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The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (TV Mini-Series 2015) - Plot Summary Poster

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Summaries

  • Filmmaker Andrew Jarecki examines the complicated life of reclusive real estate icon Robert Durst, the key suspect in a series of unsolved crimes.

  • A groundbreaking six-part documentary directed and produced by Andrew Jarecki and produced and shot by Marc Smerling (the Oscar nominated behind "Capturing the Friedmans (2003)") delves into the strange history of real estate heir Robert Durst, long suspected in the still-unsolved 1982 disappearance of his wife as well as the subsequent murders of family friend Susan Berman and neighbor Morris Black. It features an extended, revealing interview with Durst himself, with whom Jarecki developed a unique relationship following the release of "All Good Things (2010)", Jarecki's 2010 feature about Durst's life starring Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst. "The Jinx" results from nearly a decade of research by the filmmakers, who expose police files, key witnesses, never-before-seen footage, private prison recordings, and thousands of pages of formerly hidden documents.

  • A groundbreaking six-part documentary that delves into the history of real estate heir Robert Durst, suspected in the unsolved 1982 disappearance of his wife as well as the murders of family friend Susan Berman and neighbour Morris Black. It features an extended, revealing interview with Durst himself. 'The Jinx' results from nearly a decade of research exposing police files, key witnesses, never-before-seen footage, private prison recordings, and thousands of pages of formerly hidden documents.


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The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • An HBO Documentary Films six chapter series, The Jinx is a highly stylized true crime story about Robert Durst, one time heir to the multibillion dollar Durst Origination real estate empire, who is suspected in the disappearance of his first wife and the murders of 2 other people dating back to 1983.

    Chapter One - A Body in the Bay

    2001: A dismembered corpse is found floating in trash bags in Galveston Bay, Texas. Police trace the body back to a grisly crime scene, and arrest Robert Durst for the killing of his neighbor, Morris Black. Durst makes bail and goes on the run. After months of eluding authorities, he is arrested again and assembles a dream team of lawyers to prepare his defense in the extraordinary case.

    2012: Filmmakers Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling are preparing for the theatrical release of the feature film All Good Things, starring Ryan Gosling, about the life of Robert Durst. Shortly before the premiere, Jarecki is contacted out of the blue by the reclusive Durst, who asks to see the movie. After seeing the film, Durst who has never spoken publicly about his life or the crimes of which hes been accused expresses his willingness to sit down with Jarecki for an extended interview.

    Introduced along the way are Dursts second wife, the inimitable Debrah Lee Charatan, and his brother, Douglas, with whom he has a lifelong rivalry.

    Chapter Two - Poor Little Rich Boy

    2013: Dursts interview with Jarecki begins with his childhood, when he witnessed his mothers suicide. His father, Seymour distant and cold, obsessed with building the Durst Organization into a real-estate behemoth and leaving his mark on the Manhattan skyline pressures young Robert to join the family business. Durst describes his disinterest in following in his fathers footsteps, and recalls meeting Kathie McCormack, a beautiful girl from a modest background. The couple fall in love and move to Vermont, where they lead a simple life and run a health-food store called All Good Things. But not long after, Seymour prevails and Robert returns to New York to take his place at the powerful Durst Organization.

    1982: Robert and Kathie have been married for nearly 10 years, during which they have moved from their idyllic life in Vermont back to New York City. They divide their time between a penthouse apartment on Riverside Drive, and an upstate house on picturesque Lake Truesdale, 50 miles north of Manhattan in Westchester County, NY. After a weekend at the lake house, Durst walks into the 20th Precinct and tells desk sergeant Michael Struk that he hasnt seen his wife in five days. He says that when he last saw her, he was putting her on a train in Katonah to return to NYC for medical school classes. The details of their last weekend together are a subject of much controversy by those who know the couple. Believing Robert knows more about Kathie's fate than he is letting on, her family and friends embark on a hunt for the truth.

    Chapter Three - The Gangster's Daughter

    2000: Susan Berman was the daughter of a famous Las Vegas mobster, Davey The Jew Berman, who was a partner with Bugsy Siegel in the Flamingo Hotel. Robert Dursts closest friend since they attended UCLA together, she had a mobsters mentality and matching code of ethics; people said she would do anything for a friend. Since Kathie Durst's disappearance two decades earlier, Robert Durst had been the subject of media and public scrutiny, and she had become his spokesperson to the media. Some say that Robert and Susan kept each others secrets, and that if anyone knew what happened to Kathie, it would be Susan.

    When a random tip leads ambitious Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro to re-open the investigation into the disappearance of Kathie Durst, her investigators focus on Susan Berman, a witness the police had overlooked back in 1982. But before the police are able to speak with her Susan is murdered, shot in the back of the head, execution-style. An anonymous note is received by the Beverly Hills Police Department with Berman's address and the single word "CADAVER", known as The Cadaver Note. With no sign of struggle at the crime scene, police surmise her killer is likely someone who knew her well. Reviewing potential suspects, the police are unable to make a clear connection that links Robert to Berman's death. Meanwhile, Robert reaches out and befriends his dead friends family, including her adopted son, Sareb.

    Late 2000: With stories of the Los Angeles murder of Susan Berman receding, Robert Durst is suddenly back in the news when he is arrested in Galveston, Texas for the death of his neighbor Morris Black, whose dismembered body was found in the bay.

    Chapter Four - The State of Texas vs. Robert Durst

    2003. With Robert Durst on trial in Galveston, TX for the 2001 murder of Morris Black, many of those involved in earlier investigations including Westchester DA Jeanine Pirro and Kathie Durst friends Gilberta Najamy and Eleanore Schwank are convinced that a conviction is all but assured. Instead, Durst's attorneys, led by ace lead counsel Dick DeGuerin, surprises the court with an unlikely first witness and a brilliant self-defense strategy. Dramatic footage from the trial, combined with revealing recent interviews with Robert Durst, punctuate the courtroom drama that led to a starting not guilty verdict.

    Chapter Five - Family Values

    Present Day: In the 33 years since Kathie Durst disappeared, no progress has been made in finding out what happened to her, or finding her body. Without answers, her family and friends continue to hunt for the truth to no avail. Virtually the same can be said for Susan Berman as no charges have been filed since her killing in 2000. Susan Berman's stepson Sareb is interviewed, which leads him to review papers of his stepmother's that have never been seen before. A letter from Durst to Berman is found that has an eerie resemblance to 'The Cadaver Note' sent to Beverly Hills Police on the day Berman was killed.

    Chapter Six - The Second Interview

    Present day: Nearly a decade has passed since the filmmakers began investigating Robert Durst and his alleged crimes. They have spoken to more than 100 participants in Robert's story, including family, friends, police, lawyers, jurors and journalists in an attempt to get at the truth.

    The filmmakers struggle to get Durst back to the interview table. Although Durst agreed to meet a second time, when push comes to shove, he consistently declines.

    Filmmakers revisit the comparison of a letter from Durst to Susan Berman in March of 1999 and the anonymous letter ('The Cadaver Note') sent to the Beverly Hills Police when Berman was killed in December 2000. They have a forensic handwriting analysis done with multiple examples from publicly available documents hand written by Durst. The analysis concludes the handwriting "tics are unique to one person and only one person" - meaning both letters were written by Durst.

    Then, in 2013, Durst was arrested for trespassing at his brother Douglas's home in NYC. In 2014, Durst's lawyers contacted the filmmakers to obtain previous video footage of Durst near the same location, to assist in his defense. The filmmakers felt this gave them 'leverage' in their quest to get the second interview, and they were correct as Durst finally agrees to sit down with them again.

    As the interview begins, Jarecki begins by showing Durst old photographs of his first wife Kathie and Susan Berman. He then asks about the printed letterhead address on a letter from Durst to Berman, and Durst confirms it was his old office address. Jarecki shows Durst the envelope the letter came in, with the same printed address, and Durst confirms it was from him. Jarecki then confronts Durst with The Cadaver Note. Durst says he sees the similarities in the block printing and spelling error, says they are very similar, says he did write the Berman letter, but he did not write The Cadaver Note. Jarecki tells Durst "he is searching for a way to figure out how you didn't write The Cadaver Note." Durst likings the block lettering on the two documents to typewriter printing being the same, but can't tell them apart - the address on the envelope to Berman which he wrote and address on The Cadaver Note envelope which the killer supposedly wrote. During the conversion Durst is having indigestion and gas, and burps a number of times.

    Jarecki concludes the interview. Durst says he's going to use the rest room. While inside, his microphone is still hot (turned on and functioning) and he is unwittingly being recorded, talking to himself. Here's what Durst said verbatim, after which the chapter and series conclude, as the scene fades to black:

    "There it is. You're caught.

    You're right, of course.

    But you can't imagine.

    Arrest him.

    I don't know what's in the house.

    Oh, I want this.

    What a disaster.

    He was right. I was wrong.

    And the burping.

    I'm having difficulty with the question.

    What the hell did I do?

    Killed them all. Of course."

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