CABARET [1972 / 2013] [40th Anniversary Special] [Deluxe Limited Edition DigiBook] [Blu-ray] [USA Release] Everyone Loves A Winner! A Divinely Decadent Experience!

Liza Minnelli, Michael York, Helmut Griem Cabaret brings 1931 Berlin to life. Outside on the street, the Nazi party is beginning to grow into a brutal political force, whilst inside at the Kit Kat Klub starry-eyed American, Sally Bowles [Liza Minnelli] and an impish Master of Ceremonies [Joel Grey] sound the call for decadent fun. Into this heady world arrives British language teacher Brian Roberts [Michael York], who falls for Sally Bowles's charm, and soon the two of them find themselves embroiled in the turmoil and decadence of the era.

FILM FACT No.1: Awards and Nominations: 1972 British Society of Cinematographers: Win: Best Cinematography Award for Geoffrey Unsworth. 1973 Academy Awards®: Win: Best Actress in a Leading Role for Liza Minnelli. Win: Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Joel Grey. Win: Best Director for Bob Fosse. Win: Best Cinematography for Geoffrey Unsworth. Win: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration for Hans Jürgen Kiebach, Herbert Strabel and Rolf Zehetbauer. Win: Best Sound for David Hildyard and Robert Knudson. Win: Best Film Editing for David Bretherton. Win: Best Music, Scoring Original Song Score and Adaptation for Ralph Burns. Nominated: Best Picture for Cy Feuer. Nominated: Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium for Jay Presson Allen. 1973 Golden Globes®: Win: Best Motion Picture for a Comedy or Musical. Win: Best Actress in a Motion Picture for a Comedy or Musical for Liza Minnelli. Win: Best Supporting Actor for a Motion Picture for Joel Grey. Nominated: Best Supporting Actress for a Motion Picture for Marisa Berenson. Nominated: Best Director for a Motion Picture for Bob Fosse. Nominated: Best Screenplay for a Motion Picture for Jay Presson Allen. Nominated: Best Original Song for a Motion Picture for John Kander (music) and Fred Ebb (lyrics) for the Song: "Mein Herr." Nominated: Best Original Song for a Motion Picture for John Kander (music) and Fred Ebb (lyrics) for the Song: "Money, Money." Nominated: Most Promising Newcomer for a Female for Marisa Berenson. 1973 BAFTA® Awards: Win: Best Actress for Liza Minnelli. Win: Best Art Direction for Rolf Zehetbauer. Win: Best Direction for Bob Fosse. Win: Best Film. Win: Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles for Joel Grey. Win: Best Sound Track for Arthur Piantadosi, David Hildyard and Robert Knudson. Nominated: Best Costume Design for Charlotte Flemming. Nominated: Best Film Editing for David Bretherton. Nominated: Best Screenplay for Jay Presson Allen. Nominated: Best Supporting Actress for Marisa Berenson. 1973 American Cinema Editors: Win: Best Edited Feature Film for David Bretherton. 1973 Directors Guild of America: Nominated: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures for Bob Fosse. 1973 Writers Guild of America: Win: Best Comedy Adapted from Another Medium for Jay Presson Allen.

FILM FACT No.2: The 1972 film was based upon Christopher Isherwood's semi-autobiographical stories. In 1929 – 1930, Isherwood moved to Weimar Berlin in order to pursue life as an openly gay man and to enjoy the city's gay nightlife. Members of Christopher Isherwood's Berlin social circle included authors W.H. Auden, Stephen Spender, Paul Bowles, and Jean Ross. While in Berlin, Isherwood shared lodgings with Jean Ross, a British cabaret singer and aspiring film actress from a wealthy Anglo-Scottish family. While rooming with Christopher Isherwood at  Nollendorfstrasse 17 in Schöneberg, Jean Ross became pregnant with the child of jazz pianist (and later actor) Peter van Eyck. Following Peter van Eycke's unannounced departure from Germany, Jean Ross underwent an abortion legally authorized by Christopher Isherwood who pretended to be her heterosexual impregnator. Although the songs throughout the film allude to and advance the narrative, every song except "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" is executed in the context of a Kit Kat Klub performance. The voice heard on the radio reading the news throughout the film in German was that of associate producer Harold Nebenzal, whose father Seymour Nebenzahl produced such notable Weimar films as ‘M’ (1931), ‘Testament of Dr. Mabuse’ (1933), and ‘Threepenny Opera’ (1931).

Cast: Liza Minnelli, Michael York, Helmut Griem, Joel Grey, Fritz Wepper, Marisa Berenson, Elisabeth Neumann-Viertel, Helen Vita, Sigrid von Richthofen, Gerd Vespermann, Ralf Wolter, Georg Hartmann, Ricky Renée, Estrongo Nachama, Kathryn Doby, Inge Jaeger, Angelika Koch, Helen Velkovorska, Gitta Schmidt, Louise Quick, Oliver Collignon (uncredited), Pierre Franckh (uncredited), Mark Lambert (singing voice) (uncredited) and Ellen Umlauf (uncredited)     

Director: Bob Fosse

Producers: Cy Feuer, Harold Nebenzal and Martin Baum

Screenplay: Jay Presson Allen (screenplay), Joe Masteroff (based on the musical play "Cabaret" book), John Van Druten (based on the play) and Christopher Isherwood (stories)

Composers: John Kander and Ralph Burns (adaptation score) (uncredited)

Cinematography: Geoffrey Unsworth (Director for Photography)

Image Resolution: 1080p (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
English: 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo Audio

Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish

Running Time: 124 minutes

Region: All Regions

Number of discs: 1

Studio: Warner Home Video

Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: The film ‘CABARET’ [1972] is loosely based on the 1966 Broadway show, the story is set in 1931 Berlin and focuses on a young American singer, Sally Bowles [Liza Minnelli], who works as a performer at the seedy and eccentric Kit Kat Club. When she rents out a room to an intelligent but reserved English tutor named Brian Roberts [Michael York], the two become good friends. Despite Brian Roberts's ambiguous sexuality, the pair eventually engages in a romantic relationship, but their coupling is tested when a third party is introduced. Meanwhile, the ascent of the Nazi Party looms ever-present in the background, casting a pale cloud of approaching doom over the nation.

Though Bob Fosse received plenty of accolades throughout  his career, director Bob Fosse isn't as well known today as some of his other celebrated contemporaries, and that's really quite a shame. An important voice of the New Hollywood movement which brought an innovative, independent edge to the American cinema in the late 1960s and the 1970s and Bob Fosse's work helped to usher in a new era of filmmaking that frequently subverted genre expectations. With ‘CABARET,’ the director essentially re-imagines the entire concept of studio musicals from the ground up, abandoning the elaborate, feel-good productions of the golden age, in favour of something much more raw and intimate.

Characters don't just burst out into random melody to express their emotions or desires. Instead, the musical numbers are all relegated to the stage within the Kit Kat club, maintaining an air of reality throughout the proceedings. Likewise, the subject matter of the story is a far cry from the positive, up-lifting material usually associated with the art form. This is a film that deals with serious and provocative subject matter, resulting in a song and dance experience geared exclusively toward adults. Truly original when first released in 1972, the film hasn't lost any of its creative lustre, and still manages to feel fresh despite its weighty influence on subsequent works.

Through cross-cutting and dialectical montage, the director expertly juxtaposes several of the deceptively jaunty tunes with more disturbing imagery, like a gang of Nazis brutally beating a man, drawing meaningful parallels between the two. Likewise, the film's compositions and camera movement’s work in tandem with its theatrical subjects, further embellishing the slightly exaggerated world of the club through grotesque flash. Much like the dancers themselves, Bob Fosse's visual and editing style follows a meticulously planned, but altogether unpredictable rhythm, giving aesthetic life to the sleazy, dizzying cabaret.

Stepping into the smoky spotlight, Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles shines brightly as the enthusiastic but sometimes is delusional dreamer, who is sometimes very childlike, eccentric, and fuelled by an infectious thirst for life, the character is somehow graceful, crass, pouty, sultry, and totally awkward all at once. Always aspiring just outside her reach, she hides a tragic layer of fragile desperation beneath an outward veneer of confidence. Liza Minnelli does an amazing job of realizing all of the woman's strengths and flaws and when she takes to the stage with a massive wow performance. The actress absolutely explodes, giving a truly powerful and commanding musical performance that bursts from the screen.

As memorable as Liza Minnelli is, Joel Gray on the other hand in the role of the enigmatic Master of Ceremonies, just about steals the show with his mesmerising performance. Limited only to the Kit Kat Club and having no actual dialogue outside of songs, the part isn't so much an actual character as it is a living extension of the stage itself. The Master of Ceremonies is very ambiguous, creepy, almost otherworldly figure; and Joel Gray could be interpreted as an impish embodiment of the film's escalating dreadful outcome. Though Joel Gray at times seems rather harmless and benign, during key moments the director will quickly cut to the character's unsettling smile, cementing the theatrical spectre as some kind of foreboding omen of things to come.

Bookended by shots of a distorted reflection, the film concludes with a simple but utterly haunting image. An eerie portent of further horrors lurking just around the corner, the final scene manages to speak volumes, saying everything that needs to be said through so little. A powerful reinvention of the Hollywood musical, ‘CABARET’ chronicles a brief dalliance between two seemingly opposite individuals in Berlin, while the city slowly succumbs to the tragic spread of hatred. As Sally Bowles sparkles on the tiny, seedy stage of the decadent Kit Kat Club, the world outside quietly crumbles, and the spotlight dims on a nation soon to be consumed by shadow.

After the critical and commercial failure of ‘Sweet Charity,’ director Bob Fosse was determined to take musicals in a new direction. Instead of the overly nostalgic and idealized musicals of the past, Fosse wanted to make one that was darker and grittier, with none of the trappings from the past. Bob Fosse did just that with ‘CABARET’ where no characters just burst out into song in the middle of the street. Instead, Fosse stripped out every song from the play that didn’t take place on the stage in the Kit Kat Club. That change alone charted a new course for film musicals that is still effective today. There is no denying that this cast gave this film musical their all, especially Liza Minnelli who handles her singing and dancing with aplomb. ‘CABARET’ also has the distinction of being the film that took just about all of the Academy Awards® (with the exception of Best Picture and Screenplay) from its better known competitor ‘The Godfather.’

* * * * *

Blu-ray Image Quality – Warner Home Video has pulled out all the stops in giving us this brilliant remastered 1080p encoded image and an equally impressive 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Here we get some detailed images, especially in the well-lit scenes with the language lessons that Brian Roberts conducts in Sally Sally Bowles's room or Natalia Landauer's living room when Sally Bowles visits her, and especially in the bedroom in Maximilian's castle where he tells Brian Roberts that blue is "his" colour. The Blu-ray has a very natural grain structure and this ranks the very best of the film-like transfers I have seen in a very long time and that of course are how this Blu-ray should look, so top marks for image presentation. Warner Home Video has done a great job with this restoration and I doubt if this film will ever look much better than this presentation.

Blu-ray Audio Quality – Warner Home Video has once again given us something truly special with this 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio sound experience that was originally released in a 4-track stereo format and has been improved immensely and sounds terrific and always very clear. The singer's voices of Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey are strong and clear, and the musical accompaniment strikes just the right balance between a raucous club band and an orchestral accompaniment. The surround channel is used primarily to give the music an added presence for a few big effects like the trains passing overhead that Sally Bowles really likes to use as her version of the "primal scream" therapy. So very well done Warner Home Video for giving us this Blu-ray with a great audio experience.

* * * * *

Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:

Audio Commentary with Stephen Tropiano: There is no doubt that Stephen Tropiano is a good choice to for this audio commentary to talk about the film ‘CABARET’ as he is the author of “Cabaret: Music on Film” and he has plenty to say about the film and its history. Stephen Tropiano takes the time to offer some insight into the genesis of the film and its much iteration as well as share some background info about the making of the film and its participants. Stephen Tropiano, offers a worthwhile discussion on the film musical, tracing its historical context, inspirations, casting, and production. Stephen Tropiano provides some solid trivia about the shoot and also touches upon the films visuals, choreography, and treatment of sexuality and anti-Semitism. Though the author Stephen Tropiano does spend a fair amount of time simply elaborating on the film's plot, he always peppers in some interesting observations and analysis.

Special Feature: Cabaret: The Musical that Changed Musicals [2013] [1080p] [1.78:1] [29:00] When ‘CABARET’ opened in 1972, film musicals were at an all-time low, following the failure of big-budget projects like HELLO DOLLY! Bob Fosse reinvented the movie musical, injecting ‘CABARET’ with a sense of gritty realism and paving the way for a new generation of films. On the film's 40th anniversary, Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey, Michael York and their collaborators look back at the creation of this cinematic landmark, winner of eight Academy Awards. The documentary is narrated by Neil Patrick Harris, one of the many musical theatre stars who played the Master of Ceremony in the 1998 Broadway revival of “CABARET.” One sad note about this documentary was seeing how much Michael York has deteriorated since the Austin Powers films. It was very shocking how ill Michael looked and sounded during this interview when it was filmed for this set, because Michael York was barely recognisable, but in 2013, Michael York announced he was suffering from the rare disease amyloidosis. Doctors initially thought he had bone cancer. Then in 2012, Michael York had undergone a stem cell transplant, which hopefully would alleviate the symptoms and I hope long after this interview Michael York hopefully went onto a very speedy recovery.

Special Feature: Cabaret: A Legend in the Making [1997] [480i] [1.37:1] [18:00] This great historical documentary was originally shot for the film's 25th Anniversary video release, and offers more production trivia and stories from the cast and crew. Thankfully, the vast majority of the information shared here isn't just a re-tread of the previous supplement, and we are treated to some rare footage from the film's camera and costume test reels. I am very pleased these interviews were capture back in 1997 while many of these people were still with us and could share their fascinating stories. Contributors include: Martin Baum, Fred Ebb, Cy Feuer, Bob Fosse (archive footage), Joel Grey, John Kander, Liza Minnelli, Jay Presson Allen (Screenwriter), Emanuel L. Wolf (President and CEO, Allied Artists) and Michael York.

Special Feature: The Recreation of an Era [1972] [480i] [1:37:1] [6:00] This is a short vintage documentary looking at the making of the film ‘CABARET’ that features some rare behind-the-scenes footage from the film set. Contributors include: Bob Fosse, Joel Grey, Liza Minnelli and Michael York.

Special Feature: Kit Kat Klub Memory Gallery [1972] [480i] [1:37:1] [22:00] In this section you get view 23 additional clips with the cast and crew with 9 different categories, and they are as follows:

Liza Minnelli Remembers: Marisa’s Close-Up; Sally’s Look and Observing the Master.

Joel Gray Reminisces: Challenges and Collective Memory.

Michael York Remembers: A Called Bluff, Risk Taking, Rush(es) Hour and A Happy Accident.

Martin Baum Reminisces (former president of ABC Pictures): Rock ‘n’ Roll Editing, Isherwood’s Surprise Reaction and Smithsonian Honor.

Cy Feuer Reminisces: Tomorrow Belongs to Me.

Emanuel L. Wolf Remembers (CEO of Allied Artists Pictures): Taking on ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Timeless.’

John Kander Remembers: Playing “What If?,” Almost a Nervous Breakdown and Sneaking a Peek.

Jay Presson Allen Reminisces: Play vs. Book and Recruiting Hugh Wheeler.

Fred Ebb Remembers: Screening Blues and Screening Hues.

PLEASE NOTE: The above snippets all appear to have been edited out from the much longer previous "Cabaret: A Legend in the Making" documentary, and there are some interesting titbits. Most of the clips are very brief and unfortunately there is no “Play All” option.

Theatrical Trailer [1972] [480i] [1.37:1] [2:56] This is the Original Theatrical Trailer for ‘CABARET.’ Shame they could not of upgraded this trailer.

BONUS: Deluxe Limited Edition DigiBook: Warner Bros. presents 'CABARET’ 40th Anniversary Special Edition' and comes housed in a wonderful DigiBook package filled with 40-pages of interesting production info, essays, photographs and a useful history of the various works preceding the film, beginning with Christopher Isherwood's stories, as well as biographies of Liza Minnelli, Michael York, Joel Grey, Bob Fosse, Helmut Griem and Marisa Berenson.

Finally, Warner Home Video turns in a fantastic high definition presentation for the film ‘CABARET’ and it's one of the greatest classic films of its time and without a doubt changed film musicals towards a more realistic and gritty path which opened the doors for the many other musicals that followed it. It was very also innovative, unique, and ultimately haunting, Bob Fosse's 'CABARET' film remains an important piece of motion picture art. Its provocative and realistic take on the Hollywood musical left an indelible influence on the industry, and the film remains a true classic. The video is a little hazy, but the transfer is authentic and free of any unnecessary digital manipulation. Though frontloaded, the audio mix serves the film well, and the musical numbers sound fantastic. Thankfully, Warner Home Video has put together a nice selection of supplements for this 40th Anniversary Special Edition, including a commentary and a new retrospective documentary. Coupled with the great Deluxe Limited Edition DigiBook package, plus makes this Blu-ray set the bar high for hopefully future classic film releases. On top of all that, ever since I saw this released in the cinema it has been a massive hit with me, of course I use to have the inferior DVD release for ages, but now I have got rid of that video format because of this awesome Deluxe Limited Edition DigiBook Package, that makes the wait well worth it and now goes pride of place in my Blu-ray Disc Collection. If you are a fan of the film, then you should purchase this 40th Anniversary edition without doubt as it the best it will ever look or sound better than this and the extras are a great bonus also. Very Highly Recommended!

Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado 
Le Cinema Paradiso 
United Kingdom

Back to homepage