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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Rock > Lenny Bruce - Without Tears (Documentary)

Lenny Bruce – Without Tears (Documentary)


Picture: C+     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 segments.


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


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