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Blu-ray Review

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I am a Camera (1955)
(2022 Restoration)


Starring: Julie Harris, Laurence Harvey, Shelley Winters, Ron Randell, Lea Seidl and Anton Diffring
Distributor: StudioCanal


Certificate: 12
Release Date: 23 May 2022

StudioCanal release a newly-restored version of the 1955 risqué comedy drama, I am a Camera. The movie is based on both the 1945 novel, The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood and its adaptation for the stage (also called I am a Camera). The play was subsequently developed by Fred Ebb and John Kander as the iconic musical Cabaret. Berlin, the 1930s. A young English writer arrives in the city and takes to sharing a flat with vivacious nightclub singer Sally Bowles. Together they experience the mad swirl of bohemian life and dream of the successes that will be theirs in the future, but as the Swastika becomes an omnipresent symbol throughout the city, and as their Jewish friends begin to fall victim to Nazi persecution, it becomes apparent that there are dark days ahead...

It's hard to believe now, but on its original release I am a Camera caused quite a bit of controversy. Due to the scandal the play caused on its opening in 1951, the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) and the Lord Chamberlain's Office refused to approve any film adaptation unless substantial changes were made. Consequently, most of the play's dialogue was rewritten to remove all objectionable material and key plot developments were stripped out. Despite these alterations, the film still received an 'X' certificate on release.

Personally, I found it to be a rather dull affair, with the exception of Julie Harris's sweet, almost childish take on Sally Bowles. Other than that, I found it to be a bit of a hard slog. And if you're coming to this having been a huge fan of Cabaret... Well, you're in for a bit of a disappointment.

Extras include Peter Parker on Christopher Isherwood and Sally Bowles (28 min, 36 sec which sees Parker give a background on the writer and the character of Sally Bowles, who was based on cabaret singer Jean Ross); Interview with Journalist and Film Critic Anna Smith (10 min, 27 sec which looks at the film in a historical context), Stills Gallery (1 min, 11 sec) and Trailer (2 min, 28 sec).

It's very much a movie of its time. By today's standards there's nothing outlandish or shocking about it. Those who have read the original novel may feel this is a little tawdry, as Isherwood and film critics of the day did. Historically it's an important movie, but it's more an oddity of a bygone age than it is a cinematic classic.


Nick Smithson

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