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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
  • None
  Extras
  • Teaser trailer
  • Audio commentary - German language, no subtitles
  • Photo gallery
  • Filmographies

Bagdad Cafe

Umbrella Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 104 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Bagdad Cafe is one of those quirky and delightful films that seems to pass much of the movie-going public by. It has no special effects, a virtually unknown cast, and rolls along at a respectable pace exploring a range of issues and human emotions; generally not blockbuster stuff.

Released in 1987, it is best described as a gentle comedy. It is the story of a small ragtag bunch of yokels who live at the Bagdad Cafe, a run down roadhouse on Route 66. The barren surroundings of the desert are matched only by the barrenness that lurks in the hearts of the people that live there. Owner/operator Brenda (CCH Pounder), her partner Sal, (G. Smokey Campbell) and their two children run the Bagdad Cafe as they run their lives, badly. If it weren’t for the passing truckers, there would be no business, certainly not for the motel attached to the cafe.

There are a few permanent residents such as Rudy Cox (Jack Palance), a retired and washed up Hollywood reject, and Debby the tattooist. There are the kitchen staff, and a blow in or two, but life at the Bagdad Cafe seems about as dull as life can be, until the arrival of Jasmine Munchgstettner (Marianne Sagebrecht) that is.

Frau Munchgstettner and her hubby are on a road trip when marital bliss suffers a blow, and Jasmine decides enough is enough and promptly gets out of the car and starts to walk. She eventually stumbles into the Bagdad Cafe, and looks and feels totally out of place. However, she decides that this is as good a place as any right now.

As she becomes more acquainted with lives of the folks at the Bagdad Cafe, she begins to find more and more reason to be happy. It becomes obvious that she shares more with these people than anyone could have imagined.

Bagdad Cafe is a wonderful little-known gem. It has a certain indefinable beauty about it, and moves along at a gentle yet engrossing pace. There are laughs along the way, and plenty of chances to get to know the oddball characters. There are some interesting and unusual camera angles, and some strange colouring that adds to the barren atmosphere.

The cast is a joy. Jack Palance gives a wonderfully restrained performance as Rudy Cox, CCH Pounder does a terrific job as the loud, bossy, and short-tempered Brenda, and German actress Marianne Sagebrecht delivers a captivating performance as she develops the central character of Jasmine. If you need a film to give you a bit of a lift, but one that does it gradually and gently, then Bagdad Cafe is a fine choice. Also take note of the movie's theme song, the Oscar nominated Calling You - brilliant!

  Video
Contract

Make no mistake, this was filmed on a budget, and although it is only 15 years old, it looks older, though some of that is intentional. The setting of the film is not pretty, but that would not do it justice. Generally this is an acceptable transfer, and is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85 :1 and is 16x9 enhanced. As mentioned, there is some use of colour filters which gives the film a strangely hypnotic look at times. The more natural scenes are fine with regards to colour and there are no problems with colour bleeding or chroma noise, though the palette is not wide-ranging by any standard.

Black levels are fine, though rarely very deep. Shadow detail is a little on the poor side, and some of the indoor scenes are heavily backlit, though this too is intentional. There are some small film artefacts more noticeable in the earlier scenes, though they are minor and appear to be caused by a slightly dirty print. There are few, if any, film-to-video artefacts such as aliasing, and no evidence of low-level noise.

There are no subtitles, nor a layer change due to this being a single sided, single-layer disc.

  Audio
Contract

This film would have been a treat in Dolby Digital 5.1, but only Dolby Digital 2.0 is offered, as it was originally released. What is here is reasonably solid, with a good range. Low-level sounds are strong and rich, and the high-level sounds and dialogue are crisp and clear.

There is some obvious separation and panning, though it all sounds natural and not forced. Naturally there is no action from the rear or centre speakers, or the subwoofer. Even so, this is a fair effort that may need a bit of a tweak of the volume control to catch some of the sotto voce dialogue that is often essential to the mood of the scene.

  Extras
Contract

A few extras are offered up, the strangest being a German language Audio Commentary from director Percy Adlon. It is at a fine volume, but what dumm kopf decided that in Region 4 we didn't need subtitles? Consequently I have no idea just how gut this is...

There is a captioned, self-navigating Photo Gallery that is also accompanied by music from the movie.

At no extra cost are three text only Filmographies for Palance, Sagebrecht and Adlon. Not what you'd call extensive research here, volks.

A Trailer with no timer count encoded is a fairly grainy, dirt-ridden, affair that gives away some of the surprises contained in the film that are more impacting if you do not know what to expect.

The last of these fairly lame extras is the ever-included Umbrella Propaganda which is nothing more that adverts for other Umbrella releases. The three included here are for Malcolm, Cinema Paradiso, and Death of a Salesman, which is not only as dirty and grainy as the other trailers, but is also in pan and scan and includes a large time counter across the bottom of the screen. Thankfully it is just an advert, and one hopes the actual DVD does not include that little gem.

  Overall  
Contract

While the extras leave a bit to be desired (like the ability to understand German for one), the film is very enjoyable. The script is well paced, there is good editing, interesting camera angles and a likeable bunch of eccentric characters played by a capable cast. The film offers laughs and warm fuzzies all round. Recommended.


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=2068
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      And I quote...
    "Two very different women form an unlikely bond in this quirky tale filled with strange characters and questionable goings-on - and just who does wear the leder hosen?"
    - Terry Kemp
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Akai
    • TV:
          TEAC CT-F803 80cm Super Flat Screen
    • Receiver:
          Pioneer VSX-D409
    • Speakers:
          Wellings
    • Centre Speaker:
          Wellings
    • Surrounds:
          Wellings
    • Subwoofer:
          Sherwood SP 210W
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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