Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Those seeking proof of the much-vaunted brilliance of the highly influential nightclub comic Lenny Bruce will probably be disappointed by Lenny Bruce: Performance Film. Shot in grainy black-and-white, this film was made at the tail end of Lenny's career, shortly before his death in 1966. By this time, Bruce had been unhinged by excessive drug abuse and by his many arrests for obscenity. Instead of striving for laughs, he rambles on bitterly and sometimes incoherently about his run-ins with the law and his outrage over having "his words" taken from him. There's an occasional spark of the Lenny Bruce of old, and a sporadic chuckle from the benumbed audience, but on balance the film is painful to watch. However, inasmuch as precious little of Lenny Bruce has survived on film, Lenny Bruce: Performance Film deserves to be seen at least once. And now for the good news: this film includes the classic animated cartoon Thank You Masked Man, wherein Lenny's voice is heard scatologically skewering the mythos of the Lone Ranger and Tonto.