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CABARET  [40th Anniversary Special] [Deluxe Limited Edition DigiBook] [Blu-ray] [US Import]
on July 12, 2014
CABARET  [40th Anniversary Special] [Deluxe Limited Edition DigiBook] [Blu-ray] [US Import] 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's charm, and soon the two of them find themselves embroiled in the turmoil and decadence of the era.
FILM FACT: ‘CABARET’ holds the record for most Academy Award® wins in a single year without winning the highest honour. But it won Best Picture, with Eight Awards. The film also won the Academy Award® for Best Director for Bob Fosse, Best Actress for Liza Minnelli, Best Supporting Actor for Joel Grey, and five more technical awards.
Cast: Liza Minnelli, Michael York, Helmut Griem, Joel Grey, Fritz Wepper, Helmut Griem, Marisa Berenson, Elisabeth Neumann-Viertel, Helen Vitam, 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, Pierre Franckh (uncredited), Ellen Umlauf (uncredited), Oliver Collignon (Hitler youth singer uncredited) and Mark Lambert (singing voice) (uncredited)
Director: Bob Fosse
Producer: Cy Feuer
Screenplay: Jay Presson Allen and Joe Masteroff (based on the play)
Composers: Fred Ebb [lyrics], John Kander and Ralph Burns [adaptation score]
Cinematography: Geoffrey Unsworth
Video Resolution: 1080p [Technicolor]
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish
Running Time: 124 minutes
Region: Region A/1
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Warner Home Video
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: This 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 [Michael York], the two become good friends. Despite Brian'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 he 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 70s and 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 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, 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 shines brightly as the enthusiastic but delusional dreamer Sally Bowles. 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. Minnelli does an amazing job of realizing all of the woman's strengths and flaws and when she takes to the stage… wow. The actress absolutely explodes, giving a truly powerful and commanding musical performance that bursts from the screen.
As memorable as Liza Minnelli is, in the role of the enigmatic Master of Ceremonies, Joel Gray just about steals the show with his mesmerizing 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. An ambiguous, creepy, almost otherworldly figure, Joel Gray could be interpreted as an impish embodiment of the film's escalating dread. Though he 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.
Blu-ray Video Quality – The restored print is in very great shape with no real damage to speak of. A heavy layer of grain is visible throughout, and while natural and filmic in appearance, it does give the image a decidedly rough quality. Fine details are solid, especially in close-ups, but the cinematography has a predominantly soft appearance with frequently hazy, diffuse lighting. Colours during the film's various musical numbers are strong, with some rich blues, reds, and purples offering a decent sense of pop through the Kit Kat Club's smoky atmosphere. Off the stage, however, the palette becomes much drabber, and mostly sticks to faded browns and yellows that all work to evoke a bygone era. Likewise, the film's sense of depth follows suit, demonstrating pleasing dimension during many of the dance sequences and brightly lit outdoor scenes, but becoming flat in most other instances. Contrast is even throughout with natural whites and consistent black levels, but there is some minor crush in night-time shots. 'CABARET' features an artistically potent visual style, but the frequently hazy and coarse picture isn't always very appealing. Still, there are several truly striking shots peppered throughout, and thankfully the image is free of any unnecessary processing or "revisionist" manipulation. The video isn't impressive in the same way that many glossy contemporary efforts are, but fans of the film should be very pleased with this faithful transfer.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The film is presented with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. Optional English, French, and Spanish subtitles are also provided. Though the audio is never exactly enveloping, the modest sound design is potent and the musical numbers sound fantastic. Dialogue and vocals are clean but speech can sound comparatively thin. The mix is very frontloaded, with only some faint music cues hitting the surrounds. The overall soundstage is also pretty small, but appropriate directional effects, such as a record playing off to the side, for instance, are spread across the left, centre, and right channels when called for. Of course, the real highlights here are the movie's numerous musical numbers, and thankfully these sequences sound great. The songs all come through with solid fidelity, nice separation, and terrific range, delivering crisp, distortion free highs and mid ranges that really let Liza Minnelli's powerful voice soar. Low frequencies are negligible, but there is some minor bass activity during certain music tracks and a key scene involving a passing train. Thankfully, I did not detect any crackles, pops, or hissing. The true surround activity is subdued, but this track shines when it counts. The film's musical sequences are conveyed beautifully, and the studio has resisted the urge to spruce up the original recordings with an overproduced remix.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary: Commentary with Stephen Tropiano: Stephen Tropiano, author of "Cabaret: Music on Film," offers a worthwhile discussion on the movie, 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 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 [1080p] [1.78:1] [29:00] This new documentary is as much a biography of Fosse as it is an account of the making of Cabaret. Because so few of the key creative personnel are still alive, the participants skew heavily toward secondary sources, including Fosse biographers Martin Gottfried and Sam Wasson, and Stephen Tropiano, who supplied the Blu-ray's commentary. Minnelli, Grey and York are interviewed (the latter sounding quite ill), as is songwriter John Kander and dancer Louise Quick. Bebe Neuwirth and Ben Vereen, who were directed by Fosse on other projects, supply their insights, as does Alan Heim, the editor of All That Jazz, and Rob Marshall, director of the film Chicago, of which Fosse was the original director on Broadway. The director's daughter, Nicole, also contributes. The documentary is narrated by Neil Patrick Harris, one of many musical theatre stars who played the M.C. in the 1998 Broadway revival of “CABARET.”
Special Feature: Cabaret: A Legend in the Making  [480i] [1.33:1] [18:00] This excellent documentary was originally shot for the film's 25th Anniversary, this documentary 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.
Special Feature: The Recreation of an Era [480i] [1:33:1] [6:00] This is a vintage documentary looks at the making of the film that features some behind-the-scenes footage from the set.
Special Feature: Kit Kat Klub Memory Gallery [480i] [1:33:1] [22:00] In this section we get 23 additional clips with the cast and crew spread over 9 different categories: Liza Minnelli Remembers, Joel Gray Reminisces, Michael York Remembers, Martin Baum Reminisces, Cy Feuer Reminisces, Emanuel L. Wolf Reminisces, John Kander Remembers, Jay Presson Allen Reminisces, and Fred Ebb Remembers. These snippets all appear to have been cut from the longer "Cabaret: A Legend in the Making" documentary, and there are some interesting tidtits here, but most of the clips are very brief (under a minute) and unfortunately there is no play all option.
Theatrical Trailer  [480i] [2:56] This is the Original Theatrical Trailer for ‘CABARET.’
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 ‘CABARET’ and it isn't just one of the great film musicals of all time; it's one of the greatest classic films of its time. Innovative, unique, and ultimately haunting, Bob Fosse's 'CABARET' 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 Region 1 DVD release for ages, but now got rid of because of this awesome Deluxe Limited Edition DigiBook Package, that makes the wait well worth it and mow goes pride of place in my Blu-ray Disc Collection. Very Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom