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The People vs. Larry Flynt: Special Edition

As a man who's made his career not simply courting, but taking unspeakable liberties, with bad taste, Larry Flynt is an obvious poster child for the ongoing battle against any attempted subversion of the First Amendment. But as a sympathetic figure in his life's story, he's a very unlikely hero. And yet, as a free-speech tract, Dionysian tragedy, or Horatio Alger fable pelvis-deep in the seedy world of pornography, The People vs. Larry Flynt is none of these things brilliantly, but all of them to very entertaining effect. Directed by that devoted chronicler of irrepressible eccentricity, Milos Forman, the film is an altered, massively cleaned-up panorama of Larry Flynt's tumultuous life that, as is typical of the genre, plays fast and loose with its chronology of events as it builds toward the smut peddler's ultimate deliverance at the hands of the Supreme Court. The film begins amusingly with Flynt's rural Kentucky upbringing, where the enterprising adolescent made a meager profit as a bootlegger. Twenty years later, we find Flynt (Woody Harrelson) operating a dingy Cincinnati strip joint. Ever on the hunt for a way to supplement his income, Flynt gets the idea for a newsletter featuring photographs of his club's "talent," which balloons into the full-blown publication of Hustler magazine. Of course, the periodical becomes a raging success, eventually running Flynt afoul of the local authorities and landing him in jail on charges of indecency. At this point, The People vs. Larry Flynt could've concentrated on the thorny relationship between Flynt and his lawyer Alan Isaacman (Edward Norton). However, Forman and his scenarists divide their sympathies, delving into Flynt's tempestuous relationship with his wife Althea (Courtney Love). who delivers a pretty sensational performance and gives the film its heart. As for Flynt, he remains a puzzling figure, if only because the equation of the man simply doesn't coalesce. But Flynt does get his day in the highest court of the land in a galvanizing scene that smashingly dramatizes the court transcript to make a cogent and passionate plea for the upholding of our most precious civil right. Columbia TriStar presents The People vs. Larry Flynt in a fine anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. This is a tremendous upgrade of the film's earlier bare-bones DVD release that includes two commentaries, one from the writers and the other from cast members Harrelson, Love, and Norton. There are also two brand-new featurettes: "Free Speech or Porn?" (30 min.), which is a look back at the film's behind-the-scenes troubles, and "Larry Flynt Exposed" (29 min.), a much more factual account of the pornographer's sordid life. Also on board are also two deleted scenes, a reprint of a New York Times capsule review by Frank Rich, cast and crew filmographies, and trailers. The keep-case is bound by a semi-transparent plastic slipcover.
—Clarence Beaks

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