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The Lenny Bruce Performance Film


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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.

Special Features

None.

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: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000AYNFWQ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,250 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Lenny Bruce Performance Film" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Tom Degan on October 2, 2005
Format: DVD
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
tomdegan@frontiernet.net
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 6, 1998
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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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Geoffrey Parfitt on December 4, 2005
Format: DVD
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.
Read more ›
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Alan C. Baird on 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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 16, 1998
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Alan W. Petrucelli on December 31, 2005
Format: DVD
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. In this--- the only complete stand-up performance of Bruce ever captured on film --- the iconoclast poet speaks. Loudly. Filmed in 1965 at San Francisco's Basin Street West (in what would be his penultimate live appearance), the show consists of Bruce's responses to the accusations and allegations stemming from his multiple arrests for obscenity and the trials that followed. While the production values are far from superior, it is an important piece of history for humorists and historians to embrace.
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