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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Stand-up > Politics > Racism > Skits > Talk Show > Drama > Biography > Ultimate Richard Pryor Collection Uncensored (1965 - 2021/Time Life DVD Box Set)

Ultimate Richard Pryor Collection Uncensored (1965 - 2021/Time Life DVD Box Set)

Picture: C+ Sound: C+ Extras: C+ Main Programs: B+

When Richard Pryor was on a roll in the 1970s, no one knew what he would say or do next, bold, unhinged in the best way and breaking ground all over the entertainment industry, his influence and reign cannot be overstated and yet, it all seemed so logical, natural, spontaneous and he became one of the voices of the counterculture (and beyond) to say what everyone was thinking or needed to be said. Many comics were this smart and witty, but he was one of a kind. You can start to get the idea of just how he did this with the new 13-DVD set The Ultimate Richard Pryor Collection Uncensored.

Comprised of three volumes, I want to modify the press release to really give you an idea of the weight of the contents. You get all four of Richard's full-length concert films - Live & Smokin, Live in Concert, Live on the Sunset Strip, and Here and Now, the last three of which were released by Columbia Pictures in a smart move on their part. The first one is an indie production and the most intimate of the four. They are all must-sees and hold up well form the times I had seen the originals back in the day. You also get...

  • Richard's 1977 NBC TV Special and all four controversial episodes of The Richard Pryor Show, featuring then-unknown Robin Williams, Sandra Bernhard, Tim Reid, Marsha Warfield, and more! They are remarkable often and were ahead of their time.

  • Richard's most memorable TV appearances on The Merv Griffin Show (when he was first discovered in the mid-1960s), The Dick Cavett Show, and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, though these copies cut some non-Pryor footage.

  • The feature film, Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling, written, produced, and directed by Pryor, another Columbia Pictures release.

  • Never-before-released footage from Richard's infamous first film, Uncle Tom's Fairy Tales, lost since 1968, hosted by Penelope Spheeris (Wayne's World), an unknown filmmaker at the time helping him make this project on 16mm film. It's one of the best parts of this set.

  • Exclusive footage of Richard's final performances and a tribute event at The Comedy Store

  • Two acclaimed documentary films - Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic and I Am Richard Pryor

  • Extras including deleted scenes, outtakes, and a no-holds-barred interview with Richard's widow, Jennifer Lee Pryor and the Logic disc adds interview clips by Mel Brooks, Whoopi Goldberg, Lily Tomlin, Willie Nelson, Quincy Jones, David Banks and David Steinberg

  • Plus, a Collector's Booklet with personal photos, diary entries, tour notes and more!

And as usual for Time Life, the booklet is printed on high quality thick paper in a high quality way, including excellent picture reproduction. For the record, here is my coverage of the
Omit The Logic Blu-ray:


It is great to see some of this again, though the footage of Pryor in declining health is painful to watch at times and this all reminds us of what a key talent, icon and important voice we lost too soon, made all the more profound by ugly events in recent years. All I could think of is what he would say about today's political situations and certain key figures making it worse.

Now for playback performance. Much of the material here was actually shot on photochemical film, though many of the TV shows were analog videotape. All look as good as they possibly can in this format, though some (like Omit The Logic, as noted above) are out on Blu-ray separately from this set.

The 1.33 X 1 black & white image transfers for the Griffith episodes look as good as you could expect from such a shot recorded on analog videotape at the time, though sadly, so few such shows are out on DVD today. A few original Twilight Zone episodes shot that way were even upscaled for that classic's Blu-ray sets, while The Judy Garland Show remains the best-looking non-dramatic/scripted such production we've seen on monochrome tape. Ironically, most Carson black and white shows are lost and too many other such shows are also gone. These look fine, especially for their age. Glad these shows survived.

The 1.33 X 1 transfers of the rest of the talk shows and Pryor's scripted shows, all in full color, look fine and someone took care of the video masters in all these cases. Pryor's Place, his interesting attempt to do a child-friendly show (down to the title song by Ray Parker, Jr.) looks even better than I expected.

All the concert and feature films are here in anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 transfers that look just fine for the format, but these all deserve Blu-ray and even 4K release at some point. Again, the films are likely in good shape archive-wise if these discs are any indication.

That leaves the new interviews in anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 framing, shot on HD and just fine.

As for sound, all the talk shows, his 1977 TV special and series, first three concert films are here in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, the two documentaries are in lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes and the rest are here in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Here and Now and JoJo Dancer even have old Dolby Pro Logic surround encoding) and maybe you could get some better sound if these were in a lossless format, the older programs to about the mid-1970s or so would also possibly show sonic limits. Time Life have made sure these are as clean and clear as possible and no major compression issues or flaws are present.

So even if many of his other comedy feature films are not here and there is definitely some footage of him out there in other archives worldwide, this is a remarkable well-rounded collection and some of it so vital, it needs to be seen again, rediscovered and relived. That includes his films with Gene Wilder, with whom they made one of the greatest comedy teams of all time.

But be warned, The Ultimate Richard Pryor Collection Uncensored lives up to its name with some extensively graphic, brutal language, graphic situations, crazy moments and zero room for anything resembling political correctness... And he would have absolutely wanted it that way!

- Nicholas Sheffo


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