Dead for nearly two decades now, choreographer/director Bob Fosse (Cabaret, Lenny, All That Jazz) created this sardonic semi-autobiographical tale that takes a long, hard look at his compulsive and neurotic life that was rife with women, sex and smokes, as well as some rather serious alcohol and drug abuse.
In All That Jazz, Fosse is embodied in Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider), a Broadway choreographer who can’t face the day without his usual regiment …f drugs and Visine. He’s working relentlessly to put together a new Broadway production, while at the same time, doing some editing work on a film that’s already way over schedule. Unfortunately, Joe is also having to keep all of the various women in his life happy – the star of the Broadway musical he’s working on and his ex-wife, Audrey (Leland Palmer); his current love interest, Kate (Ann Reinking); his twelve-year-old daughter, Michelle (Erzsebet Foldi); and the current dancer in the production who catches his eye (just one of many actually), Victoria (Deborah Geffner). Joe simply has too much going on and his addictions have become so severe, that he begins to wonder if life is really all it’s cracked up to be. Joe, always the ladies man, begins to flirt with another Muse, Death herself, embodied in the very angelic Angelique (Jessica Lange). He discusses many of his lifestyle choices with her and she comes across as very caring, but accusatory, and she attempts to seduce him to simply come with her.
Later on into the production of his Broadway show, Joe has a heart attack that keeps him bedridden in the hospital and he’s unable to work. Those involved with the show realize that Joe is expendable this deep into the show and it’s then that Joe makes the fateful decision to pass over to the other side. In the film’s climactic final scene, “Bye, Bye Life”, we see Joe’s visualization of his own death as Ben Vereen makes an appearance as a TV host in charge of the whole hullabaloo. It’s an amazingly over-the-top scene that shows Joe saying his goodbyes and gliding ever so gently into the embracing arms of Death.
All involved give great performances and if you’ve never seen All That Jazz, now’s your chance. The musical numbers, the sets, the dances, the dancers … heck, all of it is intriguing to watch and with Fox’s very reasonable asking price for such a classic film, this particular DVD comes highly recommended.
Fox gives All That Jazz a Dolby 2.0 Surround mix that didn’t offer up a whole lot in the way of an immersive experience, but sounded pretty nice all things considered.
Being a musical (kind of), I would have expected a bit more from the audio transfer while many of the song and dance numbers were playing out. However, the center channel got a bit more action than I anticipated and much of the stereo separation I was expecting was simply lacking. There were some moments later in the film where the soundstage opened up somewhat, but it never reached the levels of any recent films in the genre – and that’s to be expected to a point. The front surrounds did open up on occasion, but it was more for general reinforcement than for any sort of impressive sonic activity. Rear surrounds were used, but they didn’t really come to life until the latter parts of the film. Dialogue – spoken and sung – was front and center at all times and was never harsh or edgy, while the .1 LFE channel did an middling job of propping up the film in appropriate places.
Not a bad track to be sure, but far from engrossing and full. Additionally, Fox has included a monaural track in French, as well as English and Spanish subtitles.
It’s obvious from viewing the film that Fox went to great lengths to restore the All That Jazz master print, as the image came across as very tight and detailed, especially considering its age. The film was produced during a bad time for master prints – the 1970’s – and thankfully, someone at Fox realized that it was high time that this film saw some restorative efforts. All That Jazz is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with anamorphic widescreen treatment.
The master print has been restored marvelously, as flakes and flecks were very few and far between – uncommon for a film in the era. Colors ran the gambit of hues from dark and dingy to bold and beautiful and Fox’s transfer handled them all quite nicely. Everything was properly balanced and contrasted, with no bleeding or smearing noted and fleshtones remained accurate and natural at all times. Black levels were solid for the most part, but they never reached the deep, bold depths seen in more recent features.
Flaws were relegated to some rather excessive grain in spots, as well as some instability in the image once or twice. Shimmer was noted in a couple of spots, but as with the other flaws I mentioned, it was definitely of the non-distracting variety.
All That Jazz looks better than it ever has and Fox is to be commended for doing such a laudable job on its transfer to DVD.
Fox has done a nice job with the supplements on the film and has provided viewers with much more than I would have expected.
Starting things off is the film’s Theatrical Trailer and it’s followed by a Scene Specific Commentary with Roy Scheider. We get Scheider’s comments during twenty-three different segments of the film and they can all be accessed via a nice menu interface provided by Fox in order to get straight to the parts we’re interested in. These are really great segments and included we find “Roy Scheider Comments on the –Cattle Call- Scene”, “Scheider Talks About Leland Palmer and Cliff Gorman”, “Portraying Bob Fosse”, “Becoming Joe Gideon”, “A Hard Look at an Addicted Man”, “About Ann Reinking”, “The Character Angelique”, “Being A Dancer”, “About the Work”, “Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon”, “Air-otica”, “Almost Losing Angelique”, “Ann and Erzsebet’s Dance”, “The Morning Routine”, “The Heart Attack”, “Re: Fosse in the Hospital”, “A Screening”, “The Surgery Scenes”, “About The Filming Location”, “The Second Heart Attack”, “About Ben Vereen’s Character”, “Roy’s Dance Number”, and finally, “A Tribute to Bob Fosse”.
Next are Interviews With Roy Scheider and in this supplement, we get his answers to three questions; “What surprised Roy Scheider about Bob Fosse?”, “What physical demands did Roy Scheider experience on this film?”, and “Roy Scheider discusses the role of Joe Gideon.” The snippets last around a minute each and were all shot while All That Jazz was being filmed.
Following is Bob Fosse On Set and via five short snippets, labeled Clip One thru Clip Five, we get to see this legend on the set as he directs and choreographs “On Broadway”, the film’s opening number. The snippets range in length, but usually run for a couple of minutes each. There’s no commentary or anything to accompany the clips, it’s simply old footage from the set thrown onto the DVD. Even so, it’s a great addition to have.
Fox Flix finish off the set, with previews for other Fox titles in the genre, Marilyn Diamond Collection, Oklahoma, The Rose, Sound of Music, and South Pacific.
Although I’m not a big fan of musicals and such, film fans owe it to themselves to at least check out All That Jazz. It’s a brilliant film that contains brilliant performances from its principals and Fox has done an incredible job in bringing it to our favorite format.
Special Features List
- Scene Specific Commentary
- Interview with Roy Scheider
- Bob Fosse on Set
- Fox Flix