Movie Review: Caberet

Cabaret is one of my favorite musicals, but I’ve only seen it performed on the stage. For some reason, the movie never appealed to me, even though it has been recommended to me on countless occasions considering I love the musical and I studied this part of German history in grad school.

The film, according to IMDb, is about:

A female girlie club entertainer in Weimar Republic era Berlin romances two men while the Nazi Party rises to power around them.

This 1972 musical stars Liza Minnelli, Michael York, and Joel Grey. Bob Fosse directed it. If you are a huge fan of the theater production, I should note that not many of the numbers are used in the film. I found this slightly disappointing myself. And if you’re expecting all of the actors to sign, once again, you may be let down again. Only the Emcee (Joel Grey) and Sally (Liza Minnelli) belt out a song occasionally. Belt out doesn’t do either of them justice–both have beautiful voices.

The movie won eight Academy Awards, which is a record for a single year without claiming the top prize: Best Picture. It won for Best Director (Bob Fosse), Best Actress (Minnelli), Best Supporting Actor (Grey), and five more awards for technical aspects. The Godfather won Best Picture that year.

Now I went into this film thinking it would be just like the musical. And it wasn’t. At first I was disappointed. The Better Half hasn’t seen the musical and really enjoyed the film. After a few days I realized I actually liked the film. I just had to get over my hissy fit of not getting my way. So if you haven’t seen this and are a fan of the musical do your best to forget the musical while watching the film. Just enjoy it as is, not for what you want it to be.

Up next is: American Graffiti

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast ( with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (, a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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56 Responses to Movie Review: Caberet

  1. bulldog says:

    I have never seen this movie and probably never will.. although I went to look at our movie critic site and see it has a 98% good viewing… I do however love musicals and have an extensive private collection of DVD’s.. this one though is not among them…

  2. Okay. Here we go again. You’re gonna think I live in a cave. But I have not seen Cabaret either. God, I need to right that wrong, as I adore musicals. Thanks for the reminder.

    Hugs from Ecuador,

    • TBM says:

      Trust me I feel like I live in a cave 90% of the time. I don’t know what movies are popular these days, who the hottest new stars are or anything. And don’t ask me about music. totally clueless.

  3. StillWalks says:

    I love and have the film on DVD but not seen the stage version. It is always dangerous to compare different media. We were watching Neil Gaiman’s “Neverwhere” on DVD last night and I commented that they had stuck really closely to the book, which is always a surprise. My wife then reminded me that the video was done first by Neil Gaiman and Lenny Henry and the book came afterwards . . . so that explained that!

    • TBM says:

      If I remember correctly he decided to write Neverwhere so he could add a few things that wouldn’t be in the movie. I could be totally wrong about that. It’s been a few years since I read the introduction and I’m too lazy this morning to find the book on my shelf 🙂

  4. Gosh I feel old. No musical when I saw it. Or at least not in my part of the sticks. So I only got to see the film when it came out and I was um, 13.

    I thought Minelli was fantastic, as was Grey. The money song was superb. I’ve also read Isherwood. I’d like to see the film again, York was very nice.

    I’m not a musical fan anyway. You still sound ambivalent about it 😦 I loved it, I really did.

    Have you seen the Twilight films? 😀

    • TBM says:

      Minelli and Grey are fantastic in this film and they make it work. I’ve always been a fan of musicals, which is kinds shocking since I’m the least musical person. Can’t sing, dance, or play an instrument. But I love watching them, especially older ones.

      I think I need to watch this again knowing that it won’t be like the stage production and not let that disappoint affect my viewing.

      I haven’t seen the second half of the last one, but have watched all the others. I like the books more, but they aren’t bad. They’re popcorn movies–just to enjoy and not think too hard. Have you seen them?

      • It’s not just Minelli and Grey, although they are brilliant, the whole thing just works so well. I’ve just remembered I have seen a couple of musicals that I liked (live) – Evita and Amadeus, both in the West End. They were actually very very good. For musicals to be transferred to film is quite difficult I think. I did sing in choirs and played music oddly.

        I think as other people have said, we all need to look at musicals, films and books differently, although I confess to hating films that bear no resemblance to books. The Bourne films for example are so simplistic compared with the books, although I can appreciated why given the complex plots. Bond ones, on the other hand were vastly exaggerated compared with the Fleming books.

        Haven’t seen them, don’t like popcorn, and the links I saw didn’t fit my view of the characters at all. When I read a novel, it is very visual for me, so when I’ve imagined a character to look like whatever, to see them different in a film creates real dissonance for me.

      • TBM says:

        I can relate to that. When Tom Cruise was selected to be Lestat in Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice threw a fit since she pictured a completely different actor in the role. Cruise ended up doing a decent job and even Rice admitted that.

        Haven’t read the Bourne books and I saw the first film, but didn’t get into the series.

      • It wasn’t a me thing, but it’s a macho action film so Partner liked it. I actually like the theme music. Brilliant.

        Now the books are good though. Having read the books, the films are pale.

  5. I haven’t seen it either I’m afraid but it’s a must watch I know that. Who can resist some Minnelli dancing about?! I haven’t seen the musical so haven’t got any ideas what the film may be like. I suspect like anything the theatre production will have much more energy around it. Have you ever seen Baz Luhrman’s Moulin Rouge? What a film that is!

    • TBM says:

      When I went to see Moulin Rouge in the theater I didn’t know anything about it. At first I was like what the? They’re ripping off other songs. Then I totally forgot about that bit and was swept up in the film. Loved it and now I own it.

  6. lulu says:

    One of my all time favorite stage plays.

  7. it’s been so long since i’ve seen this movie. i realize i’ve forgotten most of it, but i remember it being a very sad film. i think it may be time to watch it again.

  8. I easily saw this film at least five times in my youth, when it was released. I loved the fact that the music was confined to the numbers performed in the Kit Kat Klub. At that time I was so sick of musicals where performers brushing their teeth or frying eggs burst into song. I also loved that this story had so much edge and the ending was not the usual Hollywood happily ever after crap. Even though I have not seen this film in over 40 years now my film buff buddy, Milton, assures me that it has held up well and I would still like it. We have tickets to see the Broadway revival starring Michelle Williams as Sally Bowles in July. Alan Cumming is reprising playing MC. Did you see the stage version when Natasha Richardson stormed Broadway as Sally? Missing seeing her on the boards will always be one of my great theater regrets. I was so psyched to see her playing opposite her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, in the revival of A Little Night Music five years ago. Then tragedy struck.

  9. Hi TBM, I love the movie verison–Liza was electric. I would love to watch this again. Joel Gray was scary and fantastic. 🙂

  10. calmgrove says:

    “And if you’re expecting all of the actors to sign…” I wondered if you’d seen the version for the hard of hearing until the penny dropped.

    I second the comments about not trying to compare a work which appears in two or more different mediums — I expect there are people who regret that the musical is sooo different from Christopher Isherwood’s original book Goodbye to Berlin! Film was great, in my view, and the filmed version of Chicago seems to me to owe a lot to it.

    • TBM says:

      I read Isherwood’s stories so long ago that I can’t remember them anymore. That was probably a good thing for when I watched this or I may have had a harder time.

  11. Lucid Gypsy says:

    Goodness was that 1972? Scary!

  12. Jo Bryant says:

    I saw this years ago…but will have to have another look so it seems. I love the way you power through all these, and books, and pubs…heck I just like you !

  13. Loved the film and the stage version – and only found out recently that Joel Grey is Jennifer Grey’s father (she of Dirty Dancing “No one puts baby in the corner” fame)!

  14. Rorybore says:

    I saw the movie first in my university film class, and then the musical itself years later: so I probably had enough space between the 2 viewings to be able to enjoy both on their own merit. It probably depends what live musical you see as well – since I am no where near Broadway and instead saw it in Canada. Either way though, I just love this musical.

    • TBM says:

      I didn’t start seeing shows on Broadway until about seven years ago. I wished I had the opportunity to go when I was young. I’m trying to make up for lost time.

  15. Love Liza Minnelli, loved her mother! And I loved Joel Grey in this film. Bob Fosse made it all possible.

  16. Darlene says:

    I’ve never seen the musical but love the movie. It is so well done. Even the bit players do a good job. It really depicts the time well.

  17. Joel Gray’s emcee definitely has the creepy factor going on.

  18. Haven’t seen this movie, much less the musical, but I’m pretty certain forgetting about the source material is a must for all adaptations, haha. So many changes get made, it’s hard to enjoy one otherwise!

  19. Didn’t know there was a musical with even more songs. Liza and Joel were fantastic, but the movie was such a downer I won’t be watching it again.

  20. Pingback: Travel Memories: Berlin | 50 Year Project

  21. The Guat says:

    Dude I saw this like ages ago and it didn’t seem to crazy wow me. Don’t let this lower your standards of me 🙂 I did like Grease though 🙂 But seriously the next movie that’s on your list. DUDE. I LOVED American Graffiti thought it was totally cool. Can’t wait to see what you think.

    • TBM says:

      Grease is awesome. I used to work with this guy who loved it and quoted it all the time or sang the songs. That got to be a bit much for me, but now that I’ve had some distance, I could watch Grease again.

  22. My college theater group put on a performance of Cabaret (a la the original musical not the movie), and they did a great job. I almost don’t want to see it again. I’m afraid it would mar my terrific memories. Even though Liza and Joel are amazing, I think, like you, I’d be disappointed that they don’t sing all of the songs.
    Oh American Graffiti! Have you seen it before?

    • TBM says:

      If I was you, I wouldn’t risk marring the memories. You don’t want to mess with that. I haven’t seen American Graffiti if you can believe it. Looking forward to seeing such a young Harrison Ford.

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