since Berdella died in prison of a heart attack in 1992 it's obviously flat out impossible for him to have been interviewed here but Meade's more interested in showing us torture, gore effects and unrelated musical bits from a band called The Demon Dogs than anything of substance.
So with that said, what we inevitably wind up with here is a low budget film that features an internationally renowned author delivering cliché ridden narration in between horribly performed reenactments, bad gore effects, and awful musical interludes. Somewhere in the middle of all of this are some interesting facts about a fascinating case, but they're lost along with the possibility of Bazarre Bizarre offering up much of interest.
Bazarre Bizarre was shot on video for little money and the non-anamorphic 1.78.1 widescreen transfer shows it. The picture is consistent only in its softness and its murkiness with mild to moderate compression artifacts frequently present. Colors are flat, black levels are inconsistent, and if you look for it you might just be lucky enough to spot some macroblocking. The movie doesn't look very good at all on DVD.
The only audio option on the disc is an English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track. The narration is clean and clear though the levels go up and down a few times during the dramatic reenactment sequences. Aside from that, however, there aren't really any problems here and the movie sounds fine.
Troma has included a passable collection of extra features on this disc, starting with the Post Mortem section that is really just ten minutes or so worth of cast and crew interviews wherein the participants discuss their involvement with this production. There's also seven minutes worth of deleted scenes here where Ellroy warns against the dangers of hooking for a living and we're asked to watch a strange music video. This material wouldn't have helped the movie and the editor was wise to chop it out. Aside from that, look for the usual array of Tromatic extras like the PSA, trailers, some gratuitous nudity and other completely unrelated nonsense. Menus and chapter stops are also included.
Even the most ardent serial killer/true crime buffs are going to have a tough time with this one. Ellroy's presence should have added enough levity for this to have worked and the story is an interesting one, but so much goes so wrong that there's really not much worth recommending here. Skip it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.