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The King Of Comedy

5

So, pig-sick and blank-eyed from your Big Brother goons, your Pop Idol spudheads, your Wife Swap morons? Here's the anti-venom. A peeled, gutted and feather-plucked turkey on its original release ($2.5-million box office from a $20-million budget) and a critical punchbag (Pauline Kael: "Grossly insensitive, coldhearted... It's a bad movie"), The King Of Comedy's revival is a wonderful, alarming thing: wonderful because it harbours one of De Niro's choicest turns; alarming because its prescience stings even sharper in today's wannabe-gorged media. In other words, for every year that passes, Scorsese's bad apple ripens in reverse.

De Niro's rarely been as fully loaded as he is here, a spectacularly deluded, perma-grin fame-junkie going by the name of Rupert Pupkin who, along with Sandra Bernhard's terrifying, rapacious fan-grrrl, kidnaps Jerry Lewis' talk-show host for his own mercenary ends. The result is a volatile, none-more-black, jowl-ironing comedy where the laughter's released as a slow-motion Munchian scream. As for Scorsese, he plays the stylistic straight man, taming his familiar hyperkinetic edits to wallow in some exceptional, super-drawn-out cringe-sequences: the will-the-pain-ever-end scene in which Pupkin arrives at Jerry's mansion, unannounced and ready to party, will have you squirming like a willy in vinegar. Forget the cult tag. It's a bona-fide classic.

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