A Few Words About A few words about...™ Cabaret -- in Blu-ray

Robert Harris

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Even at its earliest stages, the Academy Award-winning Cabaret (1972) was a most unlikely film to get made, or at least get well-made.
A production of Allied Artists, which turned out to be the little engine that could, Bob Fosse's Cabaret shines, four decades later, as a brilliant gem in the cinema firmament.
Almost unique in modern annals, Cabaret also shares a major problem with a few other Academy Award winners. While some may have problems with elements due to fade or damage, unless one goes back to the earliest days of the awards, one does not run into many missing original negatives.
Off the top of my head, I can only think of one other that shares the honor - The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), which apparently was lost in transit.
In the case of Cabaret, it seems that the OCN went missing before it ever reached Warner Bros. along with other Lorimar product.
Luckily, it appears that a lab (presumably Technicolor) produced a top quality interpositive, which makes Cabaret shine on Blu-ray.
Before we get along with totally happy thoughts, the point should be made, that somewhere along the years of use, the IP was badly scratched for an entire reel. But one would never know it.
From image harvest, to digital clean-up and removal of the errant scratch, one would never know that they aren't viewing a scan from an original negative. The image quality is that good!
Color accurately represents the best 1972 dye transfer prints, with among the richest blacks you'll see on a Blu-ray. I was immediately thinking of Mr. Brando's tuxedo in the opening of The Godfather, or a similar richness seen in The Red Shoes. Shadow detail is exemplary. Grain structure is magnificent. Bottom line is that Geoffrey Unsworth's velvety, contrasty, colorful imagery is reproduced to perfection.
Audio in DTS-HD MA 5.1 is rich and full.
I've always loved this film, which absolutely stands the test of time. One point that has always remained with me, as one of the most chilling to be ever be put on film, comes an hour twenty in, with what appears to be a potentially innocent ballad, begun a cappella, by a lone young man. This grows as the camera pulls back, with others joining in, to show the emerging power of the Hitler youth movement.
Cast is perfect. Michael York, Helmut Griem, Maria Berenson, and the great Joel Grey. Ms Minnelli walks a fine line between life and art at the club, with just a bit of Pookie Adams thrown in.
A double-bill with Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will, which is of the same (Weimar) era, would make a very interesting evening.
Life at the Kit Kat Club would never be the same.
A magnificent Blu-ray of an equally magnificent motion picture, and at under $19, one of the great bargains on Amazon.
While it's only January, I believe that this time next year, as lists are being compiled toward the best releases of 2013, Warner's [SIZE= 14px]Cabaret will be on it.[/SIZE]
Very Highly Recommended.
RAH
 

Robert Crawford

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I watched a snippet of this great film while out at Warner and MPI demonstrated some of their fine work that was needed for this BD release. I'm looking forward to viewing this BD in its entirety. Thanks RAH, for confirming what I saw out there. Crawdaddy
 
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Matt Hough

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Mr. Harris said: "[SIZE= 14px]Almost unique in modern annals, Cabaret also shares a major problem with a few other Best Picture winners.[/SIZE]...."
This suggests that Cabaret itself is a best picture winner, and, of course, it isn't.
 

Robert Harris

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Originally Posted by MattH.
Mr. Harris said: "[SIZE= 14px]Almost unique in modern annals, Cabaret also shares a major problem with a few other Best Picture winners.[/SIZE]...."
This suggests that Cabaret itself is a best picture winner, and, of course, it isn't.
Correct. Meant to say Academy Award winning films.
One of the more notorious would be The Patriot, which as eluded us with its Best Actor performance. But that would be in the earlier nitrate era, and silent. And really, who cared about those? For The Patriot, we have nothing but a bit of footage. No lavenders, dupes, prints. Nada.
Cabaret walked away with Actress, Director, Supporting Actor, Art Direction, Cinematography, Editing, Music (adapted score), and Sound.
The 1972 Best Picture went to another film, the title of which escapes me at the moment, which I believe also took a few other awards.
RAH
 

bujaki

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RAH, You're thinking of The Way of All Flesh (lost film), for which Emil Jannings won the AA as best actor along with The Last Command. The Patriot, also lost, did not win an Oscar for Lewis Stone's nominated performance, nor for Lubitsch's direction.
 

Ethan Riley

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Very good news; pre-ordered on Mr. Harris' recommendation. How does the grain look? I've only ever seen the dvd. I would think this movie would be deliciously grainy; the dvd is kinda weak. It's also a little cloudy in parts. Looking forward to the upgrade.
 

Mark-P

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I am thrilled at this good news. Cabaret got no respect on DVD, only getting a recycled letterbox transfer. And keep in mind that Cabaret won 8 Oscars to Godfather's 3. The only two nominations Cabaret didn't win were Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, both of which went to The Godfather.
 

ahollis

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Thank you for your thoughts on the title and have it pre-ordered without any hesitation. I also ordered Triumph Of Will and plan to take your suggestion on a double bill of the two films. It should prove to be an interesting evening.
 

Robert Harris

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Originally Posted by bujaki
RAH,
You're thinking of The Way of All Flesh (lost film), for which Emil Jannings won the AA as best actor along with The Last Command. The Patriot, also lost, did not win an Oscar for Lewis Stone's nominated performance, nor for Lubitsch's direction.
Not a good day for fact-keeping.
RAH
 

Robert Harris

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Originally Posted by ahollis
Thank you for your thoughts on the title and have it pre-ordered without any hesitation. I also ordered Triumph Of Will and plan to take your suggestion on a double bill of the two films. It should prove to be an interesting evening.
Hopefully, you ordered the newest Synapse release of Triumph. But you may want to hold off a bit, as something even better will be coming from them.
RAH
 

Matt Hough

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Yep, I'll be more than happy to retire that tired old letterbox transfer of Cabaret we've had to make do with all these years.
 

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Very glad to hear this Mr. Harris. My fear is that they would distort the subtleties of the original release. The dvd release has always been a mess and I think the reputation of the film has suffered over the years since this was the only way to see it. Can't wait to see the disc.
 

Mark-W

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Another film that makes a great double feature with this one is Christopher & His Kind.
Which is a more accurate version of Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories, which Cabaret is based on.
 

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My initial reaction to the film, and that of a number of my friends, was highly negative. Why? Because they had so completely gutted the stage version which was a defining moment in the development of the "concept musical." It was at that time the most chilling representation of evil I had ever seen on stage or screen. The walls of the theater oozed evil and Joel Grey was the personification of a minion of the devil dancing a song of death. "Tomorrow Belongs To Me" was a startling and riveting experience that froze to stone the theater audience from the inside out as the lights faded on that act. It had a sweet beginning based, according to a local New York CBS radio interview with Kander and Ebb, on a German drinking song. By mid-song the sweetness (as in the movie) had transitioned to a more martial sound and people in the cafe began to reveal swastika armbands. From that moment it grew in tempo and intensity until the same thundering beat as in the film drowned out any left over sweetness. (More forceful than the "competition" in CASABLANCA, yet in the same vein) Then......after reaching a crescendo it faded quickly as the lights began to fade 'til all the audience could see was a tiny spotlit Joel Grey - a white circle of pure evil surrounded by frightening shards of darkness - quietly singing the last line of the song, then a heart-stopping laugh and SNAP, lights out, and we were left in darkness for the intermission to attempt to revive us. Fosse staged many of the numbers in the film quite wonderfully but his staging here was an absolute cop-out by someone attempting to do something different from the stage version......and failing. Many of the other numbers in the film had roots in their staging that stretched back to the Imperial Theatre production, but obviously this one did not and it is SO intrinsic to the heart of the film that even in its watered down version it has some merit to those who never saw the original production. But its change DOES damage the film. The excising of the relationship between the landlady and one Mr. Schultz, played on stage so brilliantly by Jack Gilford and Lotte Lenya also hurt the film. Removing major characters from a seminal piece of work like CABARET is rather like excising Ashley and Melanie from GONE WITH THE WIND. It "ain't" the same story and shouldn't pretend to be. Even in the stage version it was clear to anyone who had ANY awareness of life that Cliff was gay. There were numerous scenes - and characters - that had nothing to do with the CABARET I had seen many times on Broadway. For me, the film was a incomplete rendering of what had chilled us all onstage. HOWEVER, through the years as I saw it again and again on ABC and began buying the VHS, cum laser disc, cum DVD my appreciation of it began to grow even while the prints seemed to grow worse and worse. Today I think MOST of the numbers are brilliantly done.....with the exception of "Tomorrow Belongs To Me" and I am drooling over the prospect of a pristine BD.
 

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