Cabaret appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The transfer showed its age and could really use an improvement.
Sharpness was acceptable at best. Despite the lack of anamorphic enhancement, the film usually presented decent delineation, but it never seemed better than that. Definition appeared erratic throughout the movie. Instances of jagged edges and shimmering occurred, and I noticed some light edge enhancement as well. Parts of the movie seemed rather jittery and unstable.
At least source flaws were only a minor concern. I thought the movie looked too grainy at times, and a few defects cropped up at times. I noticed some “cigarette burns” to mark reel changes as well as a few marks and specks. Most of the time the flick seemed reasonably clean, though.
Colors were passable. The movie occasionally showed some lively and full tones, but often the hues appeared somewhat dull and without much life. I never really disliked the colors, but I found them to be a bit lackluster. Blacks were fairly dark, but shadows tended to seem somewhat dense. The end result earned a “D+” and this recommendation: Cabaret needs a new transfer.
As for the Dolby Stereo 2.0 soundtrack of Cabaret, it seemed mediocre. I did find the soundfield to be more ambitious than usual for a movie from 1972, though it never really excelled. Vague stereo imaging came with the music, and effects broadened moderately to the sides and rears. These elements lacked much specificity. They opened up the track a bit but weren’t terribly involving.
Audio quality was rather dated. Speech tended to be stiff and a little rough, and the lines occasionally bled to the side speakers as well. Music came across as metallic in the higher register and boomy in terms of bass. The low-end elements were louder than usually for an older flick but not presented in a satisfying manner. Effects were also lackluster. They seemed reasonably clean but failed to deliver much punch or clarity. In the end, this was a bland offering.
A few extras flesh out the Cabaret DVD. First comes The Recreation of an Era, a vintage featurette. The short piece takes us to the set and provides a discussion of the cast and characters, the locations, and director Bob Fosse’s work on the production. We also get a few remarks from actors Liza Minnelli and Michael York. Expect little substance from this quick and fluffy promotional program.
For something newer, we go to the 17-minute and 25-second Cabaret: A Legend in the Making. Created for the film’s 25th anniversary in 1997, it features notes from Minnelli, York, former ABC Films president Martin Baum, Allied Artists president and CEO Emanuel L. Wolf, producer Cy Feuer, screenwriter Jay Presson Allen, lyricist Fred Ebb, composer John Kander, and actor Joel Grey. We find out how the stage musical came into being and its path to the screen. From there we learn how Fosse got the gig as director, location scouts and the stage play’s adaptation, the musical’s songs and their use in the flick, cast and performances, Fosse’s style on the set, and reactions to the final product.
“Legend” is way too short to act as a thorough examination of the film’s production. However, it serves to give us a pretty nice overview. Some of the best moments come from various camera tests and other behind the scenes material. “Legend” adds enough good details to those elements to make it a winning – albeit too brief – program.
A collection of short interview clips appears under the banner of The Kit Kat Klub Memory Gallery. We hear from Minnelli (3 clips, three minutes, 35 seconds total), Grey (3, 2:26), York (4, 2:47), Baum (3, 5:24), Feuer (1, 1:10), Wolf (2, 1:16), Kander (3, 1:48), Allen (2, 0:34) and Ebb (2, 1:51). The participants cover too broad a spectrum of topics for me to recap them thoroughly. Suffice it to say that we learn a nice mix of thoughts related to their experiences on the film and related issues. The clips suffer from a lack of cohesion, but they’re informative and worth a look nonetheless.
In addition to the film’s trailer, a few text pieces complete the set. We get mediocre Cast & Crew bios for director Bob Fosse, screenwriter Jay Presson Allen, producer Cy Feuer and actors Liza Minnelli, Michael York, Helmut Griem, Marisa Berenson and Joel Grey. The Story provides some info about the project’s roots and On Location discusses shooting in West Germany. Kander & Ebb offers gives us biographies of the songwriters, while Awards lists the various prizes won by the film.
Cabaret’s positive reputation has endured over the last 35 years, but I must admit I don’t really get the film’s appeal. I think it offers some strong production numbers but the thinness of its story and characters makes it less than involving. The DVD comes with problematic picture and audio as well as a few moderately useful extras. While I don’t care for Cabaret, I think it deserves better than this flawed release.