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The Lenny Bruce Performance Film (2005)

Lenny Bruce , John Magnuson  |  NR |  DVD
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

Price: $44.87 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Product Details

  • Actors: Lenny Bruce
  • Directors: John Magnuson
  • Writers: Lenny Bruce
  • Producers: John Magnuson
  • Format: Color, Content/Copy-Protected CD, Dolby, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: KOCH VISION
  • DVD Release Date: November 8, 2005
  • Run Time: 72 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #175,885 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Lenny Bruce Performance Film" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Lenny Bruce is considered to this day to be America’s most controversial comedian. Having been arrested numerous times for obscenity over the course of his career, Lenny performed only in San Francisco during the last year of his life. Filmed live at the Basin Street West in San Francisco in 1965 in what would be his second-to-last live performance, Lenny directly addresses the accusations and allegations stemming from his multiple arrests for obscenity. This rare live performance also contains some of his famous stand-up bits including the prison riot with Dutch, the Warden, Father Flotski and Sabu, the prison doctor.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lenny Bruce In Action October 2, 2005
For any Lenny Bruce fan, this film is absolutely essential. It is the only time in his all-too-brief career that Lenny's nightclub act was filmed from begining to end.

This is Lenny at the end of his life. It is August of 1965 and he has less than a year to live. The effects of four years of unrelenting persecution and personal self destruction are painfully evedent. He's not the Lenny of 1959: The hyper-energetic, brilliant young comic who burst apon the national consciousness with two riotous appearances on the Steve Allen Show. By the summer of 1965 it is obvious to even the most casual of viewers that Lenny Bruce is a broken, dying man.

And yet, even in this tragic condition, he is still screamingly funny. Some people have criticized his obsession with the American legal system during this period as ponderous and rambling. But when viewed within the context of historical hindsight and a knowledge of his own personal saga, Lenny's observations are fresh and eye opening.

A writer from Newsweek once refered to Lenny Bruce as "a sad, sick, self destructive genius of a dirty time". This film is an important document that records what it was that made him so unique.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a vision of a genius past his prime July 6, 1998
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
While it is great to see Lenny Bruce at work in The Lenny Bruce Performance Film, it arouses deeply mixed feelings in the hearts of those who are familiar with his earlier work. The legal system had ruined him financially and his own bitterness was days away from finishing him as well. In the film we can see glimers of his earlier genius, presented for a small San Francisco club when years earlier he sold out a midnight show at Carnagie Hall (he had played to a packed house when there was a blizzard raging outside, no less). But this video is of interest to those getting to know Lenny because we get to hear his side of his legal problems first hand, and to older fans because we can see where he was right before his end. So check it out, but remember that he wasn't always that good. He used to be better.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't miss the Big Finish! October 9, 2000
Format:VHS Tape
The best reason for buying this live concert video has been tucked away after the credits: "Thank You Mask Man" is director Jeff Hale's seven-minute animation of the voice track from one of Lenny's nightclub gigs. [Among classic cartoons, this one is right up there with "Bambi Meets Godzilla" (ASIN 6300229386).] In "The Essential Lenny Bruce" (ASIN 0333136160), our hero reflects on the significance of a masked man who avoids gratitude:
I always wonder about the anonymous giver. Cause the anonymous giver truly is the egomaniac: "I'm so GOOD--I'm not going to tell ANYbody." That's sick, man. I'm going to leave you with this, that the only anonymous giver is the guy that knocks up your daughter.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lenny Bruce nearing the End - Funny but Damaged December 4, 2005
I'm a Lenny Bruce fan. I know about Lenny Bruce, and I know about 'The Lenny Bruce Performance Film'. I know the circumstances under which the film was made, and the circumstances of Lenny's life and career at that time. Consequently, my expectations for this performance were low.

But from the very start... he's good. Not brilliant... but good. Unfortunately, good is such a come-down for Lenny Bruce. And the performance is not helped by the way it is filmed. Lenny is never seen in full figure, which tends to be the best way to show stand-up. The dim lighting was also as strong as Lenny's eyes could stand.

He looks rather chubbier than in his prime, and the trademark sharp suit has been replaced with looser clothes to hide his bulkier body. But THIS IS Lenny Bruce performing on film, and it is because so little of this exists, this this film has the fascination it does.

Lenny is working with a document in hand - a transcript of one of his prosecutions - and the bulk of his performance revolves around what this contains... How what he has said and done in nightclubs was misrepresented by the legal system of America.

And this main section of his performance works remarkably well. He knows the points he wants to make, he easily find the sections of the transcript he needs, his vocal technique is still very much in evidence, and he is FUNNY.

But very soon, we see what is lacking in this Lenny Bruce. The incisive mind may still be there, but the playfulness is gone. While discussing the law, he talks about mime artists losing their "freedom of speech". What an opportunity! He misses what could have been one of the best laughs of the night.

But even this adequate performance can't be sustained. The end is heart breaking.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lenny's Last Concert November 16, 1998
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
I believe this was Lenny's last (or second last) concert. For die-hard fans only, although the cassette version has some great stuff on it! Also includes "Thank You Masked Man" cartoon, one of his best routines!
The performance itself rambles a bit too much even for a fan like me. It focuses on Lenny's obsession with his own persecution and the legalities of what he does. Its good stuff but it will put most people off.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars His penultimate stand-up performance January 14, 2010
In the one-hour 1965 video originally called simply "Lenny Bruce," a clearly distracted Lenny thumbs through a NY court transcript and recreates bits that during his trial were misquoted, misinterpreted and maligned. Occasional audience giggles are heard, but only after vulgarities. His listeners are obviously not attuned to Bruce's concerns. Selfishly or otherwise, they want to be entertained.

After some amusement over a mime group arrested in a park, Lenny talks of his three obscenity busts and using the transcript as a guide he performs major portions of these routines: T & A, Jackie Kennedy fleeing the limo, Judaism, cheating and male arousal (doing it with a chicken), urinating in the sink and off a ledge, the flasher. Bruce asserts the prosecution's statement that his "monologues insulted sex, debased it" has totally confused what is prurient with what is art, and thus this conclusion is legally and logically flawed.

Setting aside the papers, Lenny closes with a 20 minute free-association pastiche of his better-known material mixed with random thoughts. In rapid order he covers Alaska, the decorative stone wall behind him, Chicago mobsters disrupting Shelley Berman's act, a Miami Beach heckler who hit Bruce with a wine glass and the bouncer's retaliation, narcotics, a lengthy recreation of the Father Flotsky prison movie, " 'to' is a preposition, 'come' is a verb." His closing thought is about jealous men.

For any fan of this tortured genius, "Lenny Bruce" is a must-see. And for those who enjoy Richard Pryor, George Carlin or Robin Williams, you'll experience here the last flickers of brilliance from the man who inspired them to become comedians. Highly recommended.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars UNBEILEBABLY BORING
LENNY BRUCE was the cuttig edge comedian back then
butther was hardly any funny about this movie... Read more
Published 20 months ago by MICHAEL W. ROSING
5.0 out of 5 stars Lenny Bruce, rare video that up and coming acts would appreciate.
There was so little film shot of Lenny's standup it's almost criminal, there are more recordings but still an insufficient body of work to represent his contributions to the field... Read more
Published 21 months ago by McDuff426
2.0 out of 5 stars Good historical document. TERRIBLE EXAMPLE OF LENNY IN ACTION
Lenny Bruce was at about the end of his rope when this performance was filmed. By that time, he appeared on stage with a court manuscript talking about all of the mistakes the... Read more
Published on August 25, 2012 by M. Salmestrelli
4.0 out of 5 stars Lenny in his own words
Starting with the Dustin Hoffman movie Lenny I've been fascinated by this comic. His biography by Goldman does a complete dive into Bruce's life including discussing all of his... Read more
Published on May 20, 2012 by R. Spell
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic
There are two ways to look at this 1965 San Fransisco performance, one of the last by great Lenny Bruce. A master improviser or an addict reeling out of control. Read more
Published on August 30, 2010 by Bill Your 'Free Form FM Print DJ
5.0 out of 5 stars Lenny Bruce must be seen.
Lenny Bruce was not "dirty". He did not tell dirty jokes. The reason he is still current is that is that he was truly funny. Read more
Published on July 16, 2008 by Jazz Person
5.0 out of 5 stars NOT FOR THE NEOPHYTE!
At the outset let me say that I am not a Lenny Bruce fan!
I remember seeing this film in the late 1970's at a midnight showing and not 'getting it'. Read more
Published on September 19, 2006 by J. D. Karp
4.0 out of 5 stars still burning at the end
Although Lenny was near the end when this performance was filmed, he still puts on a riveting show. He does go on about the legal system a lot but what he says makes so much sense. Read more
Published on January 26, 2006 by rick from Boston
George Carlin says it best: Bruce's genius' was the unique ability to investigate hypocrisy and expose social inequities in a street rap that was really a form of poetry. Read more
Published on December 31, 2005 by Alan W. Petrucelli
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth it for less.
TCM has it at their site for 12.99. Worth that much only for "Thank You Masked Man"
Published on January 5, 2004
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