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Bazaar Bizarre and the Demon Dogs

September 21, 2009

Probably the worst project James Ellroy has ever been involved in would be the documentary on Kansas City serial killer Bob Berdella, Bazaar Bizarre (2004). It is not often that documentaries achieve notoriety, but Bazaar Bizarre really is a nasty piece of work. The film contains graphic reenactments of Berdella’s torture-murders, which are horrible to watch and completely disrespectful to the memory of the victims. Why did Ellroy do it? He certainly hates the film and has blamed his near nervous-breakdown and the self-medicating that followed the exhausting The Cold Six Thousand (2001) publicity tour for his involvement.

Ellroy has  addressed the subject of serial killers with more distinction in his excellent novel Killer on the Road (1986) also published as Silent Terror, the introduction to Murder and Mayhem (1992) and the DVD commentary to David Fincher’s Zodiac (2007).

One of many tasteless moments of the film is the intermittent musical narration of the rock band The Demon Dogs who sing songs about Berdella. The Demon Dogs formed specifically for Bazaar Bizarre and named themselves in Ellroy’s honour. This makes Ellroy the only crime fiction writer to my knowledge who has ever had a rock band named after him. Ironically, Ellroy has always hated rock music. Listening to The Demon Dogs it is not difficult to see why. 

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