In an unexpected upset, Bob Fosse’s expertly crafted, musical film "Cabaret" wrested a slew of major Oscars from its chief rival, "The Godfather." Based on stories by Christopher Isherwood, a play of John Van Druten, and the 1966 Kander & Ebb Broadway smash, the groundbreaking film was termed the first "adult" musical.
Certainly, nothing is sugar-coated in Fosse’s choreography and direction. The racy, musical numbers in the Kit Kat Club are brilliantly conceived, and colorfully evoke decadent, pre-WW II Berlin. Although the hero of the film was in fact gay, "Cabaret" went so far as to suggest his bisexuality, which, for 1972 was a daring move. And it is the sheer audacity of "Cabaret" which insures its timelessness.
Having bombed with "Sweet Charity," Bob Fosse was at first ruled out as a candidate to direct the project. Yet it was an assignment he desperately wanted, and he vindicated himself by winning a Best Director Oscar for his painstaking efforts. His cast gives the performance of her career, singing, dancing and acting the role to perfection.
As a handsome, sexually ambiguous, young Englishman, Michael York is completely believable. Stylish Marisa Berenson makes an elegant Natalia, a wonderful foil for the raucous Sally. The only cast member to have starred in the Broadway production, the amazing Joel Grey was the obvious choice for the Master of Ceremonies. A group of talented American and German supporting players contribute to the strength of "Cabaret, as do several attractive German location shots, and altogether superb editing.
It was decided that, for the film, all of the musical numbers were to be performed on the stage of the cabaret, in counterpoint to the dramatic storyline. Therefore certain songs from the original score were deleted. Instead, Kander & Ebb inserted a few of their signature showstoppers. And who better to put them over than Liza in her undisputed prime!
In celebration of its 40th anniversary, "Cabaret" has just been released on new DVD and Blu-ray editions. Warner Brothers is offering a recently restored print, which, on Blu-ray, provides the finest possible picture quality. As many of the interior shots are dimly lit, the film is often grainy and diffused, so don’t expect startling, Blu-ray clarity; but the color is dense and rich, and the DTS mutli-channel stereo is impressive.
Mounted in a glossy, hardbound Blu-ray book, the disc includes detailed commentary by author Stephen Tropiano. All of the previously released shorts on the making of "Cabaret" are contained in the special features menu, as well as "Cabaret: The Musical that Changed Musicals," an informative, 2012 documentary that includes recent interview clips with cast and crew members.