“Serial” podcast junkies jonesing for a new true-crime fix are in for quite the treat on Feb. 8, when HBO premieres “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst,” a six-part docu-series on real estate scion-cum-dismemberer Robert Durst. This series, created by Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling of “Capturing the Friedmans” fame, is a cornucopia of strangeness: a triple murder spanning three states and nearly three decades, cross-dressing, disappearances, multiple identities and a whole lot of darkly comedic zings.
But the real hook here is the ghoulish Durst himself – who after seeing a screening of “All Good Things,” the fictional film version of the Durst story also created by Jarecki – suggested to the director that he do a more in-depth version with his participation.
Durst’s unique vocal affectation – mimicked by several others in the series – makes him fascinating to listen to, and his twitches, obsessive eye blinking and bizarre facial expressions magnify his sinister on-screen presence. With lines like, “I didn’t kill my best friend, but I did dismember him,” and describing his younger brother and real estate titan Douglas as “a pussy,” Durst is the biggest hate-watching draw HBO has offered since Lena Dunham in “Girls.”
Jarecki said last night at an advanced screening of the first two chapters that the series took a whopping eight years to create and produce. It pre-dated the “Serial” phenomenon, but will definitely appeal to the same audience, he said. Unlike “Serial,” however, this show will have a resolution: “At the end of episode six,” Jarecki said, “you will know what happened.”
Durst was investigated but remains uncharged in the disappearance of his first wife Kathleen McCormack Durst in 1982 in New York, and also for the murder of his best friend Susan Berman in Los Angeles in 2000. He did see jail time for beheading his neighbor Morris Black in Galveston, Texas, where Durst lived in 2000 under the guise of a woman. He jumped bail and was rearrested while stealing a sandwich from a local supermarket, even though he had hundreds of dollars in cash in his pocket at the time. He was acquitted of the murder charges, but served five years for bond jumping and related offenses.
At the post-screening Q-and-A, homicide detective Cody Cazalas described Durst as a “creepy little bastard” and said that even though he would not believe 99 percent of what comes out of Durst’s mouth, he marveled at the fact that Durst admitted to lying to the NYPD about McCormack – despite the fact that the investigation into her disappearance is still open.
Four days after McCormack disappeared, Durst alerted the police he had not heard from her after he supposedly drove her to the Katonah train station late Sunday night. Durst originally claimed he stopped at a neighbor’s house for a drink and then called his wife from a payphone to make sure she was safely in their Manhattan apartment. However, on camera in “The Jinx,” he admits he did neither of those things, chalking his lies up to his desire to “make everything go away.”
There is no word on what will transpire in regards to that open investigation. As for future episodes, Jarecki remains mum except to say, “It is the beginning of a journey that is intensely emotional.” While it’s impossible to accurately predict anything when it comes to Robert Durst, the first two chapters of this saga clearly show that we’re in for a very wild ride.