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Casablanca (Ultimate Collector's Edition) Print E-mail
Wednesday, 03 December 2008
ImageIt’s now clear that “Casablanca,” which won the Best Picture Oscar, is one of the greatest of all Hollywood movies, since it has everything. It tells an interesting, deeply romantic story, and features a star pairing so absolutely perfect that it’s a bit of a shock to realize this is the only movie Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman made together. The rest of the cast couldn’t be better, either: Claude Rains as the coolly cynical police detective, Sydney Greenstreet as Bogart’s friendly café-owning rival, Conrad Veidt as the arrogant Nazi officer and Paul Henreid as Bogart’s rival for Bergman’s love. The cast is full of other delectable bits, as from Peter Lorre and S.Z. Sakall.

Many memorable lines pepper the film: “Here’s looking at you, kid;” “Round up the usual suspects;” “I’m shocked, shocked that gambling goes on at Rick’s’;” “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship;” “The problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world,” and what are probably the movie’s two most famous lines: “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine” and “We’ll always have Paris.” At least two movies take their titles from lines in “Casablanca,” “The Usual Suspects” and “Play It Again, Sam” (a line that’s not actually in “Casablanca,” but one which everyone assumes is there).

It’s so rich in classic Hollywood qualities that it can easily be watched over and over again; it’s the favorite movie of many people around the world, and it’s easy to see why. But what’s not so easy to understand is that it was almost an accidental classic. It was just another movie Warner Bros. churned out that year; Jack Warner was the head of the studio, but Hal Wallis was the head of production, and the greatness of “Casablanca” is due more to Wallis than to any other factor, including director Michael Curtiz.

It can easily be argued that Humphrey Bogart was THE major Hollywood star, though proponents of Cary Grant, John Wayne and Bette Davis have their own justified claims. After a kind of shakedown period in the 1930s, during which Warners tossed contract player Bogart into all kinds of movies—Westerns, a horror movie, even a hillbilly musical—he eventually settled into a position entirely his own: the jaded, nearly burned-out optimist, whose sparks of decency reignite. The message of “Casablanca”—there are ideals worth making sacrifices for—became the implicit message of many of Bogart’s films. He was the son of a New York society doctor, and grew up as a member of New York’s second-tier elite; he wasn’t a large man, he had a slight speech impediment (not a lisp, despite what you may hear elsewhere). But his haunted eyes that reveal all his variations of mood and emotion, his seamed face and general demeanor made him the perfect wounded idealist, the man who was well-described by Raymond Chandler: “Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.” And Bogart, of course, played Chandler’s Philip Marlowe in “The Big Sleep.” It reached a useful point for Bogart: when he played characters radically different from the one that had come to be his, he gained respect he might not have received had he been endlessly versatile. “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” and “The African Queen” featured Bogie in roles very much unlike Marlowe or “Casablanca”’s Rick Blaine—and he won great acclaim for both, and the Oscar for “African Queen.” (Why isn’t THAT on Blu-ray??)

[Written by AVRev] START]
This release of "Casablanca" is the Ultimate Collector's Edition, and contains a variety of goodies in the packaging.

The film was re-mastered for a special edition release on standard DVD a few years ago.  The same re-master was used in the 2006 HD DVD release of the film.  Once again the same print was used for this Blu-ray release.  The 1080p/VC-1 encode is flawless.  There may be a couple of things to nitpick at, but nothing that keeps it from a strong rating.  The image is presented in the original theatrical release aspect ratio, 1.33:1.  The source material has been painstakingly cleaned and polished.  You will be hard pressed to find a speck of dirt or scratch.  The black levels and contrast are consistent throughout the film.  It is great that Warners did not over-process the contrast.  Whites are not blown out.  Details and textures are clear and strong.  The overall image is a bit soft as compared with today's films, but certainly suitable for for a 1942 film.  It is absolutely wonderful to have such a classic film given the super treatment on Blu-ray.  Well done Warners.

The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 1.0.  There is not much to say about this.  It is the same audio track present on the past releases of the film.  Looks like Warners took a "Let's not mess with a classic" approach to this film.  They did not attempt a 5.1 re-mix.  Likely due to the fact that the film is primarily dialogue driven and wouldn't benefit from a surround mix, and also the fact that the audio was recorded only shortly after the era of the Vitaphone.  The Dolby Digital track is encoded at 192 kbps, which is disappointing.  The artifacts due to compression are mainly covered by the lo-fi original audio recording.  However, the dialogue is clear and audible.  It is hard to imagine the audio sounding any better.

The Ultimate Collector's Edition comes bundled in a collector's box, filled with extras.  All the bonus footage materials that were present on the Special Edition DVD and HD DVD have been ported over to the Blu-ray.  Most of the extras are located on the Blu-ray disc.  First, there is a brief introduction by Lauren Bacall.  Now, the exemplary part of the extras.  First up are two audio commentaries.  The first commentary is with film critic Roger Ebert.  The second is with film historian Rudy Behlmer.  Neither was involved with the making of the film, however, both know an extraordinary amount of information about how the film arose.  Behlmer's commentary is perhaps more engaging that Ebert's.  Next is the 90-minute documentary, "Bacall on Bogart."  This documentary contains a bunch of Bacall's memories about Bogart.  Next, is the TV Special, "A Tribute to 'Casablanca.'"  This is the original TV special made for Turner Classic Movies.  "The Children Remember" contains brief interviews with the offspring of Bogart and Bergman.  Next up are a couple of deleted scenes and outtakes.  These are barely watchable due to their lo-fi quality.  "Who Holds Tomorrow?" is a made-for-TV short that sets the story of "Casablanca" in the Cold War.  There is a collection of audio-only bonus materials.  Many of them are radio interviews.  Lastly, there is a production art gallery and theatrical trailers of the film.

The second disc in the package is a standard DVD and contains a feature length documentary, "Jack L. Warner: The Last Mogul."  This is the 1993 documentary that delves into the world of the man behind the studio.

The Ultimate Collector's Edition also comes with external bonus materials.  First, there is a hardback, 40-page book filled with Images and bios of actors.  Second, there is a folder with about a dozen cardboard reprints of marketing posters of the film and a few internal office memos.  Lastly, there is a passport holder and luggage tag stamped with Casablanca.

"Casablanca" is perhaps the greatest classic film in history.  It is great to see Warner Bros. take such an interesting in preserving the video quality of film.  The bonus materials provide you with such an in-depth look at the history of the film, all its ins and outs.  Highly recommended. [END]

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