Documentary Review: A bio-tech investor with a gift, and a curse — “The Blech Effect”

The come-on for “The Blech Effect” is a bit of an eye roller.

He might “find a cure for Alzheimer’s, IF he can stay out of prison.” Words to that effect “sell” it, but a documentary premised on that is, well, rubbish.

The “hero” here is a bi-polar New York investor who has financed bio-tech companies with such success that he once hit the Forbes 400, worth some $300 million back in 1992.

He’s not worth that when the film catches up with him. He lost it all and was busted for securities fraud/stock manipulation in the ’90s. When filmmaker David Greenwald introduces David Blech to us, the disheveled, medicated and morose Blech is hoping for a “Hail Mary.” He’s got a big piece of a bio-genetic start-up with a genius scientist on board and patents that could lead to a new treatment for Alzheimer’s.

But however Greenwald wants to burnish the guy’s image, giving him “credit” for something people he has invested in might develop, showing us “the roller coaster rides I’ve taken my family on,” a family that includes a long-suffering wife and a possibly autistic son (his diagnosis changes), Greenwald runs up against the same wall Blech does. The guy’s a bore.

Blech’s been a clever investor, at times, and a dope at others. He has “a grandiose vision of who I am.” And he’s a scofflaw, looking at prison time for “playing” with the stock market. He’s at the end of his tether, and whatever Greenwald figured he could get out of this story, he’s basically bought into that “grandiose vision.” We don’t have to.

“I had turned Wall Street into a casino,” Blech admits. Decades ago his illness and choice of career collided and he’s developed a full on gambling addiction, with stock trading his “game” of choice. He’s co-founded or sometimes bought into companies which he always sold before they have a breakthrough and explode in value, earning and losing millions when he could have held fast and had billions.

So yeah, he’s a lot more Gambler’s Anonymous case study than Jonas Salk. As such, he’s modestly interesting as a documentary subject, but never compelling.

We don’t get to sit in on his GA meetings, only hear him work the phones for money and time, listen to his wife Margory lament his “destabilizing influence on the family.”

You feel bad for their then-14-year-old son, whose diagnosis, therapy and treatments would break many a bank account. You feel a little for the wife, who fell for David’s on-the-spectrum directness.

But the guy fretting, from first frame to final judgment that “my whole world could come crashing down?” Jerks like him bankrupted the country. Cry me a river.

No, not interested in your “Woe is me,” pal. No, you don’t get credit for something a company you helped start invented, especially since in most cases you’d already sold out when the “breakthrough” came.

The film’s close focus on Blech might make for a fascinating dissection of a person with a problem. But there’s too little here to illustrate that. A news clipping here, audio from a courtroom there doesn’t tell the story.

Blech’s is almost the only voice heard in the movie, and after a while, the bipolar fallen investor with a gambling problem is all too easy to tune out.

MPAA Rating: unrated

Cast: David Blech, Margory Blech, Evan Blech

Credits: Directed by David Greenwald. A Virgil Films release.

Running time: 1:27

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