The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst
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The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (Blu-ray)
From director Andrew Jarecki and producer Marc Smerling, this groundbreaking documentary series sheds new light on real-estate par iah Robert Durst, while unraveling one of the most notorious unsolved crimes in New York history]]>
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As mentioned before in previous reviews, I was a media transcriber the last ten years of my working career. I worked for the two premier transcription houses in NYC from 1997 to 2008. One of the many thousands of stories I transcribed over the years was the re-opening of the missing person case of Kathie Durst. I remembered the story back in 1982 when her face was on the front page of every tabloid paper in Manhattan. Over the years, like everyone else not connected to the story, I forgot about it. Then, many years later, there it was again. And I was transcribing the taped interviews. I started buying every book on the subject that amazon.com had. And, over the years, I have acquired them all.
Then, along comes THE JINX, the HBO spectacathon by Andrew Jarecki.
Of course I saw ALL GOOD THINGS when it came out (See my review on amazon) and thought Ryan Gosling incredibly sensitive and fascinating in the role. However, Gosling does not have the abrasive, Al Pacino-sounding voice that Bob Durst has. I can imagine Bob Durst was delighted with the choice of Gosling to play him when he watched the film in a local NYC theater. He called Andrew Jarecki after seeing it and the rest is history. Sort of.
No author in the history of American literature could have made this story up with the cast of characters that inhabit the tale. If someone had written Bob Durst's life story as a fiction book no publisher would touch it. They would dismiss it as too far fetched to be believed by readers. And they would be right in thinking this.
In this documentary it is obvious that Bob Durst is physically ill. He is a shadow of his former self. He shuffles (walks) like a 90 year old man. He talks to himself...out loud. His face is a taut mask pulled tightly on his skull. He just appears quite ill.
The production team has acquired family video of Bob Durst with his late mother when he was a young boy. He was 7 when she fell or threw herself off the roof of the family home. Durst talks about being at her funeral and watching them lower her coffin into the grave. When someone tells him it's his mother inside the box he screams, "I don't want mommy in a box. Get mommy out of the box." As he sits at the table with Jarecki re-telling the traumatic story he becomes the 7 year old before our eyes. It is gut-wrenching to look at and your eyes fill with tears at the thought of any child enduring this. Tragic as it was, it is no excuse for what he is supposed to have done over the following years. Murder three people.
The interview is riveting. The scenes from the murder trial in Galveston, Texas nail you to the back of your chair. There is footage of his brother Doug talking about how he fears for his life and has hired bodyguards. Footage of his wife Deborah. She comes off as a hard cookie. Nothing soft of feminine about her. She is all business. She hesitates when asked the date of her marriage to Durst. It is embarrassing to watch because it is so obvious this was a business relationship, not a love match. Of course there is no mention of Bob's affair with Mia Farrow's sister, Prudence, which Kathie found out about and sent her reeling. It was the beginning of the end of their marriage.
He hires the two best lawyers in Texas and is acquitted of Morris Black's murder. The look on his face when the verdict is read is priceless. They cost him well over a million dollars but it was worth it. He is again a free man. Well, not quite.
There are the murder cases of his wife and best friend Susan Berman to consider. New York State prosecutors have never given up on charging him in Kathie's death, although her body was never found. His best friend since college, Susan Berman, is found murdered in her California home a day after the Beverly Hills Police receive a letter with the words 'cadaver' written on the paper along with Susan's address. The word Beverly is spelled Beverley on the envelope. And, yes, Bob Durst was in California at the time of her death.
Susan Berman knows where all the bodies are buried with regard to Bob's life story. She was his spokes person to the press after Kathie went missing. She has kept all his secrets all these years. However, time and reality have caught up with her. She is living in LA and broke. Not able to land a job in the media that would keep her in the lifestyle she has always lived, she borrows thousands of dollars from a list of friends. The list is shown in the documentary. Printed from her personal computer after her death. Bob Durst-$50,000. This is the amount he has given her in recent months before her death. One day she receives a call from the Attorney Generals office in NY asking if they could send law enforcement officers out to interview her about Kathie's disappearance. She calls Bob and they talk about it. The day before the officers arrive she is found dead in her home, killed execution style. Her dogs wander through her small home leaving bloody paw prints on the floor.
The personal home movies, the interviews, the re-enactments by actors, the B-roll, all greatly watchable and fascinating. Bob Durst confesses to Jarecki that he did, indeed, lie to the police after his wife disappeared. He lied about making a pay-phone call to their NYC apartment. He lied about having a drink with his next door neighbors the night she left the house to return to Manhattan. He admits it.
By the time the last reel is almost completed you don't want it to end. Why doesn't he just go ahead and spill the truth about everything? You know that ain't gonna happen, right? By this time you are mentally exhausted from all the material you have just watched. What is it that is so fascinating about Robert Durst that keeps him in the tabloids and on TV for over 30 years. Obviously, there is something mesmerizing about him you can't put your finger on. I don't think I will ever know why I, personally, find him so fascinating. How does a man get away with not one, not two, but three murders?
The last five minutes of the documentary stun! Jarecki confronts Durst with a Xerox copy of two envelopes. Caught. Like a deer in the headlights Bob Durst realizes they have the goods on him. It implicates him in Susan Berman's murder. But there is more. Perhaps you read about it or saw it on the program. I won't go into it because it is a real 'spoiler' for someone who hasn't watched it yet. What did he just say?! You put the tape on pause and rewind a bit to play it again to make sure what you think he just said he actually said. Out loud. And yes, there it is. Whoa! Jarecki must have come unglued when he and his team heard it for the first time in editing.
What has happened since this docu-drama aired? Bob Durst was arrested for urinating at a pharmacy on the candy display. He was arrested in New Orleans the night before he was reportedly going to Cuba to keep from being extradited to California to stand trial for Susan Berman's murder. He was denied bail and remains, months later, in a New Orleans jail or hospital facility. California authorities are fighting to bring him to trial there. Louisiana authorities want to try him on gun possession and drug possession. Fire arms and marijuana were found in his hotel room along with thousands of dollars. Who will win this one? My feelings? Bob Durst will be dead before this is ironed out. He looks terminally ill throughout the film. I have suspicions as to what is ailing him but I won't put it in print.
I think in death, as in life, Bob Durst will have the last laugh on us all. He will have gotten away with three murders (perhaps more) and never paid the price. If you believe in the afterlife, then you believe he will be judged by a higher power. The one good thing Bob did in his lifetime? He didn't father children who might have grown up as emotionally disturbed as he is. He knew this was a possibility and told his wife he did not want children. Ever. He did the world a favor.
The documentary is one of the best ever shown on cable or regular television. I cannot imagine another one that can touch this one for perfection in every area of movie-making. Jarecki is a genius.
The long list of interviewees includes Robert Durst himself, who offers a first-person account that at times feels both genuine and rehearsed. He's certainly spent a lot of time being coached by lawyers in the past, but there are points during the interviews where Durst says things that would make his entire legal team sweat.
He's either the luckiest or unluckiest man on earth. The Jinx tells the Robert Durst story in a way that feels less like a documentary and more like an episode of The Wire meets The Office. It's surprisingly entertaining, and the thrill of the mystery keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Glad he will no longer be among us; his late wife seemed a very nice person; as a matter of fact all of his victims had a right to live. Anyway, in California life in prison means life! Susan Berman was a tragic figure who was trying so hard to sell herself as a daughter of a third string wise guy and Hollywood just wasn't in the buying mood I guess. Durst was a foolish person who exposed himself to these interviews; any of my past crimes would be kept quite if I did anything so extreme. A sick man.
You cannot take your eyes off of this man as he speaks. He is a study in dysfunction. His money buys him women who facilitate his every move and provide him with alibis. And he ends up killing at least one of them.
This documentary showcases a man that is so mentally incompetent that he mass murders, yet is very rich and can function well enough to have in place, protections that have kept him free for decades.
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