As a historical document, this is a priceless piece of celluloid; as a slice of cinema, it's a little hard-going. The visual record of his penultimate performance at the Basin Street West Club in San Francisco (at that time, August '65, just about the only city where Bruce was still kosher), it's the result of a collaboration between the 'comedian' and an educational film-maker, John Magnuson. The Bruce trademark of a whiplash wit packaged in scatological and scaldingly accurate language is in abundant evidence, even if delivered in a diction akin to Joe Strummer on speed with his jaws super-glued together. Yet for a film about a funny man, there's a disquieting air of desperation. Lit only by a single spot which gives the film a dark and grainy feel, the car-coated figure is pinned against a dungeon-like backdrop as he reads obsessively from the transcripts of his New York obscenity trial. It makes you grimace with its truth, if not howl with its hilarity. An exhausting but still astonishing experience.
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