The ‘Petrified Forest’ convinced the world Bogart was a bad guy. For years he shocked and awed audiences with roles fitting befitting the image. ‘The Maltese Falcon’ showed a new kind hero, one with an edge. Bogart, with all the right things to say and seemingly never losing his cool. Then came ‘Casablanca’ and the ages. The man's – man comes with a heart. Arguably, three of his greatest pictures. All showing a change in a man’s character and the depths of what acting is supposed to be. ‘Maybe, it was Warner Bros. all along. Maybe, Bogart was simply Bogart.’
The World is at War and Nazi Germany is pushing for control over Europe and beyond. People are suffering; the desperate as well as the privileged are starting to give up on hope and many may very well lose it all. There is a place the fortunate come to visit, a last great safe haven before the final stop to America and freedom. Here we find Richard Blaine, aged 37, a cynical patriot and an exiled American unable to return home, but always willing to fight for a true cause, now operating a popular saloon in Casablanca, Morocco. Victor Laszlo, a celebrated French freedom fighter who has long been viewed as the Resistance’s final hope. And Ilsa Lund, the woman they both love. Caption Renault governs the trade of a prized commodity known as exit visas, where many vie for consideration of the escape that they can permit. And Major Strasser, who holds his regard to sovereignty and it’s values, higher than life itself. Casablanca. Many come, but few ever really leave.
‘Casablanca’ is a different kind of love story, more likely to infect rather than affect. Rick Blaine (Bogart) has been successful in his stay in Casablanca, escaping the hardships of war by maintaining the front that he sticks his neck out for nobody. “Rick is completely neutral about everything and that takes in the field of women too.” Avoiding the Germans is become a full time job for Rick, which is not the easiest thing to compete with while nursing a broken heart and trying to take care of his loyal patrons. Everything changes when Ugarte (Lorre) brings down the heat on Rick’s place, after murdering 2 German carriers holding exit visas. The always flamboyant, Captain Renault (Rains), is carefully playing both sides as several German officers, including Major Strasser (Veidt), come to investigate the murder. This isn’t really a problem for the experienced Captain, as whether Renault is either smooth talking Strasser or romancing the women, he is confident to which is more important at the time. That’s when Victor Laszlo (Henreid) brings the war to Casablanca, along with the woman who broke Rick’s heart, Ilse Lund (Bergman). Rick has been searching himself for the answers to why Isle left him and Sam (Wilson), Rick’s faithful piano player, knows this better than anyone. He has watched as Rick suffered through the pain of a love that was once considered a tender or unfortunate time in Paris. Sam knows that hardly any good will come out of Isle’s request that he play their song, ‘As Time Goes By’ but reluctantly agrees. Hearing the song, Rick is greeted with more than he expected. Love has found Rick again, but this time in Casablanca. Will Rick recapture his love or will Ilse flee his affection? Will Victor win his War or was it always Strasser’s to win?
Often chemistry between lead actors can make or break a picture. Bergman and Bogart had an onscreen charisma that is distinctly unique. Offset they hardly spoke, but together their attraction in ‘Casablanca’ was magical. With Bogart as the jaded lover and Bergman as the woman he loved and lost. I consider love to be a very rare pleasure. It only comes to visit us so often and is truly one of the greatest gifts that life has to offer. We’ve all been there before, but few have had the pleasure of a second chance. Being able to give it up all over again is truly admirable and that’s how Casablanca’s love story conceals in its mystique. The chemistry on display is nothing short of a remarkable display of a combination of talent, lure and lust, when considering their relationship turned out to fall short of being even a sociable friendship. Bergman said of Bogart, “I kissed him, but I never knew him.” Years later, Bogart would ball her out saying “You used to be a great star. What are you know?” She coyly replied. “A happy woman.”
Casablanca isn’t the only reason why Bogart is still considered the greatest Screen Legend of all time, on ‘AFI’s 100 Years..100 Stars’ list. Even though he died over 50 years ago, he can still relate to the current times with a resume filled with countless classics that display across a broad range of roles. With an infectious voice and that uncompromising demeanor, it’s like his films were made yesterday. His natural gift for delivering dialogue and a dominating screen presence made him a model for actors of any era. The man had character and he knew how to use it. That's why he is timeless. The greatest Movie Star of all time, and more. She almost makes me believe it every time, how she says, "You're very kind." Ingrid Bergman was more than just a talented actress and flawless beauty. A 3 time Oscar winner out of 7 nominations, she undoubtedly left her mark on Hollywood. Surprisingly so, she received no recognition from the Academy for her role in ‘Casablanca’, and even though she felt the part she played in the film wasn’t anything special, she will be forever remembered as Ilsa Lund. And with Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt and Peter Lorre, cinema magic was created.
With an enduring script by the Epstein brothers, Michael Curtiz's visualization and one of the finest casts ever assembled, a truly magical picture was created. One that will be revered for generations and years to come. I’ve studied the picture in film classes, I’ve seen the film countless times and I still get a certain joy from watching it again with someone who has never had the pleasure of seeing it before. And there are even times when I just put it on and work. Not even watching it, just listening to it in the background. It’s a very special film to me and I hope one day to, with God’s help, share it to my children and have them feel the same way about it as I do. After all, “We’ll always have Casablanca."
A perfect transfer for the perfect film. 'Casablanca' comes to Blu-ray on the same flawless 1080p~VC-1 transfer HD DVD received back in 2006, preserving the proper aspect ratio of 1.33.1, true to the films theatrical release. Although, I’m not a big fan of the “pillerboxed” effect this ratio provides on widescreen, I see no reason to try and stretch this film in order to meet a preferred style of viewing. Please screen this film as is. Your TV’s zoom feature will only take away from film’s the original intent. I caught the film recently on TCM and the condition of the showing was shocking. It only convinced me more to just how fabulous the Blu-ray disc truly is. It almost felt like I was watching a different film, as I’ve become adjusted to the HD releases on both formats.
The meticulously polished transfer is a marvel of deep blacks and bright whites, and every beautiful grayscale in between. All while retaining a natural and realistic picture. The film looks as if every pixel was examined, cleaned and properly restored. Not a flaw or blemish can be found. Dirt doesn’t even exist and grain is a non-issue. The High Definition depth is deep and the entire film is a remarkable example of just how good the classics can look, when the proper effort is exhausted. It’s so clean and crisp that the B&W picture is bold and the scenes just jump out at you. Honestly, it looks as if it could have been released yesterday instead of in 1942. I can’t stress just how much the sharpness and clarity are improved, just astounding. You can almost smell the smoke that clearly trails from every cigarette. Almost sense the isolation, from a brightly light room to a dark one as the shadows brilliantly hug the walls. Warner Bros. delivered not only a clean restore, but possibly one of the best transfers I’ve ever seen. Well that might not mean much, but I’ve seen a lot of Blu-rays.
The Audio retains the classic Dolby Digital 1.0 mono-track and I really can’t find any fault in that. Over-all the entire BD disc sounds pretty impressive and clean. No noise or ugly static is detectable, when compared to the televised broadcast and to a lesser degree the latest DVD. I have to say, it really is a vast improvement. And with some of the greatest quotes in cinema history being easily recognizable in the film, fans should rest easy that the dialogue sounds clear and fresh. I can’t think of anything more that could have been done to improve this Blu-ray disc. In every right, a beautiful film with a gorgeous transfer. Play it again, Sam. Over and over again.
‘Casablanca’ makes its Blu-ray debut fully loaded with featurette’s, extras and bonus surprises. Although several are classy carryovers from the DVD and HD DVD versions, we also get some Blu-ray only treats to marvel in. All of which I will explain in detail. This collection truly sets the bar very high for future special edition Blu-ray releases. I know many fans would have been pleased with a dual release, featuring a more affordable standalone version, but the Ultimate Collector's Edition is indeed a very elegant Blu-ray. Note: All features appear in SD.
Introduction : First up, a touching introduction from the woman Bogart loved. Lauren Bacall welcomes viewers to the world of ‘Casablanca’ with a brief background and description of the film. Short, but sweet.
Commentary : By Film Critic Roger Ebert and Film Historian Rudy Behlmer. Probably the best commentary I've ever had the pleasure of sitting through. Usually, I avoid any commentary like they were a diseased plague, but both offered an interesting and detailed outlook on the film. Truly a wealth of knowledge that even the casual fan would find it to be a highly pleasurable experience. Watch the film first, then watch the two film scholars do what they do best. Highly Recommended.
2 Documentaries : ‘Bacall on Bogart’ A detailed examination of Bogart’s career, all the way from his humble beginnings to his tough guy persona and finally the hero we all know and love. Bacall narrates this featurette, along with a little help from some notable stars. I’m just going to come out and say it; I don’t care for the woman and never found her to be such a great actress. The only reason I feel she was anything is because of great direction and the fact that Bogart carried her in every picture. ‘To Have and Have Not’ is the only picture I can honestly say that I enjoyed her in, as she was sexy at times. The statement I made opening the Introduction can serve as a double edged sword, “the woman Bogart loved.” I guess he didn’t care if she really loved him back, since shortly after his passing she announced her desire for Frank Sinatra, a former pal of Bogies and founding member of the original ‘Rat Pack’. I wish I'd skipped this one. (90 min)
You Must Remember This ; A Tribute to Casablanca: Who knows classic movies better than Turner Classic Movies? No one. If anyone doubts this, check out this made for TV special they produced on ‘Casablanca’. A truly fitting tribute indeed. Recommended. (30 mins)
‘As Time Goes By; The Children Remember : Here we find Stephen Bogart and Pia Lindstrom, Bogart’s son and Bergman’s daughter, talking about ‘Casablanca’. A brief run-through of the film, including some background and inside information. They examine story, lines and how they feel their parents felt about the film. Worth a look. (12 mins) Production Research Gallery: Various notes, correspondents and photos. They appear in a tiny box in the center of the screen, making it hard to read anything. Check it out.
Additional Scenes and Outtakes : Who doesn’t love Deleted Scenes? Several are included on this release, along with several outtakes. Audio for this feature no longer exists. (12 mins)
Television Adaption : ‘Who Holds tomorrow?’ Ahh.. the smooth relaxing pleasure of Chester Field cigarettes sponsors quite possibly the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen. Notes of fabulous GE products and the life of John Wayne, before we get to lame TV version of the film then I turned it off. Sorry. (18 mins)
Carrotblanca : Is a Looney Tunes cartoon that pays homage to the film, with Bugs as Rick and Penelope Pussycat as Ilsa. The entire cast is represented by everyone’s favorite Looney Tunes characters. At first I thought this could have been released sometime back in the 40’s, that’s how good it is, but it actually came out in 1995. Check it out, if you’re in the mood. (8 mins)
Audio-Only Bonus : ‘Scoring Stage Sessions’ - Basically the soundtrack to the film. ‘Radio show’ - A recount of the film with Bogart, Bergman and Henreid.
*Bonus Disc : A bonus featurette entitled “Jack Warner: The Last Mogul” located on the Disc 2, DVD. A pleasing, educational experience that offers a detailed inside look at the interesting and awe-inspiring life of Jack Warner. Running at 104 minutes, it’s a pretty interesting piece all on its own. (104 mins)
Bonus Collectible’s : Exclusive gift set including; Passport holder and luggage tag, a 48 page photo book, 10 Reproduction cards and Archival Correspondence. Warner classed this Blu-ray up with some very nice touches. The Reproduction Cards are small-scale original movie posters and the passport holder and luggage tag are particularly enjoyable, I know what I’m packing next time I go on vacation.
Also included : The film’s original theatrical trailers. And the (1992) Re-release Trailer.
Casablanca is a true triumph of film. What more fitting way for Warner Bros. to celebrate the film than with possibly one of the greatest master reconstructions and transfers to date. ‘Casablanca: Ultimate Collector’s Edition' on Blu-ray is a major accomplishment for the movement of High Definition Media and to me that is what it’s all about. Delivering the best possible picture and sound. So do yourself a favor, fall in love all over again. "I should never have switched from scotch to martinis." Is said to be Bogart's last words. A legend, indeed.