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... more » 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.« less
Thomas Degan | Goshen, NY United States | 10/02/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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 email@example.com"
A vision of a genius past his prime
(3 out of 5 stars)
"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."
Don't miss the Big Finish!
Alan C. Baird | Mesa Arizona US + Budapest Hungary EU | 10/10/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."
"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. An obligation of this performance was that Lenny reproduce some of the classic routines of just a few years earlier... and suddenly he tries.
Very sad. He can't do it. He can't reproduce his original passion or delivery of those bits. Maybe he can't remember. One routine lasts a few seconds, before he tries another. Important lines we know should be there are missing. Lenny is clearly in trouble.
It is like watching one of those "peace officers" he earlier criticizes for hopelessly trying to portray Lenny Bruce the performer in court. Without the real Lenny Bruce speaking, these famous routines quietly die a death.
Eventually the performance dwindles to a close. Lenny goes to a side door, and improvises some lines to passers-by. We can't really hear what he is saying, and it seems embarrassing to try. After a minute or so, the door allows his escape.
This was Lenny's next to last nightclub performance. Within a year he will be dead. "
Lenny's Last Concert
Alan C. Baird | 11/17/1998
(3 out of 5 stars)
"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."