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  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
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MRA/MRA . R4 . COLOR . 119 mins . M15+ . PAL


Cabaret is a hugely overrated musical. In 1972 it managed to take out eight Oscars, including 'Best Actress' for Liza Minnelli and 'Best Supporting Actor' for Joel Grey. But today it seems largely a sad anti-musical, rejoicing in its paltry score and ersatz-decadent story.

Cabaret evolved from writer Christopher Isherwood's Berlin stories of the early 1930s about his own visit to that decadent city on the verge of voluntary societal suicide. The novels spawned a successful stage play, and then a wonderful mid-1950s film I Am a Camera, with Julie Harris and Laurence Harvey. Then came the trizzed-up Broadway musical Cabaret and, finally, the movie.

The movie does have its strong points. Bob Fosse's direction is tight and incisive, and his choreography for the numbers staged at the Kit Kat Klub are amongst his best work on film. Geoffrey Unsworth's photography is just startlingly brilliant, with its lustrous, earthy colours, as you would expect from the cameraman for films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Superman: The Movie. Finally, impish actor Joel Grey really does put a unique stamp on the film with his portrayal of ambiguous decadence as the Cabaret host.

But then, but then... the big 'then' is Liza Minnelli. For a start, she is Liza Minnelli. That's hard to get over. Her face is puffy and plastic with big insincere doe-eyes. Her body seems made of quivery pallid blancmange. It is really hard to get over the slight feeling that maybe she did get ahead partly, just partly, because of her mum, the great Judy Garland, and her dad, the semi-great film director Vincent Minnelli. But she did get the Oscar, so some people were slavering over her performance. And you never know, some people may still do the same today. After all, both Peter Allen and Michael Jackson thought she was great - there's a fan-club of sorts.

Today, the 'decadence' of Cabaret seems pretty tame. But worst of all, the score now seems totally threadbare. This was one of the earliest of the musicals to decide to go all-out without a decent score or bracket of melodies. Chicago was another of that ilk. At least in the movie Chicago, the crap score was made up for by the sheer zest of the cast. No such luck with Cabaret.

No matter how hard Joel Grey works, we can't get over the fact that Liza Minnelli is a moony dog, and her co-star Michael York is an expressionless cold fish who has an emotional range from cod to haddock. Direction, choreography and photography are all winners; it's just a pity about the score and cast.


Geoffrey Unsworth's photography is totally brilliant, and its vibrancy and colours are well projected in this transfer. Night scenes and nightclub scenes alike glow with an inner light; this photography really is the star of the musical.

The original ratio was 1.85:1; this seems more like 1.80. The big fault in this DVD issue is that it is a letterboxed widescreen release only. Nowadays, when dealing with a movie such as Cabaret with such acclaimed pictorial qualities, there's no excuse not to issue a decent anamorphic transfer.


Although this is a standard two-channel Dolby Digital stereo track, the sound is strong and vigorous. It meets fully the needs of the music and dialogue and there's no distortion or unwanted noise.


This is bare-bones indeed. There is a photo gallery with 17 production photographs of cast and crew. There's a Cabaret trivia quiz of the most elementary type - five chapters of ten questions each about the movie and its history, toggling between questions and answers.

And that's it... nothing else. The American edition, by contrast, gives a raft of special features, including a 1972 documentary The Recreation of an Era about presenting Berlin in the early days of the Nazi push for power, and Cabaret: A Legend in the Making, a documentary dating from the film's 25th anniversary in 1997.


The facts that there are no special features of note and this isn't even a proper widescreen presentation suggests that this is a quickie release ahead of a decent 'Special Edition' somewhere down the track.

So rent it only; there's no point in buying Cabaret until at least an anamorphic transfer is offered.

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      And I quote...
    "Hugely hyped and overrated Oscar-winning musical gets barest-boned DVD release possible. "
    - Anthony Clarke
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