Twilight Time Movies: ‘Lenny’ (1974)

Nick Clement reviews Twilight Time’s limited edition Blu-Ray titles.

Bob Fosse’s forceful and uniquely constructed biopic Lenny remains as topical and exhilarating today as it likely did upon first release back in 1974. Nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Cinematography, the film was a critical and commercial success, even if the potentially distancing aesthetic put off some viewers and film aficionados upon first glance. The film expertly cuts back and forth between key and intimate moments of Bruce’s life, showing him in his full comic glory, but also detailing the darker times, when he was extremely wasted and strung-out. Julian Barry’s incisive script, which he adapted from his own play, delved into the latter portions of Bruce’s life where he used his own nightclub as a venting arena for all of his personal problems and hardships, often times reading his arrest reports and court transcripts. Fosse, who had previously directed 1969’s Sweet Charity and 1972’s Cabaret, was likely the perfect choice of director for this film, has he took his tough-as-nails approach to the themes and emotional content, backing it up with a tremendous sense of style which was always customary to see in his films. He’d go on to helm the dynamic All that Jazz in 1979 and the pulverizing Star 80 in 1983 before his death in 1987.

Dustin Hoffman was consistently electrifying as Bruce, burrowing deep into the comic’s feverish psyche, always a loose cannon and ready to explode with intelligent vulgarity and a sense of purpose that defined him as a stand-up artist and general rapscallion. It’s a performance of startling conviction, and a further reminder of the live-wire quality that Hoffman exuded in the 70’s; just look at his work in films such as Straw Dogs, Marathon Man, Who is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?, Little Big Man, All the President’s Men, Marathon Man, Straight Time, and Kramer vs. Kramer; that’s a helluva run of titles and performances. Similar to the themes in a film like The People vs. Larry Flynt, Lenny is yet another movie to examine the importance of free speech, and to celebrate the idea of the nonconformist. Bruce’s material had a subversive quality that the best types of entertainment can bring out, always questioning himself and those around him, and challenging societal norms and expectations. A true American original, without Bruce’s contributions and sense of daring, many modern comics might not have the edge – or the option to present an edge -if it were not for Bruce’s iconic trailblazing.

Valerie Perrine, portraying Honey Bruce, won the award for Best Actress at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival, and it’s easy to see why, as it’s a show-stopping performance of overt sexuality and unquestionable emotional tenderness. And when juxtaposed with Bruce’s hard-charging theatrics, it was easy to see why they were such a great match for each other in real life; Perrine and Hoffman clicked just right on-screen, making their scenes tingle with authenticity. The smoky and gorgeous black and white cinematography by the legendary cameraman Bruce Surtees (Night Moves, Blume in Love, Beverly Hills Cop, Dirty Harry) is a constant treat, and the numerous sequences detailing the various performances and arrests that befell Bruce during his rise to fame are handled with a devil-in-the-eye sense of humor, with maximum dramatic impact thanks to the smart editing by Alan Heim (Network, Hair, Billy Bathgate). And of course, this being a tragic story, Fosse didn’t shy away from the ugly price of fame, showing how Bruce was a true pioneer, and how that fact more than likely cost him his life. This is an excellent film that is somehow underrated despite all of the accolades it has received over the years.

Twilight Time has presented Lenny in the film’s original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, in 1080p High Definition Black and White, with English 1.0 DTS-HD MA audio. Picture quality is gorgeous, with deep blacks and crisp whites, while shadows and smoke are all highly detailed in the excellent transfer. The sound work is solid, and also included are English subtitles on the Region Free disc. Special features include Isolated Music and Effects Audio Track, Audio Commentary with Film Historians Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman, and the film’s original theatrical trailer. As usual, 3,000 limited edition Blu-ray units have been produced, and can be ordered through Screen Archives at this link LENNY (1974) — SCREEN ARCHIVES ENTERTAINMENT


Twilight Time Movies release classic catalogue Blu-ray and DVD titles available for a limited time, exclusively in limited runs of 3000 copies. For more information, visit https://www.twilighttimemovies.com

Nick Clement is a freelance writer, having contributed to Variety Magazine, Hollywood- Elsewhere, Awards Daily, Back to the Movies, and Taste of Cinema. He’s currently writing a book about the works of filmmaker Tony Scott, and co-operates the website Podcasting Them Softly.

He is also a regular contributor for MovieViral.com, a site dedicated to providing the best news and analysis on viral marketing and ARG campaigns for films and other forms of entertainment.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply