filmhead2.jpg (3975 bytes)


Warner/1972/124m/WS 1.85

      Cabaret is one of the most successful dramatic musicals of all time. The integration of the musical numbers is flawless. Not only are the songs and choreography stunning, they comment on the action with extraordinary insight. What begins as darkly comic insidiously turns like the graceful and grotesque gyrations of the dancers at the Kit Kat Klub. Easy laughter becomes uncomfortable as the horror of Nazi Germany invests itself into the world of Cabaret.
cabaret.jpg (29327 bytes)

Fosse behind the camera©Warner

     Bob Fosse, who also directed Cabaret on the Broadway stage, made his astounding directing debut one of film's most memorable. The same audacity that shapes the vision of Fosse's choreography defines the unity of his filmmaking. The editing on Cabaret is simply brilliant. Quick, incisive glimpses of the times are inserted around the musical numbers. A level of discomfort builds around the characters and the course of their lives, as well as the course of Germany.
     Cabaret revolves around the life of expatriate American entertainer Sally Bowles as she tries to carve out a career for herself in Germany. Sally lives in a boarding house and works at the decadent Kit Kat Klub, a night spot known for its naughty point of view. When young Englishman Brian Roberts moves finds a room next to Sally they become fast friends. Sally and Brian share more than just good times at the Kit Kat Klub.
     The Kit Kat Klub is the core of Cabaret. The club's Master of Ceremonies introduces the performers, sings and dances with the best of them, and comments on the times with evil glee. Joel Grey who originated the stage role knows the character inside out. His performance is amazing. Leering at the audience in hideous make-up or doing duets with Liza Minnelli, Grey drives Cabaret. Minnelli is no slouch as Sally Bowles. She and Grey were both won Oscars for their roles. Minnelli belts out the songs and moves through Fosse's choreography with consummate confidence. It's a great performance.

cabaret2.jpg (19267 bytes)

Fosse's stunning choreography.©Warner

     This is not the first film based on the entertaining Christopher Isherwood Berlin Stories. I am a Camera starred Julie Harris as the plucky ingenue Sally Bowles. But Liza Minnelli puts her own wax seal on this role with the startling energy she brings to Cabaret.
     The transfer to DVD is a big disappointment. The chief culprit is jumpy detail. Check out some of the scenes showing Belgium Block streets. Jump city. There are far too many instances of image jitter. The Kit Kat Klub scenes are impressionistic and often shot through smoke to capture the nightclub atmosphere. The result is a grainy look. The transfer does not handle the grain with consistent success. There are times when the grain appears too stationery in relationship to the film frame. There are instance when the color lacks punch.
     The special edition includes a short documentary of remembrances of the film from Cabaret's stars Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey, and Michael York. Creators Kander and Ebb, who wrote the musical for Broadway add their comments and screenwriter Jay Presson Allen and producer Cy Feuer add their observations. There's also a promotional short "The Recreation of an Era" about the making of the film. The documentary can be accessed in two ways: in a linear fashion from or from a gallery of the principals involved accessing their indexed comments.