Lenny Bruce – Without
Sound: C+ Extras: C Film: B-
Lenny Bruce is the hugely controversial stand-up comic who
has now turned out to be the most important comedian of his generation, because
he had to take on censorship head-on.
The government essentially dragged him into court after court and his
switch from funny man to free-speech crusader ruined him. This 1972 documentary Without Tears
was put together by Fred and Barbara Baker, with Fred directing the new
The film covers Bruce’s life, loves, incredible talent and
how he initially got establishment support from big names like Steve
Allen. The more you know about his
later controversy, the more ironic the early career moments are. For those who still to this day want to
write him off as a comic who spouted nothing but obscenities, besides comparing
him to comics who only do that, this myth is either to make us forget he had
talent or to negate his political counterculture side. Without Tears sadly lasts only 75
minutes, but is a priceless document about a man who turned out to be one of
the most important American artists of all time, still ahead of his time.
The full screen 1.33 X 1 image was shot in black and
white, which will remind many of the Bob Fosse Lenny film from
1974. The print has minor scratches and
artifacts throughout, but the archival footage, including television work, is
in good enough shape, luckily captured on this print as who knows where this
footage is now. Though some footage has
a faded look, the Gray Scale is more often consistent than not. The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono shows the limits
of the original soundtrack, which sounds like Optical Theatrical Mono sound. The combination is fine for DVD, but will
need work later for HD presentation.
Extras include a 10-minutes-long update piece on director Fred Baker,
trailers for five other First Run DVD titles and a stills gallery. That is a minimal accompaniment to a film
worth your time. I just wish a
commentary was included.
- Nicholas Sheffo