The People vs Larry Flynt

Details At A Glance

Category Drama Theatrical Trailer(s) No
Rating Other Trailer(s) 1
Running Time 124 minutes Commentary Tracks None
RSDL/Flipper No/No Other Extras None
Region 4    
Distributor Columbia Tristar    
RRP $34.95    

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG No
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement Yes Soundtrack Languages English (5.1)
French (5.1)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1    
Macrovision Yes    
Subtitles English 

Plot Synopsis

    The People vs Larry Flynt, as its title suggests, is the slightly fictionalized life story of Larry Flynt, the proprietor of Hustler magazine, and his battle for freedom of speech.

    The story opens with a young Larry Flynt and his brother running moonshine, and then fast forwards to the young adult Larry Flynt (played by Woody Harrelson), running a sleazy strip joint and bar, also with his brother. Larry has the reputation of having slept with every woman who works in his club, but he meets his match in Althea (played by Courtney Love), a new stripper at his club with an appetite as voracious as Larry's ("you're not the only one to have slept with every woman who works in the bar"). Althea will eventually marry Larry, though for the moment, they will just live together. It is at about this time that Hustler magazine is born.

    Hustler magazine rapidly gains success until a court case is brought against Larry for indecency, which he loses, and for which he is sentenced to jail. I note that the very unsympathetic judge in this case is played by none other than the real-life Larry Flynt himself - most ironic! The jail sentence is appealed successfully and Larry is freed. Larry goes from success to success with Hustler magazine until he finds religion, which changes the images he puts in Hustler from plain pornography to religious pornography - this hurts circulation. At about this time, newsagents selling Hustler magazine begin to be arrested to try and stop circulation, so Larry sets up a situation where he is arrested for selling his own magazine. Once again, we end up in court. Outside the court, Larry and his lawyer are shot by an unknown gunman, and Larry is paralyzed from the waist down.

    We now enter several years of pain- and drug-riddled haze, with both Larry and Althea becoming addicted to painkillers. Larry's brother is running the magazine successfully during this time. Larry eventually has an operation on his back, which relieves his pain and his addiction to painkilling drugs, and he returns to work.

    The drugs appear to have made Larry a little crazy, as he engages in some bizarre courtroom antics surrounding a video tape that he had apparently obtained of John DeLorean being set up by the FBI for cocaine trafficking. This ends in him being committed to a psychiatric institution for a time. Meanwhile, Althea remains on drugs. Eventually, he is freed and he returns to work.

    Larry's next bout with trouble is when he publishes a satirical piece in the style of an alcohol ad featuring the Reverend Jerry Faldwell talking about his "first time" - insinuating that it was with his mother. Of course, Reverend Faldwell sues Hustler, and Larry responds by countersuing the Reverend Faldwell for copyright infringement, as the Reverend had photocopied the Hustler article and sent it out in a newsletter to his supporters. More bizarre courtroom antics follow, but Larry is found not guilty of libel, the reasoning of the court being that the satire was so unbelievable that no reasonable person could believe it. Damages were awarded to the Reverend for the "personal suffering" he went through as a result of this satire, however.

    Next, we learn that Althea has developed AIDS, and she rapidly succumbs to the virus. This leads Larry to resolve to overturn the previous "personal suffering" verdict in the US Supreme Court, citing freedom of speech as the reason. We learn that quite a few large media organizations are supporting Larry on this issue, and indeed the US Supreme Court agrees with Larry and reverses the previous court's decision, upholding Americans' right to free speech. This is where the movie ends.

Transfer Quality


    This is an exceptionally good DVD transfer. In my opinion, this transfer is better than the almost legendary Fifth Element transfer. It is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced. Colours are bright, clear and well-saturated throughout. The colour balance is perfect at all times. Both outdoor and indoor scenes were always crisp and very clear. No MPEG artefacts were seen. Indeed, I only recall seeing one minor print artefact in the entire 124 minutes of this DVD. This is a reference standard transfer - though the actual content of the images is relatively plain, unlike the glorious cinematography of Legends of the Fall. I would have to describe this transfer as the best transfer I have seen so far in either PAL or NTSC format.


    The audio is presented as a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Dialogue was almost always clear and intelligible, except for a few scenes where music made it just a little bit difficult to hear the dialogue. There was little use of the surrounds except for occasional atmospherics, where they sounded mono anyhow, and in some of the music. The .1 channel did not get much of a workout either, except in a few scenes of fireworks exploding and in the few gunshots that were heard in this movie. However, this is not a movie that relies on aggressive surround effects, being basically a dialogue-driven movie.


    There are no extras on this disc, just the standard Columbia Tristar teaser trailer. I'll keep forgiving them for the moment, given the quality of the video/audio in their releases, but hopefully they will soon rectify this problem and start adding at least some extras.


    This is a controversial movie. Personally, I did not find it a particularly entertaining movie, probably because I found it hard to feel much sympathy for the main characters. This is not a fault of the acting - Woody Harrelson plays the role of Larry Flynt very well, however, I just found the character to be sleazy and unlikeable. Courtney Love was well-cast as Althea, Larry's drug-addicted wife. The video transfer is the best I have seen so far, and the audio transfer is perfectly adequate. This movie will not be everyone's cup of tea. One good thing about the movie is that there is not a great deal of gratuitous nudity, something which would have been very easy to do given the subject matter, but which would have detracted from the movie itself.

Ratings (out of 5)

Extras nil

Michael Demtschyna
13th September 1998

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-505, using S-Video output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 16:9 mode, via the S-Video input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Amplification 2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
Speakers Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Yamaha B100-115SE subwoofer
have checked out my opinion of this DVD since 13th September 1998.