Review: Sweet Charity
Blu-ray: Sweet Charity (1969)
Well you’re going to get a biased review here, because I love a good musical, and Sweet Charity is top 3 for me. The pedigree this film has: directed by Bob Fosse, book by Neil Simon and starring the wonderful Shirley Maclaine, Sweet Charity is an absolute treat. It’s also not your usual boy-meets-girl sort of musical.
Originally directed and choreographed for Broadway by Bob Fosse and starring his wife and muse Gwen Verdon, it’s based on the screenplay for the 1957 Federico Fellini’s wonderful film Nights of Cabiria; the story of a prostitute who has – well a really shit time of it.
Sweet Charity has a ‘hint’ that she may be a sex worker, but under the guise of a dancer for hire at a Tomes Square dance hall. All she wants is to be loved, but unfortunately the men she meets are all ….disappointing, to put it lightly.
I could run through the story but if you have any love for an off kilter DIFFERENT musical, then this is the one for you. Maclaine is a revelation in this, her bright red hair and lipstick and earrings bouncing along even when the world shits on her from a great height.
The songs! Remember Shirley Bassey singing ‘Big Spender’? Yep, from this film, but this version is more sexual, more seedy, and perverse, much like the dancing. Here Fosse excels, and the standalone dance numbers with no stars, no song sung, work beautifully. It’s so edgy, even now it is thrilling to watch.
Special mention to the amazing sound and picture, this leaps off the screen and coupled with the amazing soundtrack which is so clear and zingy (I’ve been singing ‘If they could see me now’ for days), it’s really been given a spruce up.
Again the extras package is great. In fact the only complaint I have…and it’s a very small one, is the very academic in parts commentary. For such a fizzy colourful film, hearing a terribly factual read out commentary was a bit flat. But I do know how much work goes into this sort of thing so perhaps those commentators meeting on zoom to talk through the film would have been a LOT more entertaining!
An amazing film, that is planted right in 1968 and has stayed there, dated in the BEST way, a triumph, and when she’s marching with a band you’re right there, marching with her. Wonderful.
- 4K restoration
- Three presentations of the film: with original overture (150 mins); without overture (149 mins); and with alternative ending (145 mins)
- Alternative 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround soundtrack options
- Audio commentary with film historians Lee Gambin, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Cara Mitchell (2020)
- The John Player Lecture with Shirley MacLaine (1971, 81 mins): archival audio recording of the celebrated actor in conversation at London’s National Film Theatre
- From Stage to Screen: A Director’s Dilemma (1969, 9 mins): original promotional film featuring interview material with Bob Fosse and rare behind-the-scenes footage
- The Art of Exaggeration (1969, 8 mins): original promotional film profiling the work of famed costume designer Edith Head
- Interview with Sonja Haney (2020, 70 mins): audio recording of the dance assistant in conversation with Lee Gambin
- Now and Then: Sammy Davis Jr (1968, 23 mins): archival interview featuring the actor and singer in conversation with broadcaster Bernard Braden
- Super 8 version: original cut-down home-cinema presentation
- Image gallery: publicity and promotional material
- Original theatrical trailer
- New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
- Limited edition exclusive 80-page book with new essays by Pamela Hutchinson and Bill Rosenfield, Neil Simon on Sweet Charity, archival press coverage of the film’s release including an interview with Shirley MacLaine, extracts from the pressbook, Federico Fellini on Sweet Charity, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits
- Limited edition exclusive double-sided poster
- UK premiere on Blu-ray
- Limited edition of 3,000 copies
Release date: 2nd November 2020.
Review by Tina from a disc kindly supplied by Powerhouse Films.