Cabaret (1972)

cabaret poster 1972 movie liza minnelli
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Dark musical


Movie Info

Movie Name:  Cabaret

Studio:  ABC Pictures

Genre(s):  Musical/Drama/Romance

Release Date(s):  February 13, 1972

MPAA Rating:  PG

cabaret mein herr liza minnelli

Come to the cabaret!

It’s the 1930s in Berlin, and Cambridge student Brian Roberts (Michael York) has just arrived.  At his boarding house, Brian meets Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli), an American performing at a burlesque house called the Kit Kat Klub.  Sally and Brian become fast friends as Sally shows him the ropes of living in Berlin and introduces him to her friend Fritz Wendel (Fritz Wepper) who is wooing a local Jewish wealthy Jewish woman named Natalia Landauer (Marisa Berenson).  When Sally falls for a Nazi sympathizer named Maximillian von Heune (Helmut Griem), Sally, Max, and Brian become an odd love triangle…and someone always ends up hurt.

Directed by Bob Fosse, Cabaret is a dramatic musical romance.  The film adapts the 1966 musical by John Kander and Fred Ebb which was in turn based upon the 1951 play I Am a Camera by John Van Druten (which was actually an adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s short story “Goodbye to Berlin” from 1939 as part of The Berlin Stories).  The film faced some anti-Semitism claims and criticism of the gay themes.  The movie was critically praised and won Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Actress (Liza Minnelli), Best Supporting Actor (Joel Grey), Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing Best Original or Adapted Score, Best Art Direction, and Best Sound with nominations for Best Picture, and Best Adapted Screenplay (making it the most “winning” film without winning Best Picture).

Bob Fosse has an interesting style, and Cabaret is the perfect format for it.  The musical was a bit more revolutionary than the standard musical and for that reason, Cabaret stands-up a bit better than some of the other musicals of the period.

cabaret max sally brian dance michael york helmut griem liza minelli

Three’s a crowd…

The story for Cabaret is rather dark which is also different than many musicals of the period.  You have a bisexual (or maybe gay guy) fall in love with a woman and the man romancing her, you have a Jewish guy hiding his Jewish and falling in love with a Jewish woman who can’t marry someone who isn’t Jewish, and you have a horrible last act where almost everything goes wrong if it were a true love story…plus, there’s the rise of the Nazi party.

Isherwood was supposedly overly impressed by Minnelli as Sally Bowles…which isn’t actually what he wanted.  Sally Bowles is supposed to be a failed artist who thinks more of her ability than it is, and Minnelli really gives it all.  She’s likeable and proves to be talented here.  She comes off as Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s but as a singer.  Michael York is actually the main character with the story told through his eyes.  Helmut Griem is the jerky guy who uses both and feels rather slimy.  Fritz Wepper and Marisa Berenson plays the Jewish couple who could be doomed by Hitler’s regime.  The scene stealer is Joel Grey as “The Master of Ceremonies” at the Kit Kit Klub…his high energy performances and expressive faces make his songs pop.

cabaret liza minnelli joel grey money

Hey, I think Joel Grey is the Babadook

Visually, Fosse excels.  He combines the risqué with class in the burlesque performances but also smartly encases the songs within the musical.  The singers don’t stop and sing, but the songs are woven into the movie and have the same resonance or even more than a traditional musical as a result.

Cabaret is one of those musicals that feels much more like the modern musicals that have had a resurgence as of late.  Fosse brought Chicago to the stage and you can see how it evolved from Cabaret (and how in turn the movie version evolved from this movie).  Some may expect a more joyous and happy type of movie from the music and from a musical in general, but Cabaret proves that isn’t always true.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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