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Cult Epics presents
The Real Andy Kaufman (2000)

"I'm trying to give you a variety show. I've never claimed to be a comedian. I've never claimed to be able to tell a joke."
- Andy Kaufman

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: April 05, 2002

Stars: Andy Kaufman, Seth Schultz
Director: Seth Schultz

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild language)
Run Time: 55m:55s
Release Date: November 06, 2001
UPC: 022891000495
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- C+C+C+ F

DVD Review

I suppose it is a testament to the comic skill of Andy Kaufman that even his death from cancer played out like a "bit" to some people. Would the guy fake a deadly illness just for laughs? Kaufman was one of those dangerous comics, the kind that relished provoking an audience with things that were not necessarily funny, but like a car wreck, made it difficult to look away.

This 55-minute disc, which consists primarily of poorly shot footage from a 1979 Catskills performance, is intercut with brief glowing comments from manager Seth Schultz, as well as those of a string of second-tier comics who worked with Kaufman at one time or another. As expected, the chance to see Kaufman perform his live act, however fragmented, is the attraction here, but unfortunately much of what's included has been seen before. He wrestles women, lip-synchs the Mighty Mouse theme, talks like the Foreign Guy, dresses like Elvis, and does a lot of bongo playing.

Based on the material here, it would seem as if the real dark stuff of Kaufman's has been lost forever, and now we're left with just this blurry memory. The only redeeming portion of The Real Andy Kaufman are the choppy backstage interviews, short as they are, with the comic, where he is seen going in and out of character as he answers questions.

Most of the concert footage is used during the first half, with the tail end padded more and more with club circuit comics remembering Andy. That's nice, I suppose, but I'd rather SEE him than just hear a bunch of people I don't know reminisce.

If you are a die-hard Kaufman fan, you will probably be greatly disappointed with this disc; I know I was. By the same token, there is not much in the way of content for the casual fan to grasp onto, either. I've read Bob Zmuda's book on Kaufman, and that seemed like the REAL Andy Kaufman, not this hodgepodge collection of second-rate footage.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: The footage here consists mostly of shaky, poorly composed video footage and the quality is mediocre, at best. Sure, there wasn't any great restoration done for this disc, but the fault is more with the source material than the image transfer itself. Colors bloom sporadically, and there is excessive grain. The 1.33:1 transfer looks marginally better during the brief modern-day interview segments, but the Kaufman concert footage is of generally weak quality.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Presented in a basic mono transfer, the audio portion of Kaufman's stage act is less than satisfactory. Things get a bit muffled at times, though the interview segments with some of the comedian's comic contemporaries sounds clean. Some mild distortion is apparent during some of the louder passages of Kaufman's act.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Twelve chapters, ample on a 55-minute disc, are the only supplemental feature here.

Extras Grade: F


Final Comments

One of the real pioneers of guerilla comedy, Andy Kaufman remains as much a mystery today as he was when he was alive. His live performances have become the stuff of legend, and it's a shame that there isn't a better DVD collection of his work, because this one just doesn't cut it. The Real Andy Kaufman is tantamount to peeking into a crowded theater and only glimpsing genius, but not really being able to enjoy it.

More curious than entertaining.


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