Blu-ray Review: Lenny (1974)

Imprint hasn’t released many comedies over the past three years, and their December release of Bob Fosse’s sophisticated biography/drama, Lenny is far from a barrel of laughs. Nonetheless, the film is a powerful, thought-provoking classic that charts the rise and fall of stand-up comedian, Lenny Bruce. Through his cutting style of humour and commentary, he exposed social hypocrisies while being persecuted for the use of certain language and behaviours that would become commonplace not long after his passing.

Many actors prefer to keep a comfortable distance from the various characters they portray on screen, but I get the impression that Dustin Hoffman as Lenny Bruce is not a great leap from his personality, which I feel is abrasive at best. Director Bob Fosse does not put Lenny on a pedestal, nor present a view of the comic through rose-tinted glasses. When he’s not murdering on stage, Lenny is seen to be a narcissistic, manipulative, and abusive individual, but if the film were narrowly focused, much of its message would have been lost. While Lenny is mostly unlikeable, meeting those in his orbit bring some balance and perspective. From his wife, Honey (Valerie Perrine), his manager, and his mother, Sally, viewers are given three varying opinions of Lenny via documentary-style vignettes that complement relevant scenes in our main narrative.

The examination of Lenny and Honey’s relationship is one of chaos, fraught with personal demons such as addiction, coming apart at the seams as they both coast along the fringe of showbiz. It’s saddening, yet the love they still hold for each other throughout their ordeal is the film’s warmest quality. However, the core of Lenny is the relenting targeting he endured by authorities for his use of “obscene” language. Apart from some of the vernacular or lingo of the time, Lenny’s stand-up routines don’t feel dated and his critiques still hold relevance. Hoffman’s performance is, without a doubt, one his best given the range we see, yet quite exhausting as Lenny becomes increasingly preoccupied with his criminal indictments.


  • NEW Audio Commentary by film historian/filmmaker Daniel Kremer and filmmaker Henry Jaglom (2023)
  • Audio Commentary by film historians Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo
  • NEW Dead Neon: The Many Faces of Lenny Bruce on Film – Video Essay
  • NEW On Fosse Time: Editing Lenny – an interview with editor Alan Heim on his collaborations with director Bob Fosse
  • Trailers From Hell: Robert Weide on Lenny
  • Isolated Music & Effects track
  • Theatrical Trailer

If you’re a fan of The New Hollywood Era, then Daniel Kremer’s new commentary with filmmaker Henry Jaglom (dir. A Safe Place, Tracks) is an absolute must-listen! The track plays more like an interview rather than an in-depth analysis of the film but is a wealth of candid information regarding the people and places that comprise the New York/Los Angeles entertainment scene during the 1960s and early ‘70s. Ported from Twilight Time’s Blu-ray, Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo’s commentary is a traditional discussion centred entirely on Lenny.

Those looking for additional sources of information on Lenny Bruce should check out Daniel Kremer’s video essay, Dead Neon, which lists additional portrayals of the comedian on screen ranging from forgotten indie movies to The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. The interview with editor Alan Heim is a fantastic watch, especially considering the use of time jumps in Lenny. In addition to discussing working with Fosse on this 1974 drama, Heim also talks about his tumultuous experience with editing All This Jazz and Star 80. – by Hannah Lynch


I remember questioning the value of black & white cinema in high definition as the hype around the emerging format had me thinking only in Technicolor, but the 2010 release of Psycho dispelled my false notions. Lenny isn’t quite the shining example of the format, but the 1080p presentation helps to bring out deep blacks, enhancing the cinematography. While the 1.85:1 image is a little washed out at times, the unpolished look adds to the film’s often raw quality.

With such a dialogue-heavy film, the 2.0 LPCM track is well suited with little to complain about in terms of audio scope apart from providing adequate volume. English HOH subtitles are included.

Lenny is a heavy film, to put it mildly, so if that’s not your cup of tea, maybe go with Billy Crystal’s Mr. Saturday Night for an overtly funnier portrait of narcissism. However, for some who appreciate 70s cinema, this is one of the best examples of how the decade pushed the envelope in terms of style and creativity in a more mature, and far less censored Hollywood.

(1974, director: Bob Fosse)



Head over to the Imprint Films Facebook page for the latest releases, giveaways, great deals and more!


direct blu-ray screen captures


colour production stills courtesy of Imprint Films


You can follow cinematic randomness on Twitter and Facebook where you’ll find all my cinematic exploits. Thank you for visiting!

Scroll to Top