Nancy Sidewater
February 21, 2005 AT 05:00 AM EST

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 His tamer riffs on religion, sex, and the establishment, despite the out-of-date references, are remarkably resonant after all these years.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.

You May Like