All that Jazz: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray)

August 26, 2014 10 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton and Christopher Bligh

“It’s showtime!”

Plot: What’s it about?

If the 1970′s started a trend amongst studios, it all got summed up with a quote, “If you can’t beat them, join them”. A tale about life, death, sex, music and All That Jazz.

The early morning routine of Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider) is a unique one. A tape of classical music followed by some pills, some Alka-Seltzer, a shower, a cigarette with coughing in between, and the finishing touch of a look at the mirror and a wave proclaiming “It’s showtime, folks!!”. He lives a life of many addictions. He loves many women, even though he’s a father of a broken family and has a girlfriend (Ann Reinking). He putting together a show that goes right sometimes and puts the pressure on many times thanks to his ex-wife (Leland Palmer) having the lead. To top it off, he has a film about a comic that he doesn’t know if it stands a chance or not. Either way, he’s under a lot of stress and his addictions are about to haunt him in the worst way when a mysterious woman named Angelique (Jessica Lange) comes into his life and tempts him to the biggest push of all, the push of death.

Here is a movie that has a variety of genres yet the one that sticks out constantly is the musical genre. It’s funny, it’s serious, it’s tragic, it’s depressing, but most of all it’s quite entertaining. It’s the mixing of fantasy and reality through the eyes of Joe Gideon and no matter how hard he pushes himself, no matter how close to death he may be, he doesn’t focus on it too much and would rather see death the way he would like it done.

As the alter ego of Bob Fosse, Roy Scheider gives an unbelievable performance as Gideon, a choreographer who cares about his child, but’s never around. He loves his girlfriend, but he wants other women. He has a mild heart attack, but he keeps smoking. He is an unlikable but honest character that becomes likable thanks to Scheider’s work in this film.

The performances in the other roles are quite good and the music numbers and the music itself really move this movie to a wonderful level of excitement. The “On Broadway” audition process is infectious, “Take Off With Us” is erotic and mystifying on many levels and I’m a sucker for a good Peter Allen song every now and then and this film has a wonderful number with one involving Ann Reinking and Erzsebet Foldi.

The look of this movie is quite bright and striking and imaginitive with the many theatrical elements as well as the neon in Joe’s apartment. The movie is filled with quite a potpourri of things, some are had to take in and even though a rendezvous with death may not be a happy thing, it doesn’t mean it can’t be entertaining. All That Jazz is quite all of many things and a very hookable viewing experience for any moviegoer through the eyes of Bob Fosse.

Video: How’s it look?

When Criterion releases a catalog title (which is essentially 95% of their catalog), you know it will look the best it can possibly look. Admittedly it’s been a while since I’ve sat down and watched All that Jazz, so when I popped the disc in, I was pretty awestruck. The 1.85:1 AVC HD image has undergone a new 4K restoration for this Blu-ray release and it looks magnificent.  The colors are vibrant and come to life wonderfully without bleeding or being oversaturated. The shimmy on the climax number and the conversations with Angelique don’t come off as too bright or too much and it’s balances out quite nicely. Contrast is rock solid, a bit of persistent grain can be seen from time to time, but for those wanting a definitive version of this film – the wait is over.

Audio: How’s it sound?

The DTS HD Master Audio mix is a 3.0 mix (that’s the two fronts and center channel if you were curious) so we’re not blessed with the LFE or the surrounds here. Still, with 2.1 channels missing, it manages to sound pretty decent and it’s certainly a lively and vibrant mix.  Vocals are rich and crisp, though I think I caught a bit of slight distortion in a few scenes. The Academy Award winning music by Ralph Burns sounds the part. All in all it’s a very expansive mix (given the three channels) and for a film that’s now 35 years old, I was impressed.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Being a new to Blu-ray (this is a dual format disc, so a DVD is also included) disc, we’re treated to a plethora of supplements that weren’t on the previous Fox DVD. Let’s dive in and check them out.

  • Audio Commentary – There are technically two (or maybe one and a half is the way to phrase it), the first with Alan Heim, the film’s editor as he discusses the film, its reception and some of the ins and outs of the production. It would seem that Scheider’s comments from the DVD track are spliced in, but it’s been so long since I’ve heard that track I can’t say for sure. Suffice it to say, it’s better to have this than not and given Criterion’s relationship with Fox, I’d say it’s the same track.
  • Alan Heim Interview – New to this Blu-ray is an interview with Alan Heim as he discusses his work on the film as well as his other collaborations with Fosse in Star 80 and Lenny.
  • Ann Reinking and Erzsebet Foldi Interviews – These two are obviously friends and in another new supplement to this disc, the two discuss the ups and downs of working with Fosse as well as his various “eccentricities” as both a Director and Choreographer.
  • Tommorow Interview – Agnes De Mille and Fosse are interviewed by a much younger Tom Snyder circa 1980 on his show Tomorrow.
  • Sam Wasson Interview – Fosse’s biographer focuses mainly on the life and career of the legend and, in particular, that of All that Jazz.
  • The South Bank Show – Circa 1981 (just look at those clothes!), this is a straight-forward interview with Fosse (on a show I’ve never heard of).
  • Portrait of a Choreographer – This 22 minute documentary circa 2007 focuses on Fosse’s stars like Liza Minnelli as well as some of today’s stars and Directors like Rob Marshall who sing his praises.
  • Gene Shalit Interview – Circa 1986, film critic Gene Shalit interviews Fosse prior to the opening of Big Deal and just before his revival of Sweet Charity. Sadly this interview was just one year before Fosse passed away.
  • On the Set – We get some behind the scenes footage of the “On Broadway” number and we’re also treated to an interview with actor Roy Scheider (in full makeup no less).
  • The Soundtrack: Perverting the Standards – Rob Marshall, Liza Minnelli and others discuss the use of songs in the film.
  • The Making of “On Broadway” – Songwriter George Benson gives us the skinny on the inspiration for the song came from as well as his efforts in recording it in front of an audience.
  • Illustrated Booklet – As is the case with most all Criterion releases, there’s an illustrated booklet with photos from the film and set as well as an essay on the movie.
  • DVD Copy

Disc Scores