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Years after the book's release, Meade contacted Jackman, now a reporter with The Washington Post, about turning the Berdella story into a movie. "I tried to do something I've never done before, which is make a straight documentary," Meade says.
That ambition didn't last. Bazaar Bizarre quickly veered into familiar Meade territory.
"The film is not really about Berdella," Meade says. "It is, but it's almost like he's one of the subtexts. It's about the system, about people, about humor, how we handled the whole thing with humor.... It's going to bring out just as many questions as it does answers, so people are going to be pissed. And that's fine. Because I don't have the answers. I don't think we'll ever have the answers."
Meade collected enough material to make a more traditional documentary, and Bazaar Bizarre often displays the flourish, inventiveness and bravery the genre demands. It also provides a few gotcha moments, courtesy of authority figures who are obviously unfamiliar with Meade's editing style.
"Thank God it's 16 years later, because no one in their right mind would say a lot of the things these people involved in the case say -- they wouldn't have said it back then," Meade says. "When this comes out, a lot of people are going to be mad they went on camera."
Meade mentions Cole, the KCPD investigator who admits on camera that his initial impression of the beaten and delirious Bryson was that he'd been involved in a lovers' quarrel. "Which implies that gay people who are lovers, when they quarrel, they torture each other," Meade says. "That's a hell of a thing to say. That's similar to seeing a woman naked, beaten, running down the street and thinking her and her husband are just having a fight."
Meade's also prods Albert Riederer, the former Jackson County prosecutor who was in the middle of a heated re-election campaign when Berdella was arrested.
In retrospect, Riederer blames his then-opponent, Carol Coe, for dragging the crimes into the political arena, a criticism Meade deftly pairs with archival footage of the younger Riederer calling for Berdella's head. ("I would love to see him executed," Riederer crows.)
But Meade takes his best jab at Riederer when the former prosecutor says he didn't mind sparing Berdella's life, because he knew the killer wouldn't last long in prison. ("I just assumed he would do something in jail that would get him killed," Riederer tells Meade.)
Meade cuts to commentary by the Rev. Roger Coleman, who spent an agonizing time counseling a suicidal Berdella during the killer's initial incarceration. Four years later, a panicked Berdella called Coleman and said prison officials were withholding his heart medication. Shortly thereafter, Berdella died of a heart attack.
Confronted with Coleman's story, Riederer says the minister should have informed authorities if he'd known about any attempts on the prisoner's life. Regardless, he says, Berdella "got what he deserved."
But Meade goes beyond simply resurrecting the investigation and incarceration of Berdella. He says he felt compelled to re-create the man's grisly crimes.