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Lenny Bruce Without Tears

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For those familiar with the outrageous antics of comic pioneer Lenny Bruce, this grainy black-and-white documentary is a trove of old clips from TV appearances on The Steve Allen Show and a heartbreakingly manic interview with hepcat writer Nat Hentoff. But for the uninitiated, the film reveals little of the real Bruce — only spotty biographical information and, most unfortunate, no evidence of what he was most famous for: a wild imagination in devilish disregard of obscenity laws (which later became his downfall). His tamer riffs on religion, sex, and the establishment, despite the out-of-date references, are remarkably resonant after all these years. It’s too bad that the only uncensored material here is footage of 40-year-old Bruce’s lifeless body sprawled on the bathroom floor.

EXTRAS A random student film on director Fred Baker provides no extra insight, save that he was occasionally Bruce’s drug connection. And the photo gallery is shorter than this groundbreaking man’s life.

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