Bazaar Bizarre (2004)

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In 1988, Chris Bryson was found running down a Kansas City street naked, beaten, and bloody wearing nothing but a dog collar and a leash. He told police about Bob Berdella, a local business... See full summary »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Himself, author
Roger Coleman ...
Himself, reverend
Albert Reiderer ...
Himself, former prosecutor
Troy Cole ...
Himself, retired sergeant
Tom Moss ...
Himself, retired officer
Karen Blakeman ...
Herself, reporter, Kansas City Times
Tom Jackman ...
Himself, reporter
Robert Berdella ...
Himself (archive footage)
James McKinley ...
Himself, reporter (as Jim McKinley)
Marilyn Richardson ...
Herself, doctor
Kevin Kelly ...
Himself, florist
Barbara Rues ...
Herself, hairdresser
Rick Flavell ...
Chris Bryson ...
Pat Herrington ...
Himself, auto mechanic


In 1988, Chris Bryson was found running down a Kansas City street naked, beaten, and bloody wearing nothing but a dog collar and a leash. He told police about Bob Berdella, a local business man and how Berdella had caputed him, held him hostage, raped him, tortured him, and photographed him over several days. Police later arrested Berdella and searched his mid-town Kansas City home where they found several hundred polaroid photographs, a detailed torture log, envelopes of human teeth and a human skull. It was soon discovered that Berdella had murdered six young men in his home after drugging them and performing his sick acts of sexual torture. He met a couple of the victims at his business, a small shop called "Bob's Bizaare Bazaar" where he sold artifacts from around the world related to the darker side of human nature for people with jaded tastes.Some lived the horrors for only a few days, one for six weeks. After death, Berdella would cut up the bodies with an electric chain saw ... Written by Benjamin Meade

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis



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Release Date:

16 September 2004 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Bazaar Bizarre: The Strange Case of Serial Killer Bob Berdella  »

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1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


A municipal judge in Kansas City used to put transient youth in Berdella's protective custody for drug rehabilitation and referred to him as "Dr. Berdella". See more »

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User Reviews

Dark, haunting
22 September 2004 | by See all my reviews

Bob Berdella was a fat whack-job with a handlebar mustache.

He had presumptions of decadent worldliness…a sort of self-styled, poor man's Baudelaire.

Berdella owned a Kansas City head shop and a now razed house.

In that house, and around it, he raped and tortured his victims.

A few he buried around that house.

Some victims were maybe set out with the weekly trash and now languish in some landfill.

A few others maybe ended up as entrees. Or so is theorized in Ben Meade's harrowing documentary, "Bazaar Bizarre."

Their killer died in prison of an apparent heart-attack. Berdella is credited with six kills.

Berdella's victims were all men. Meade points out as many as 47 were reported missing in and around K.C. concurrent with Berdella's period of activity.

Those familiar with Meade's "Vakvagany" are probably best prepared for the flavor of film experience they're in for.

It's take-no-prisoners territory again. Dark portentous music…sibilant whispers. Even a full-frontal reenactment of a bloody and nude run for his life by a victim. The man managed to escape Berdella, clad only in a dog-collar.

In the dark world of Ben Meade, the camera never shifts away.

The camera never blinks and never judges.

Meade has tracked down journalists, still-living victims and makes powerful use of an old jailhouse interview with Berdella, himself.

And there is James Ellroy.

The crime writer, clad in a yellow- and black-striped rugby shirt, looking for all the world like some avenging bee of logic and reason, chips in with his take on Berdella. Ellroy counsels no compassion for the rotting killer.

Ellroy shares his own rarified takes on the minds of sexual psychopaths: "Homosexual men kill men. Heterosexual men kill women. It goes like that. That's it: You kill within your racial profile.

You kill within your sexual profile."

Ellroy's most effective moments come when he is crosscut against Berdella's own filmed statements.

Bob Berdella "had a longstanding love affair with the male anatomy," Ellroy says. "If he wasn't incarcerated or dead," Ellroy asserts, Berdella would "still be killing people."

The serial killer shopkeeper whose Kansas City store, "Bazaar Bizarre" supplies the title for Meade's film, was equal parts John Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer.

Like Gacy, he used his own home as a charnel house and dumping ground.

Like Dahmer, Berdella experimented with his victims.

Dahmer, another jailhouse dead man, attempted do-it-yourself brain surgery on his victims, hoping to create compliant sex zombies. Berdella injected Drano into the throats of his victims.

Berdella also kept diaries, so we know the suffering of his victims sometimes extended across several nightmarish days.

Meade, using grainy film stock and a held-hand camera, stages unflinching reenactments of Berdella's activities with his victims…rape, fisting…a disemboweling…disarticulation of bodies.

With such scenes, Meade has to walk a delicate line - skirting exploitation or possible glorification of Berdella…the opening of old wounds in Kansas City (although this is probably inevitable, under any circumstances).

The chorus of experts, and particularly James Ellroy, do much to contextualize Berdella. Several also decry the bewildering lack of local outrage regarding the killer's crimes.

The "Demon Dogs" weigh-in with garage-band style tunes about Berdella - working well within the venerable and violent American tradition of vintage folk murder ballads.



Sure, the film is all of that.

Not for the squeamish?


But if you're signing on to watch a documentary about a serial killer, you know what you're going to be confronted with.

And Meade's graphic depictions of Berdella at work are well within the boundaries of films such as "The Silence of the Lambs," or even the various "CSI" series, where beheadings, vivisections and post-mortem manipulations of bodies and body parts are served up as entertainment.

This is the real thing: Riveting, revolting and, ultimately, illuminating…a bravura triumph of guerilla film-making.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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