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Blu-ray Review Lenny Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Feb 25, 2015.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director

    Apr 24, 2006
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    Charlotte, NC
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    Matt Hough
    XenForo Template Lenny Blu-ray Review

    The rise and fall of controversial comedian Lenny Bruce is captured in piecemeal, sometimes unsatisfying fashion in Bob Fosse’s docudrama Lenny, a sad and sour rags-to-riches-to-rags saga that does well capturing an era and making some points about the rise of the comic satirist in American show business. Directed by the man who had show business oozing from every pore of his body, the movie has problems and finds itself possessing something of a split personality with a dual focus on both Lenny Bruce and his one-time wife Honey but nevertheless makes for compelling viewing, an admirable follow-up to his triumphant Cabaret.

    Cover Art

    Studio: MGM

    Distributed By: Twilight Time

    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

    Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono)

    Subtitles: English SDH

    Rating: R

    Run Time: 1 Hr. 51 Min.

    Package Includes: Blu-ray

    keep case

    Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

    Region: All

    Release Date: 02/10/2015

    MSRP: $29.95

    The Production Rating: 4/5

    Rising from the obscurity of strip clubs and small dive nightclubs where he could hone his “anything goes” brand of comedy, Lenny Bruce (Dustin Hoffman) marries stripper Honey Harlow (Valerie Perrine) whom he tries to work into his act but finds greater success as a standalone comic providing hip commentary in California clubs to college students and young people ready to throw off the shackles of the restrictive Eisenhower years. But as Lenny’s use of vulgar language increases and he gets more firmly enmeshed in the drug culture of the times, his act runs afoul of censors who charge him with obscenity and eventually tie up his money in costly legal battles and a series of bans from cabaret performing.

    Julian Barry based his screenplay on his Broadway play which had a year-plus run in New York, but the material has been completely reworked for the screen with a flashback structure (with flashforwards to an act commenting on the times which spurs the flashbacks) taking us through the last fifteen years of Lenny’s life which included his meeting Honey, developing his act in the Catskills as well as in small clubs around the country, and his move to California where he found both professional success for a time and personal torment with him and Honey both having troubles with drug addiction and sexual experimentation. While occasional dates are mentioned here and there, the film doesn’t do a great job keeping us apprised of its timeline so we’re never quite sure how much time is passing as we see Lenny’s struggles in the crummy joints earning minimal salaries until he finally begins to catch on (and that happens suddenly, too: all at once, he has the big house with pool and the sports car making demands through his agent – played by Stanley Beck – for greater salary and percentages of the house take). But as astutely as director Bob Fosse captures the gritty clubs where Lenny works, he also keeps the camera just as focused on the enigmatic Honey as he does with Lenny. Since she outlives him, she’s the one giving interviews about his proclivities throughout the movie (providing additional flashback prompts), and we get to see in an early and most unforgettable sequence Honey’s strip act in which the camera lovingly caresses her body from top to bottom as Honey most professionally strips down to a G-string and pasties (Fosse’s own youthful experiences in strip clubs documented in All That Jazz gives him an unfettered interest in portraying that milieu with graphic brilliance). Bits and pieces of Lenny’s various acts make their way to the screen: some are bizarrely unfunny, some are eye-openingly frank for the period (or any period), and some are just clever and funny, running the gamut of comic effectiveness as most stand-ups do during a career. But Fosse skimps on showing us the depth of Lenny’s drug addiction, and his ineffectual attempts to get the courts to understand that words themselves are nothing to be feared might have gotten more attention from screenwriter and director in order to make Lenny’s fall more ironic and more tragic.

    Dustin Hoffman doesn’t look or sound much like the real Lenny Bruce, but there is no denying he gives a galvanizing performance both as the sometimes lovable, sometimes despicable hardhead and philanderer and as the man struggling to understand where his life and career went so very wrong. Valerie Perrine earned acting awards from the National Board of Review and the New York Film Critics for her work as Honey, a role which made tremendous demands on her both physically and emotionally. She’s especially believable in drug-fueled hazes where she attempts to communicate impressions and feelings but can’t really string her thoughts together in any meaningful way. Jan Miner is wonderful as Lenny’s mother performer Sally Marr while Stanley Beck is an outstanding agent Arthur Silver, both actors aging most convincingly during the course of the movie. In his one scene as a Milton Berle-style Borsht Belt comic who’s made it big on television, Gary Morton (much more famous for being Lucille Ball’s second husband than for any great contributions to show business) is really terrific.

    Video Rating: 4.5/5  3D Rating: NA

    The movie’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is faithfully reproduced in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Except for a soft shot here and there, sharpness is outstanding, and the film’s grayscale is very impressive with daring contrast that points up the strong black levels (with excellent shadow detail) and crisp whites. There are a few lights speckles occasionally, but they’re never bothersome in the least. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 4/5

    The disc offers a strong DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 sound mix. Being true to the mono mixes of the era, the dialogue is clear and clean throughout and mixes well with the occasional music refrains of Ralph Burns and the sound effects.

    Special Features Rating: 3.5/5

    Audio Commentary: film historians Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo have an involved discussion on the person of Lenny Bruce and on the nature of Bob Fosse’s treatment of the man’s life and of strip clubs and his show business career in general. Though possibly more attention might have been paid to the film techniques utilized in Lenny itself (there is some, of course; there could have been more), the two entertaining pundits make many interesting observations that make the track a must-listen.

    Music and Effects Isolated Track: presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0.

    Theatrical Trailer (2:51, HD)

    MGM 90th Anniversary Trailer (2:06, HD)

    Six-Page Enclosed Booklet: contains black and white stills, poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s more in-depth analysis of the movie which was somewhat missing on the commentary.

    Overall Rating: 4/5

    Recommended! Nominated for six Academy Awards, Lenny is a compelling movie even if it isn’t quite the satisfying biography of its subject that it might have been. The Twilight Time disc certainly looks and sounds simply splendid. There are only 3,000 copies of this Blu-ray available. Those interested should go to www.screenarchives.com to see if product is still in stock. Information about the movie can also be found via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies.

    Reviewed By: Matt Hough

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    Mr. Handley likes this.
  2. Mr. Handley

    Mr. Handley Supporting Actor

    Apr 20, 2013
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    Just recently picked up this Blu-ray and watched it last night.

    I forgot what a terrific film this really is. It's easily one of my favorite Dustin Hoffman performances and Valerie Perrine is simply fantastic (and very easy on the eyes, to boot)! Highly recommended viewing for sure.
    Twilight Time likes this.

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