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HTF REVIEW: "All That Jazz" (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) (with screenshots) (1 Viewer)

Ronald Epstein

Senior HTF Member
Jul 3, 1997
Real Name
Ronald Epstein

All That Jazz

Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Year: 1979
Rated: R
Film Length: 123 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)
Subtitles: English

"To be on the wire is life. The rest is waiting"

I will never forget nor forgive the 1979 Oscars.
Up for Best Picture that year were a handful of
true heavyweights that included All That Jazz,
Apocalypse Now, Breaking Away, Norma Rae and
Kramer vs. Kramer. In what had to be one of
the biggest upsets in Oscar history, Kramer vs.
walked away with the honors. I always
felt that anyone could have easily made a film like
Kramer vs. Kramer. On the other hands, it
was films like Apocalypse Now and All That
that truly defined that era.

I was a mere teenager of 16 when I first saw
All That Jazz in 1979. Not being a huge fan
of musical films, I saw it because it happened to
be one of the first "R" rated films I was able to
sneak into. Little did I know I was about to
witness one of the most remarkable films I have
ever had the opportunity to see. Today, All
That Jazz
stands amongst my top 5 all-time
favorites, and my appreciation for the film still
continues to grow with each viewing.

Choreographer-turned-director Bob Fosse (Cabaret,
Lenny) turns the camera on himself in this semi-
autobiographical account of his multi faceted
professional and personal life. Through a brilliant
performance by Roy Scheider, we watch as Bob Fosse
examines his own obsessive life as a director and
choreographer as well as a womanizer, drinker, and
pill-popping druggie.

As the film opens, we meet Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider),
a Numero Uno game player and overstressed stage/film
director who begins his mornings with the plopping of
alka-setlzers, the popping of Dexedrine pills, and
the squirting of Visine in his bloodshot eyes.
Facing himself in the mirror, Gideon quirps, "It's
showtime folks!

As we watch Gideon falling from a tightrope, we
realize he is on the "tightrope of life." We find
him speaking with Angelique/Death (Jessica Lange),
who through many scenes reminisces with Joe about
his life; all the while flirting, complimenting,
and slowly seducing him. We know Gideon is on a
collision course with mortality, but how much longer
he can refrain from giving Death its kiss is still

Through most of the film we witness Joe's building
anxiety as he tries to editing his film about a
comic, while rehearsing a new Broadway show in
which his ex-wife, Audrey (Leland Palmer) is starring.
At the same time, he's trying to be a reasonable
father to his 12-year-old daughter Michelle
(Erzsebet Foldi), trying not to hurt his girlfriend
Kate (Ann Reinking) too much, and trying to get into
the leotards of as many girls as possible, especially
Victoria's (Deborah Geffner). Joe has reached the
overload point of too much work, women, booze,
cigarettes, uppers and increasing doubts about
the value of his entire life.

Most of the film's first hour is devoted to watching
the producer/choreographer put together his newest
Broadway sensation. Being that this is a musical,
the first part of this film features a terrific
musical number, Take off with us that suddenly
turns into a steamier AirRotica sequence that
is ultimately sparkling, sensual and spectacular,
and features an explosive ensemble of dancers.

The second half of the film concentrates more on
Joe's failing health and heart attack. Since Joe
is temporarily out of action, the show's moneymen
discover they can actually make money if he dies
before the show opens. Fosse intercuts this scene
with a gruesome open-heart surgery footage that may
be difficult for many to watch. The last third of
the film takes place in the hospital, as we watch
Joe hurtle toward his fate. Joe makes the transition
from life to death, accepting the idea of eternal
life with one woman--Angelique. In the climactic
episode, Joe imagines his death as a TV spectacular
presided over by "host" Ben Vereen. This musical
number is the ultimate highlight of the entire film
as we watch Joe Gideon's farewell to his young
daughter and ex-wife followed by his gliding exit
into the arms of Death.

Roy Scheider does the best work of his career, and
along with the breathtaking musical numbers, All
That Jazz
is one of the best "eye candy" musicals
of all time, as well as being one of the best films
to come out of the 70s.

I'd like to think that I was the person responsible
for getting All That Jazz to DVD in the first
place. It was about three years ago during a
visit to Fox studios, I had asked Fox Home
Entertainment's VP Peter Staddon if he would look
into releasing the film to the format. He assured
me he would do what he could, and within a year I
started hearing rumours that the DVD was in early

The DVD was originally slated to be released in
2002. The DVD's R1 release date was ultimately
put on hold after the studio anticipated the
availabilty of additional commentary content.
When that deal fell through, the DVD sort of
went into limbo, awaiting the most opportune
release window.

How is the transfer?

All That Jazz went through a rather lengthy
and costly restoration effort after the film was
ressurected from the Fox film vaults and found to
be almost completely destroyed. The fate of this
movie was similar to the many motion pictures that
suffered from the quality of the chemicals used
for the films by Kodak in the 70s.

Enter Schawn Belston's, Executive director of
worldwide library services and film preservation
at Fox Entertainment. Belston was handed the
responsibility of restoring All That Jazz,
which turned out to be a great job for him, since
it is amongst his all-time favorite films.

I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Belston at Fox
Studios last year when he gave us a sneak peek of
the restoration he had just completed. Schawn
explained that the film's original negative was
in piss-poor condition after having been used over
and over again countless times in order to make
duplicate prints. There was extensive sprocket
damage and even huge thumb prints throughout an
entire reel.

I tell you all of this because it's important that
while this transfer did not meet my expectations,
I can't help but feel that the film looks better
than it ever has on any previous format. The print
itself is in immaculate condition. There is no
evidence of scratches, blemishes or dirt to be seen
anywhere. Thge only defect in the print I saw was
a brief second of picture flutter during the musical
number, "Everything Old is New Again."

The overall problem I had with this transfer is
that it still looks like a film from the
70s period. Images are fairly sharp and detailed,
though most of the film suffers from excessive
background grain. Colors seem to have held up
pretty well here, and for the most part are very
stable. The only exception I found was in the
film's opening "On Broadway" number where
the deep reds of the theater's seats and drapes
tend to be oversaturated. While black levels never
become as deep as one would like, flesh tones look
mostly accurate throughout.

The other problem I had concerned the film's
English Dolby surround track, a feature that I
understand may not be available in the R2 DVD release.
When All That Jazz opened theatrically, it
played mono in most theaters. Fox has restored the
film with a Dolby Stereo surround track.

I expected this film would be a basic surround mix,
but was saddened to find that during the initial
first hour and 13 minutes, the film never became
an immersive audio experience. The entire weight
of the soundtrack rests in the center channel, with
small bits of supporting audio in the main speakers
that seem to cut in and out. The film's first musical
number, Take off with us plays entirely in
the center channel, lacking any sort of dynamics or
stereo separation.

It wasn't until the very end of Chapter 13 during
Gideon's Hospital partying that a jazz piece suddenly
kicks this soundtrack in the ass, forcing the speakers
to come alive as if a light was suddenly switched on
after for being dark for half the film. For the
remaining 45+ minutes of the feature, we get the
kind of bass line, stereo separation and music
surround effect one would expect from a film like
this. Though dynamics are still a bit limited, it
was great to hear the film's final numbers play with
a nice wraparound effect across the rear channels
and added .LFE support that underline the soundtrack's
toe-tappin' drum beats.

Special Features

Instead of a feature-length commentary, we are
treated to 23 Screen specific commentaries
by actor Roy Scheider. Honestly, I'm in favor
of this sort of commentary as it enables a viewer
to directly access a particular topic that interests
he or she the most. The topics here range from
A Hard look at the addicted man; Becoming Joe
Gideon; Being a dancer; Almost losing Angelique

to Having a heart attack. Though each of
the commentary segments are short, the material
presented is quite informative. In Becoming Joe
, for example, we learn that actor Richard
Dreyfuss was originally slated for the part, that
is, until he confided to his pal Roy Scheider that
he didn't want to work with Fosse. It just so
happened that after Dreyfuss quit the picture, Fosse's
office contacted Scheider about the film. In
Heart Attack, Scheider reveals he asked
Bob Fosse what a real heart attack feels like. Fosse
told him it feels like a great weight is placed upon
one's chest. In the scenes that we see Scheider's
face crying out in pain, there was actually an assisant
placing his knee down upon the actor's chest so that
experience could be simulated. In Almost losing
, we learn about Columbia's concern
of the film going over budget, and the studio's plan
to remove Jessica Lange and the Angel Of Death from
the picture. This is just a very small example of
some of the highly interesting information that
Scheider brings to the table.

Now this is a real treat for fans of the

Shot during the production of the film, Roy
Scheider gives up some of his time to talk a little
about the film, working with Bob Fosse, playing
the role of Joe Gideon and the physical demands
of the role. Each of the three filmed interview
segments lasts for about a minute each.

A look at the man himself -- Bob Fosse -- in five
small clips that show him directing and choreographing
the film's opening "Cattle Call" number. While the
presented material is overly brief, it's a real treat
to see this sort of stuff included on the DVD.

Final Thoughts

All That Jazz is an absolutely brilliant film
that delivers many excellent acting performances and
several outstanding musical and dance numbers.

I'd like to take the opportunity to thank Schawn
Belston for putting so much care into this film's
restoration. Though my critique of the transfer may
sound unappreciative, I think that my expectations
were much too high. I realize this film was
practically rebuilt from the bottom up. There is
no argument that this film has never looked better
on any previous format.

I'd also like to thank Peter Staddon for putting
the wheels in motion and getting this DVD released.
This is not the first nor last time your studio has
listened to the voices within this forum.

Anyone that has never seen All That Jazz owes
it to themselves to check this film out upon its
release in August. Those already familiar with the
film probably are awaiting a preorder opportunity.

Release Date: August 19, 2003

All screen captures have been further compressed.
They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
represent actual picture quality

Robert Crawford

Senior HTF Member
Dec 9, 1998
Real Name
Regarding the look of the transfer can that be attributed to the quality of the film stock used in 1970s?


Peter Apruzzese

Senior HTF Member
Dec 20, 1999
Real Name
Peter Apruzzese
Thanks for the early review, Ron. Your description of the sound mix sounds very much like what I remember hearing theatrically back in 1979. My memory is that it was a very quiet track until that point in the film.

Best line of dialogue in the film: "I wonder if Stanley Kubrick ever gets depressed," said when Gideon is editing his film.

Jon Robertson

May 19, 2001
Regarding the look of the transfer can that be attributed to the quality of the film stock used in 1970s?
Yes, absolutely. It looks like practically every other late 70s/early 80s movie I've seen on disc (the two closest comparisons in terms of quality I can think of are American Gigolo and The Stunt Man).

By the way Ron, I think the reason the heart operation scene is "very realistic" is because it's documentary footage! :D

Joel C

Oct 23, 1999
I was interested in this anyway (I liked Lenny and Cabaret), but for $14.95 list I can't pass it up.

Ronald Epstein

Senior HTF Member
Jul 3, 1997
Real Name
Ronald Epstein
By the way Ron, I think the reason the heart operation scene is "very realistic" is because it's documentary footage!
Very aware of that.

Don't know why I originally worded it like that, but
I am going to carefully reword that description.



Senior HTF Member
Jan 3, 2002
ALL THAT JAZZ really challenged my then 17 year old perception of the movie going experience when I first saw it all those years ago. Life, death, obssession, genius, and countless other concepts virtually alien to me at the time. I can't wait for this release!

David Coleman

Supporting Actor
Jan 5, 2000
ALL THAT JAZZ was the first and maybe only movie where I came out the theater and said WOW! This is tremendous filmaking and I always felt that Fosse was the king of non-linear story telling in film!

It's been many years since i've seen this one but rest assured for $14.95 you can be sure i'll purchase this one!!

Robert James Clark

Second Unit
Oct 25, 2001
This is a brilliant movie that eerily foreshadows Fosse's own death.

The concluding scene (zzzzzzip) is one of the hardest scenes to watch of any movie I can think of...


Mar 1, 2001
Wooh Baby, 1979 was one amazing year for me. Alien and All That Jazz. I came away from the theater just blown away and I knew I'd experienced a pair of JEWELS.

In spite of what may be a limited quality on the DVD, I think it's a miracle that it's making it's way to us.

Ron, if you truly had anything to do with saving this one, then THANK YOU!
ATJ has always been in my top 5 as well. It was #1 for years.


Joe Caps

Senior HTF Member
Dec 10, 2000
All that Jazz looked very grainy in the theater. The film was basically a mono movie with stereo musical sequences.
However On Broadway and Take OFf with Us were VERY stereo in the theater and on the old flat laserdisc. However, by the time the film went to its first letterlox laser transfer, all the songs had gone to mono untill the long finale, as you describe for the new DVD. Wonder why?

Ronald Epstein

Senior HTF Member
Jul 3, 1997
Real Name
Ronald Epstein
I want to stress this again....

Although the transfer did not meet my expectations,
I am not unhappy with the job Fox has done here.
When you consider the condition the original film
elements were in, it's simply amazing how immaculate
the print looks.

I also do understand that the graininess
has everything to do with the film stock, but to
not mention the problem in this review would be
something people would never forgive me for.

There was only so much restoration that could be
done here.

I think my problem is that I have been spoiled
by many films out of the same era that look far
better. Take Little Big Man, for example --
a film made nearly 10 years earlier and it looks
like a brand new film.

This is a reason why I feel inadequate as a reviewer.
My knowledge of film is rather limited. I have to
continue to remind myself that I can't keep comparing
film transfers because I have no idea what the
condition of the prints were in the first place, or
how the film actually looked or sounded when it
played theatrically.

Take my review as one that points out all the
problems I see within the transfer, but without
placing the blame on any particular person or studio.

Appreciate the interest you guys have shown.

Gerry A

Sep 19, 2000
"Release Date: August 19, 2003"

That's still far off. Any reason why they can't make it earlier when a copy or copies are already available for review?

DaViD Boulet

Senior HTF Member
Feb 24, 1999
Never really heard of this film...but it sounds right up my alley. I love dark films like Cabaret and this seems to have that same "feel" from Ron's description.

Another DVD purchased sight-unseen based on one of Ron's reviews...

dave :)


Stunt Coordinator
Mar 10, 2003
Funnily enough I've noticed this on TV a couple of times in the past few weeks (here in the UK) last time I sat down and watched it.

Despite initally appearing to be subject matter that I didn't expect to find interesting I was swept up into this film. In places it's a little 70's for my young brain perhaps but generally excellent.

I shall look it out, if there's a decent R2 version available immediately so much the better!

David Lambert

Senior HTF Member
Aug 3, 2001
That's still far off. Any reason why they can't make it earlier when a copy or copies are already available for review?
Answer: Because the retail packages haven't been produced yet. If you read the thread that started all of this, word leaked out that this was in-the-works. Ron Epstein, as noted in his review, has championed this film's release on DVD since the dawn of digital time. :)

Fox VP Peter Staddon saw that Ron was chomping at the bit for this, and posted a note straightaway that he had just sent Ron a "check disc", which is what Ron has reviewed. If you've never heard the term before, a check disc is kind of like a DVD version of what for PC software is called a "beta test copy". Only they usually have all the bugs worked out on most check discs (not always, though...which is why they are "check" discs...they need to be or have been "checked" by the quality tester).

So this is not a factory-stamped disc with the fancy art on the top side that's packaged in a shrunk-wrapped keepcase. Fox still has to make that happen so copies can be put in stores.


Senior HTF Member
Jun 15, 2001
I shall look it out, if there's a decent R2 version available immediately so much the better!
Matt this should still be available in a R2 version. I purchased my R2 version from the U.K. back in August of 2002. There are at least 3 U.K. e-tailers that I know it can be purchased from:

1. Blackstar
2. Benson's World
3. Amazon UK


Supporting Actor
Dec 3, 2001
Can't wait for this. This is on my personal top ten list of films I want on dvd. I agree about the 79 Oscar. They had 4 classics competing and the best picture went to the glorified tv movie-of-the-week.

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