is one of those film musicals whose cultural and stylistic influence extend well beyond the cinema. It confirmed Bob Fosse's status as one of the boldest choreographers of the 20th century and gave Liza Minnelli an early peak in a film career which would never scale such heights again. Minnelli is both the film's strength--on its own merits her performance is an Oscar-winning tour de force
--and weakness. The real Sally Bowles was a third-rate performer and just one of a rich gallery of characters; here, the constant allowances for Minnelli's star turns and mannerisms ultimately throw the story off balance. But the source material is impeccable: Kander and Ebb's stage show, based on the autobiographical stories of Christopher Isherwood, has long since been acknowledged a classic. The songs, augmented by some new numbers in the film, are ageless.
Joel Grey from the original Broadway production is the Emcee, the master of ceremonies who, with his Kit Kat Klub girls, provides a depraved Greek chorus satirising the rise of the Nazi regime and the lazy complacency of the 1930s Berlin cabaret-goers. The "divine decadence" tag is only part of the story, though. Cabaret still works a sinister, uncomfortable magic which sets it apart as a uniquely powerful film musical.
On the DVD: Cabaret's 30th Anniversary Special Edition is packed with extras which include a scratchy "making of" documentary from 1972 and a retrospective from 1997, the latter featuring reminiscences from the cast. Theres also the original theatrical trailer, though in the absence of the late director Fosse the lack of some kind of commentary is a disappointment. The picture itself, presented in widescreen 16:9 letterbox format with a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack, gleams as sharply, visually and aurally, as it did on its first release. --Piers Ford
--This text refers to an alternate