Its rather rare that a musical originally prepared for the stage can make a successful transition to the silver screen. It takes a lot of talent to pull it off. Fortunately for us, such talent existed back in 1972 when Bob Fosse brought his Broadway smash, Cabaret to film. The movie s a strange hybrid of a musical, drama and political statement that works because of the imagination and talent brought to bear in the production. The story centers around two young people, Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli) an American adrift in 1931 Berlin, and Brian Roberts (Michael York) an English Grad student trying to earn enough money to finish his education. The corner stone of the film is the Kit-Kat Club. A bizarre avante guard nightclub that features the strangely made up Master of Ceremonies brilliantly portrayed by Joel Grey. The songs serve as a counterpoint and emphasis to the action of the film. What adds to the brilliant story is that it takes place during the rise of the Nazis in Germany. We see the brown shirted adherents growing in their domination of the local scene. One frighteningly beautiful scene takes place in an outdoor beer garden where a handsome young man begins to sing in a clear tenor voice. The song is of a gentle forest but soon we see that the young man is wearing a Nazi uniform. He sings that the future belongs to him and soon all of the young people in the garden are joining in the song. From our perspective looking back at World War II we know how this will turn out and it chills us to the bone. This is what makes this film so special, the juxtaposition of the beautiful, the macabre and the frightening.
The cast is perfect for the film. Minnelli is Sally Bowles, playing it as the role she was born to have. She is bold yet scared. Sure of herself yet a frighten little girl. Adventurous and yet searching for security. York underplays his role is typical British fashion. Unsure of his sexual orientation he fights with himself while trying to make sense of the world around him. Grey as the Master of Ceremonies is the Greek chorus that underlines the story and can add commentary with a mere look in his eye.
Bob Fosses was perhaps one of the most original choreographers in modern history. His mark was left indelibly on American stage and film. The stylized steps of his dancers tell a story in movement and form. Above and beyond his dance genius was a man who knew instinctively how to direct a movie. Each frame of the movie is like a picture in its own right. The result is a film that provides something new each time you view it.
The disc is in the original 1:1.78 ratio and presented in Dolby 2.0 surround. The remix is very well done although I have heard better. The picture was taken from a fairly fresh copy so there is only a minimum of artifacts and flaws. There is a feature documentary and some production notes. This is a piece of theater and movie history worth having.