Iconoclast Lenny Bruce appears at San Francisco's Basin Street West in what was his next-to-last live appearance. His act that night consisted of reading allegations and transcripts from ... See full summary »
Iconoclast Lenny Bruce appears at San Francisco's Basin Street West in what was his next-to-last live appearance. His act that night consisted of reading allegations and transcripts from one of his several obscenity trials and then commenting on what he'd actually done or said. While there are some "bits" in the performance (including the prison riot with Dutch, the Warden, Father Flotski, and Sabu, the prison doctor), this is much more a social commentary on government intrusion and censorship than it is a comedy routine. Written by
It was heartening to hear-about Lenny Bruce's posthumous-acquittal in 2002, but considering that our rights to free-speech are again directly-imperiled just makes this documentary of circa-1965 Lenny so chilling. Watching this documentary is akin to a snuff-film: you are watching the human-toll inflicted by Police and District Attorneys on a man who was likely the most important public, social-observer of his time. It's true, one can still see moments of Lenny's former-brilliance of only 3-4 years earlier in this performance, but it is dimmed. This document exists if only to instill in young-people, the outrage of what was committed on this great man. It is not entertainment, it is history.
This is what makes this--the one full-concert on-film--so disappointing. Not only is it shot-poorly, but copyright-owners have never done anything to locate better-prints; and like all other Lenny-material out there, no attempts at restoration or preservation seem to have been made. I know there is a dearth of Lenny-footage out there, but until the most-recent documentary, "Swear to Tell the Truth", all we have seen is recycled- footage. Archives need to open their doors to make these materials widely-available, this is our history, people.
So, since the early-70s, all we have had is this muddy-gem and "Lenny Bruce Without Tears." Bob Fosse's "Lenny" has some great-moments, and surely captures some aspects of Lenny Bruce, but isn't very probing about what made the comedian so daring for his time. I urge anyone out there who has footage of Lenny Bruce to put make it available to the public, because surely, there is much more to be seen. From Playboy's TV-show appearances that have only been shown in fragments, to press-conferences, and even newsreel-footage of shows, it's out there. It's time to re-examine this man's life in minute-detail, and researchers and fans-alike deserve access to more primary-materials. The recent "Let the Buyer Beware" box-set was an excellent-start.
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