CabaretRelease Date: February 5, 2013
Studio: Warner Home Video
Packaging/Materials: Blu-ray DigiBook
Running Time: 2:02:52
|THE FEATURE||SPECIAL FEATURES|
|Video||AVC: 1080p high definition 1.85:1 (modified to 1.78:1)||Standard and high definition|
|Audio||DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1||Dolby Digital: English 2.0|
|Subtitles||English SDH, French, Spanish||Various|
The Feature: 4.5/5British academic Brian Roberts (Michael York) is in for a shock – his more reserved and traditional sensibilities are about to come face-to-face with the free-spirited arts and culture of 1931 Berlin, personified by his boarding house neighbor Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli). Sally is a performer in the Kit Kat Klub cabaret, where dark and bawdy humor and sexual innuendo-filled musical numbers are de rigueur. Her personal life is not too dissimilar as she operates on impulse and lives with little regard for prevailing social mores. Yet Brian is drawn to her, and she to him, in a classic case of opposites attract. Starting off as friends, the two eventually become lovers, though that arrangement becomes rather complicated for everyone when Sally meets the wealthy and handsome Baron Maximilian von Heune (Helmut Griem).
In general life in Berlin is also becoming increasingly complicated as the Nazi Party and its rhetoric are gaining traction. Jewish citizens like Brian’s student Natalia Landauer (Marisa Berenson) grow fearful of the future, and objections to the anti-Semitic propaganda by non-Jews is increasingly met with physical violence. Though people mostly sense it rather than believe it outright, the life they’ve known under the Weimar Republic is about to disappear, replaced by something ugly and brutal. Up to a point Sally and Brian’s relationship will exist in a bubble, but even that will be unsettled by the city’s impending social and political changes.
It’s easy to see why Director Bob Fosse’s film musical “Cabaret” was hailed as groundbreaking. Even today it runs counter to the conventional understanding of what a musical entails. The film is aesthetically dark and edgy, contains challenging moral themes, and features strong sexuality and physical violence. The staging of the musical numbers, all of them taking place on the Kit Kat Klub stage with the involvement of the disturbing Master of Ceremonies (Joel Grey), also runs counter to expectation, turning the performers into a Greek Chorus that comments on the lives and activities of the main characters, rather than the main characters doing so for themselves. The exception is the character of Sally, who essentially inhabits both worlds. We eventually see to which she truly belongs, and Minnelli’s performance from beginning to end is mesmerizing, both for her doe-eyed beauty and convincing turn as a free-spirited Bohemian. The film went on to win eight Academy Awards, which was no mean feat considering it was up against “The Godfather” in most categories. Though it lost out on Best Picture, there’s little doubt it was deserving of its nomination, especially as it continues to entertain and enthrall some 40 years later.
Video Quality: 4/5Modified from its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 to the display-filling 1.78:1, the 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer features inky black levels and a full and uncompromised range of contrast. The color palette is limited to blacks and more earthy tones, but splashes of color in outdoor, daylit scenes display a satisfying richness and saturation, as do the more colorful costumes in the Kit Kat Klub. Grain, which is more apparent in some interior scenes, appears unmanipulated, with overall sharpness and fine detail holding up in both wide shots and closeups. The more dimly lit environments can look a little soft due to either focusing errors or the inherent technical challenge of low light cinematography, but it also imparts an edgy mood and tone to the film that’s wholly consistent with its aesthetics and themes. Overall it’s a great looking transfer, especially considering the nature and condition of its source elements, as described by Robert Harris.
Audio Quality: 4/5Dialogue and vocals in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track are impressively crisp, detailed and intelligible. Rear surround channels provide light support for the soundtrack and the occasional environmental noises, and though the activity is fairly measured, the effects are balanced and transparent. LFE is non-existent, but the track’s lower registers kick in with a few instances of stringed bass or bass drum in the score.
Special Features: 4/5The bonus material tends to get a bit repetitive, especially after listening to the detail-rich commentary track and reading through the collectible book. Nevertheless, the extras provide a thorough history and analysis of the film, even though it doesn’t require accessing more than a few of the items.
Commentary with Author Stephen Tropiano: The writer of “Cabaret: Music on Film” turns in a fact and anecdote-filled track that covers all the bases from the musical’s original stage incarnation, to the public and critical reception to Bob Fosse’s adaptation. Tropiano’s laidback delivery might put some listeners off, but it’s made up by his nearly constant stream of information.
Cabaret: The Musical that Changed Musicals (28:40, HD): The documentary looks at what made “Cabaret” unique for the film musical genre, looking specifically at the stylistic and cinematic choices that set it apart from everything that came before. Includes interviews with Bob Fosse biographer Sam Wasson, writer Martin Gottfried, Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey, (a practically unrecognizable) Michael York, a number of the dancers, and many more.
Cabaret: A Legend in the Making (17:31, SD): The 1997 retrospective includes interviews with Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey, producer / agent Martin Baum, and others.
The Recreation of an Era (6:04, SD): Archival promotional piece includes behind the scenes footage from the production and a few soundbites from those involved.
Kit Kat Klub Memory Gallery: Snippets from interviews conducted in 1997 offer a variety of production and post-production anecdotes. The feature could stand to have a “play all” function to facilitate viewing.
- Marisa’s Closeup (1:00, SD)
- Sally’s Look (1:55, SD)
- Observing the Master (:47, SD)
- Challenges (:50, SD)
- Collective Memory (1:05, SD)
- Strange Inspiration (:40, SD)
- A Called Bluff (1:16, SD)
- Risk Taking (:34, SD)
- Rush(es) Hour (:35, SD)
- A Happy Accident (:31, SD)
- Rock ‘N’ Roll Editing (3:26, SD)
- Isherwood’s Surprise Reaction (1:27, SD)
- Smithsonian Honor (:38, SD)
- Tomorrow Belongs to Me (1:12, SD)
- Taking on the Godfather (:52, SD)
- Timeless (:29, SD)
- Playing “What If?” (1:01, SD)
- Almost a Nervous Breakdown (:41, SD)
- Sneaking a Peek (:14, SD)
- Play vs. Book (:24, SD)
- Recruiting Hugh Wheeler (:14, SD)
- Screening Blues (1:12, SD)
- Screening Hues (:44, SD)
Collectible Book: Incorporated into the packaging, the 40 pages of high quality printed material includes a detailed overview of the film’s source material, an essay about the film’s legacy, cast and crew biographies, and promotional and production photographs.
Recap and RecommendationThe Film: 4.5/5
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 4/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4.5/5
Warner Home Video turns in a fantastic high definition presentation for “Cabaret,” Director Bob Fosse’s convention-defying film musical set during the waning days of the Weimar Republic. The bonus material offers a thorough history and analysis of the film, but the items lack variety, making for a somewhat repetitive set of extras. Nevertheless, the Blu-ray is recommended for both first time purchasers of the title and owners of previous DVD releases.