All That Jazz (1979) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

A thumb up from Tuna, an abstention from Scoop, who can't vote because he is prejudiced against anything even vaguely similar to this. Scoop does, however, admire any film that inspires a great title for a porn film - in this case, All That Jizz.

Scoop's comments in white:

A large number, perhaps a vast majority, of heterosexual males despise some or all types of musicals. I don't hate them all, but I hate a certain kind, and I can describe that kind to you fairly accurately on a two dimensional scale.

Dimension 1 - What do they do when they aren't singin'? If they are speaking, driving the story forward, I am more likely to enjoy the play. If they are dancing or if they are just singin' non-stop without spoken breaks, I am not likely to enjoy it.

Dimension 2 - Is it funny? The funnier the better. In general, I like musical comedies, or musical dramas with a solid comic undertone.

These dimensions produce musicals of four distinct types, as shown here:

The closer a musical is to the top right of the graph, the more likely I am to like it.


I like Type A musicals - where the dance is incorporated naturally into the songs, the dancing is amusing and not necessarily spectacular, and there are plenty of jokes to keep the show flowing. I enjoy Singin' in the Rain, for example, and I miss true musical comedies, which have been extinct forever.

I usually like Type B musicals if they are good ones, like West Side Story and Man of La Mancha, with a solid story and good tunes.

I don't much care for Type D - alleged comedies where the comedy is actually just a lame excuse for production numbers. Don't get me wrong about Gershwin, whose musicals are listed here on the chart. I love his melodies. I sing them in the shower. He may be my favorite 20th century composer, but his musicals are just glorified Busby Berkley productions. The comedy is lame, and the musical numbers go on and on and on, long after I've lost interest in them. I usually find myself looking in the Playbill to see when the next good song is coming.

I reserve complete, utter boredom for Type C. I don't actually know if I like them, because I've never really stayed awake through one, unless I used the fast forward button. I fell asleep in Cats three times - and that was in the theater in New York, near the stage. Pretty embarrassing. I made the mistake of eating a heavy meal and drinking a bit too much, and ...  well, you know. I was actually snoring.

The only exceptions for me in this group are the operas of Puccini. I find myself so mesmerized and moved by his music that I can make it through the slow parts. OK, I admit that I cry like a girly man during the "Un Bel Di" solo in Madame Butterfly, but Puccini was really a unique talent who wrote beautiful, emotional music. Usually I can't make it through a Type C at all. I can't even stay awake during Don Giovanni, and that's freakin' Mozart, fer chrissakes, so if ol' Amadeus can't get to me, Andrew Lloyd Webber has no chance to enter my life unless I run out of Sominex.


  • The best known exposure is from Sandahl Bergman (Conan the Barbarian, Red Sonja) as the lead dancer in a very sexual production number. We are treated to several minutes of her breasts and buns as she dances.
  • We see Deborah Geffner's breasts as she heads to Joe's bed.
  • There is also plenty of breast exposure from other dancers, strippers, and a random hospital nurse.

So there are my prejudices. I don't much like Gothic musical drama, and I don't like long dance numbers. I fell asleep twice watching Chicago, and that's a multiple Oscar film. Give me good melodies and/or lots of jokes, and I'll enjoy a musical, but puh-leez cut back on the show-stopping dance numbers. It should be obvious to you that I can't really make a fair assessment of Bob Fosse's contribution to entertainment, because he and I disagree on a crucial issue - the value of dance as entertainment. He thinks that dance numbers are the ultimate expression of mankind's music and sensuality. I think they are the ultimate expression of mankind's need to press the fast forward button.

Given those biases, you don't really care what I have to say about All That Jazz. This movie is a Type C musical, therefore not my kind of entertainment, but it's not down there in the bottom left corner with Phantom of the Opera. It's closer to the center of the (x,y) axis. The drama is leavened with sex and some humor, and it's not a typical type C because even though there is a lot of dancing, there is also plenty of spoken dialogue. The dance numbers do go on forever, but in this case they replace the singing rather than the speaking. Strangely enough for a musical, the film has almost no singing, and none at all really worth listening to (except for George Benson on the sound track).

It's basically Fosse's self-directed autobiography, and he seems to portray himself honestly and without a sugar coating. In fact, he may even be indulging in a little bit of "repentance chic" by portraying himself as worse than he really was. Roy Scheider plays the Fosse character (called Joe Gideon here) as a workaholic who jump starts every day with a shower and a mega dose of speed, then proceeds to create a Broadway play during all the hours when he's not editing his latest movie (a fictional version of Fosse's actual movie, "Lenny"). Joe ignores everyone he might love, including his daughter, and makes human contact primarily for sex. His sex life is full. After all, Fosse chose the ultimate path to sexual heaven - he was a heterosexual director and choreographer of Broadway musicals and movies. He may not have had as many women throw themselves at him as Jim Morrison, but it had to be close.

DVD info from Amazon

  • Theatrical trailer

  • Scene-specific commentary by Roy Scheider

  • Interviews with Roy Scheider

  • 5 Bob Fosse clips

  • Widescreen anamorphic format

The movie's finale is Joe's heart attack, which alternates between the operating room and the simultaneous fantasy in Joe's head - a ghoulish dream in which he literally sings and dances his way into death. In a phrase: death as a Fosse production number - with the requisite dark stage, shiny props, spangled costumes, gaudy lights and moving spots. Joe hoofs his way toward the ultimate spotlight at the end of the tunnel.

It seemed to me that the movie was a single long dance number, so I was able to watch it in about ten minutes thanks to the blessed remote. Those people who actually like this kind of stuff seemed to think that this was sheer genius, so if you like it, go for it. If you don't like this kind of material, the compensation is an abundance of female nudity.


All That Jazz (1979) is the semi-autobiographical story of director/choreographer Bob Fosse told as a musical comedy. Fosse co-wrote, directed, and did the choreography. The Fosse character (named Joe Gideon) was played to perfection by Roy Scheider. Gideon was a notorious womanizer. As the film opens, we see a "cattle call" tryout for dancers for his latest show. He essentially does A Chorus Line in ten minutes, and ends up casting a no-talent dancer (Deborah Geffner), just to get into her pants.

He also smoked like a chimney, drank, and used uppers constantly. His life was work and debauchery. He screwed up a marriage and was an on-again off-again father. The angel of death (Jessica Lange) was the only person he was honest with, and he did not heed her advice. The years of physical abuse catch up to him, and he ends up in the hospital for a triple bypass, but still hasn't learned his lesson.  While the film has a very off-beat narrative style, such as showing his death as a production number to a parody of the Everly Brothers' "Bye Bye Love", it also has a lot of songs I personally enjoy, and some good performances.

The Critics Vote

  • It won Oscars for Editing, Costume, music and set design, and nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, Best Writing and Best Cinematography.

The People Vote ...

  • It was a very solid box office performer, with a $37 million gross in 1979 dollars.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, Scoop says, "this is a C+, I think. Genre fans seem to worship it, and it is scored 100% at RT. Like most guys, I am Fosse-impaired, so my opinion is of no real value, and I fast-forwarded through the dances anyway, so I watched it as a short subject".  Tuna says, "I found it overly long, and a little repetitious. Clearly, however, the film appeals to some who don't usually like musicals. B-.

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