This 2009 release of "Casablanca" is identical to the 2003 Special Edition release, except it's packaged in a regular DVD case as opposed to the cardboard case of the original. The first disc contains two commentary tracks (one with Roger Ebert, one with historian Rudy Behlmer), a two-minute introduction by Lauren Bacall, and a gallery of trailers. The film transfer is also identical to the original release, but this film looks about as great as it possibly can on DVD.
The second disc contains the one hour and twenty minute 1988 "Bacall on Bogart" documentary and a thirty-five minute making-of documentary "You Must Remember This: A Tribute to Casablanca". Next is a seven minute feature with Bogart's son and Bergman's daughter titled "As Time Goes By: The Children Remember", along with the eight minute 1995 cartoon spoof "Carrotblanca". A selection of deleted scenes and outtakes, totalling about seven minutes, are of particular interest here (though there is no sound for any of them), and a "Production Research" gallery. Of lesser interest is the premiere episode from the 1955 "Casablanca" TV series titled "Who Holds Tomorrow?", it's a noble failure and clocks in at about nineteen minutes.
As far as special features go, the only thing the "Casablanca" Ultimate Collector's Edition has over this release is the hour-long 1993 documentary "Jack Warner: The Last Mogul" on a third disc. It's quite entertaining and informative, particularly for film buffs, but it's really the only reason to purchase the 'Ultimate' edition. That is, unless one cares about a small book of production photos, office memos, lobby & poster cards, and a passport holder and luggage tag emblazoned with "Casablanca".
One of the greatest movies ever and an enduring American classic is back for another DVD go-around! Say it isn't so. In 2003, I snapped up the impressive 2-Disc Special Edition DVD. In 2008, I couldn't resist going Blu-ray with the comprehensive Ultimate Collector's Edition. I didn't think that a few years later, Warner would be trumpeting an even more advanced collection. How many times are we expected to dip into the same well? I mean, I know it's "Casablanca" but when is enough actually enough? And to use their own terminology, when does ultimate really mean ultimate? I'm not going to synopsize the film or offer a traditional review, I suspect if you're shopping this pricey new version that you are well aware of the merits of the film itself. Instead, I will highlight what is included. Is it worth the upgrade? That's an individual answer, to be sure, but if you are an enthusiast who owns the Ultimate Collection or a casual viewer that already has the Blu-ray edition--the conclusion might indeed be "no." If, however, you have yet to go Blu on this title or are a compulsive completist/collector--now may be as good a time as any to pony up the bucks for this limited edition set.
Contents: This box set will be a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack with 3 discs, the third disc being dedicated to three feature length documentaries. It is a numbered Limited Edition, only 50,000 will be made available. The double wide display box contains several new collectibles including a 62 page production art book (with never before seen photos, communications, and archived documents about the film), a full size reproduction of the 1942 movie poster, and four drink coasters. I love this silly collectible stuff, but what is it with coasters in these deluxe sets?
Transfer: Both the DVD and Blu-ray are boasting new 2012 4K transfers. Arguably, this is the one aspect that might make me seriously recommend an upgrade. For my money, though, the previous Blu-ray release is extremely satisfying and competent. It is NOT a transfer that was begging for a polish.
NEW Special Features: 2 Documentaries (about 45 minutes of content total):
1) Casablanca: An Unlikely Classic
2) Michael Curtiz: The Greatest Director You Never Heard Of
Feature Length Documentaries On Third Disc (all previously released):
1) You Must Remember This: The Warner Bros. Story (2008)
2) The Brothers Warner (2008)
3) Jack L. Warner: The Last Mogul (1993)
OLD Special Features: Items from the Ultimate Collection will all be carried over. They include:
1) Commentary by Roger Ebert
2) Commentary by Rudy Behlmer
3) Introduction by Lauren Bacall
4) "Now Voyager" Trailer
5) Newsreel footage
6) Vaudeville Days short
7) The Bird Came C.O.D short
8) The Squawkin' Hawk short
9) The Dover Boys at Pimento University or The Rivals of Roquefort Hall
10) Great Performances: Bacall on Bogart
11) You Must Remember This: A Tribute to Casablanca
12) As Time Goes By: The Children Remember
13) Deleted Scenes
15) Who Holds Tomorrow?
16) Carrotblanca - Vintage Cartoon
17) Scoring Stage Sessions
18) 4/26/43 Lady Esther Screen Guild Theater Radio Broadcast
19) 11/19/47 Vox Pop Radio Broadcast
As you can see, it is a comprehensive list of extras. All told, there is over 14 hours worth of material, but only about 45 minutes of it is new. Worth an upgrade? Probably not if you own the Ultimate, but you won't catch me giving "Casablanca" less than 5 stars. KGHarris, 2/12.
Perhaps not in all of cinema's history has there been a movie with such brilliant writing, scoring, acting, and numbers of emotional close ups.
Casablanca is a legend of nearly 70 years, but thanks to Blu Ray technology it doesn't have to feel that way. Watching this classic in 1080p is truly an experience, and I have to praise Warner for providing us with the absolutely best possible transfer this film has ever seen. There's not a trace of grain or flicker or anything you'd expect from a film this old, and the result is stunning. If you've seen the movie before, it's time to relive with this remarkable new technology. If you've somehow missed it on TCM, get cultured and experience one of the greatest films in our history in a way no generation has ever been able to do. Blu Ray. It not only improves the viewing experience, but it invites the viewer right into the moment. With clarity as perfect as this, you forget you're even watching a film and instead feel as though you've tapped into the memories of the characters portrayed.
I don't feel the need to mention the movie's plot, as most I'm guessing have either already seen it before or can find that out elsewhere, so I want to end this review with what you are probably most wondering about anyway. Is the Blu Ray transfer worth buying this for? If I haven't made it clear enough already, YES. I've seen some poor Blu Rays transfers, but this is not one of them. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's one of the best I've seen. The extras, though I haven't experienced them yet, look interesting, including an audio commentary by movie critic Roger Ebert. All in all I'd say that this release is definitely worth getting even if Casablanca isn't your favorite movie of all time. It is a classic, and it is an experience, and with Blu Ray it's better than ever before.
on August 22, 2008
Possibly the most popular film around, 1942's Casablanca pairs two iconic actors, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, in a story of lost love and reluctant heroism. Warner Brothers put out an excellent 2-disc Special Edition in 2003. (That older set is going to receive new artwork on December 2nd, but it will otherwise be the same.) This new 3-disc Ultimate Collector's Edition includes the 2003 set and adds a documentary about studio head Jack Warner, along with a bunch of memorabilia. Here are the announced new features, the ones not included in the 2003 set. All but the first are memorabilia.
-- Jack L. Warner: The Last Mogul, a 1993 full-length biographical documentary (104 minutes)
-- 48-page photo book
-- 10 roughly 5x7" cards with color reproductions of poster art and such
-- 3 reproductions of archival correspondence (a memo from producer Hal Wallis changing the title to Casablanca, a memo from Wallis to studio head Jack Warner urging the casting of Bogart over George Raft, and a letter from the publicity head instructing the publicist to shift Bogart's image from tough to romantic lead)
-- reproduction of Victor Laszlo's letter of transit
-- passport holder with Casablanca logo
-- luggage tag with Casablanca logo
-- mail-in offer for 27x40" movie poster
-- all in a pretty collector's box with an intricate laser-cut Moroccan design
The documentary, which comprises the third disc, is also available separately (here). It was written, directed and produced by a grandson of Warner, and is said (by Variety) to be somewhat sentimental but not to overlook Warner's defects. It isn't about Casablanca in particular.
There are more than enough extras in the 2-disc edition for most people. I'll list them below. The video and sound quality of that set are very good, and they should be the same in this new edition.
The movie is set in 1941 Casablanca, Morocco, controlled by the Nazi-collaborating Vichy French government. Bogart plays Rick, a nightclub owner with a past he doesn't talk about and a determination not to get caught up in current events. "I stick my neck out for nobody," he says. He comes into possession of two letters of transit, invaluable items to the many refugees seeking passage out of the grasp of the Nazis. The intended recipients of the letters soon show up, resistance leader Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) and his wife Ilsa (Bergman). Ilsa, it turns out, was once Rick's lover, who broke his heart when she left him with no explanation. Their old flame is rekindled despite themselves, and Rick must decide whether to help his rival for her love, thereby helping the war effort he has claimed no interest in, or help himself.
No one expected this movie to be such a classic, and even though it won three major Academy Awards, including Best Picture, it only gained its place as a classic gradually over the years. Undoubtedly the two stars are a big part of the reason it grew on us. Bogart is perfect as a cynic who has more heart than he lets on. Just by being there, Bergman instantly conveys every reason we need to understand Rick's broken heart and feel the force of his dilemma, and she convincingly portrays her own conflict between two loves. Somehow the movie also gets other things just so. Several of the supporting actors manage to be morally corrupt and still likable; others are just likable. The writing, a fair amount of it done quickly, by committee, with no thought of it being great writing, has panache, and hits on several turns of phrase that just work. All of these things lift up the story of love, higher duty, and the triumph of good over evil, and over cynicism.
Here's the list of the features included from the 2003 Special Edition:
-- Introduction by Bogart's wife and frequent co-star Lauren Bacall (2 minutes)
-- Audio commentaries
. . . . . by Roger Ebert
. . . . . by film historian/author Rudy Behlmer
-- Documentaries and featurette
. . . . . Bacall on Bogart, a TCM documentary from 1988 (83 minutes)
. . . . . You Must Remember This: A Tribute to Casablanca, a 1992 documentary narrated by Bacall (35 minutes)
. . . . . As Time Goes By: The Children Remember, with Bogart's son Stephen and Bergman's daughter Pia Lindstrom (7 minutes)
-- Production research gallery, with scads of documents including memos, script pages, and production stills (12 minutes)
-- Deleted scenes, with subtitles but no sound (2 minutes)
. . . . . Rick tells Laszlo he wants to sell the letters of transit for 100,000 francs
. . . . . Rick's bartender Sascha serves a doctored drink to a German soldier
-- Outtakes (goofs), no sound or subtitles (5 minutes)
-- Take-offs on the movie
. . . . . April 26,1943 Screen Guild Players radio broadcast, an abridged Casablanca with Bogart, Bergman and Henreid, audio only (22 minutes)
. . . . . Who Holds Tomorrow?: Premiere Episode excerpts, from the TV serial based on Casablanca, part of the 1955 Warner Bros. Presents series, starring Charles McGraw as Rick (18 minutes)
. . . . . Carrotblanca, Looney Tunes cartoon with Bugs Bunny as Rick (8 minutes)
-- Musical scoring sessions, audio only
. . . . . "Knock on Wood" alternate version, Dooley Wilson and piano
. . . . . "As Time Goes By Part One" alternate take, Wilson and piano
. . . . . "As Time Goes By Part One" film version, Wilson and piano
. . . . . Rick Sees Ilsa instrumental medley
. . . . . "As Time Goes By Part Two" alternate take, Wilson and piano
. . . . . "As Time Goes By Part Two" film version, Wilson and piano
. . . . . At La Belle Aurore instrumental medley
. . . . . "Dat's What Noah Done" outtake, Wilson and piano
. . . . . original theatrical trailer
. . . . . 1992 re-release trailer
-- Text only
. . . . . A Great Cast is Worth Repeating, on the times the cast played together in other movies
. . . . . cast and crew
. . . . . awards
That's plenty for most fans, though collectors aren't most fans. Whichever edition you get, the movie is the main thing. It's a great one, not to be missed.
on October 27, 2002
It's hard to believe that when Casablanca was filmed at Warner Bros. Studios in 1942 it was "just another" of the 50 or so films that the studio was producing every year, as Lauren Bacall points out in the documentary about the film included in the special features. The movie was an instant success with audiences everywhere, and won three Academy Awards including Best Picture. Called "America's most popular and beloved movie- and rightly so" by The Motion Picture Guide, and "The best Hollywood movie of all time" by Leonard Maltin, Casablanca was voted the #2 film in a list of the top 100 films of this century by the American Film Institute.
Set in refugee strewn French North Africa in 1942, Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), a night club owner, and his friend Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains), Prefect of Police, enter into a wager as to whether or not Resistance Leader Victor Laslo (Paul Henreid) will be able to escape Casablanca and reach the Free World. When Laslo arrives in Casablanca, Rick is stunned to find him accompanied by his ex-lover, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman). Filled with mystery, suspense, intrigue and romance, Casablanca will remain a favorite of classic movie lovers for years to come.
The supporting cast include Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and Dooley Wilson as Rick's piano playing confidant, Sam. The entire cast are superb, the settings are excellent, and the cinematogrophy is wonderful.
The song "As Time Goes By" was made famous by Casablanca, as it's melody is entwined throughout the film, and it too is now a classic, filled with romance and nostalgia.
This is one film that absolutely MUST be in your DVD library!
on June 5, 2012
Even after 70 years, the greatness of CASABLANCA remains timeless. This captivating classic, so vividly played out and cinematically crafted, is a textbook example of the Hollywood studio system at its absolute best.
The 70th Anniversary Blu-ray Edition restores the film's pictorial splendor, surpassing the previous version which used too much DNR. This time the film's inherent grain texture isn't smoothed away along with a measure of sharpness, but is evenly configurated resulting in perfect black and white image resolution that replicates 35mm film.
CASABLANCA is offered both as a Blu-ray/DVD special combo package and as a single Blu-ray disc. The big set comes with an array of bonus material, much of which was bumped over from the previous Blu-ray edition, including the commentaries by Roger Ebert and Rudy Behlmer. There's also some photographic and printed memorabilia, and a few new documentaries on the making of the film, on its director, Michael Curtiz, another on the history of Warner Bros., and one on its chief mogul, Jack L. Warner. The single Blu-ray has all the video/audio extras except the two Warner documentaries, and doesn't include any memorabilia items.
One of my all-time top favorites, CASABLANCA is a movie I enjoy playing again and again, and if that's true of you, then this upgrade is a must.
on May 2, 2010
We have the standard DVD version but wished to try the blu-ray format. Being black and white, we thought the improvements over the previous version would be minimal. Not so! Differences are remarkable. One can see details in the artists' dresses, for example, that are entirely missed in the DVD version. Strongly recommended, especially for Casablanca fans like us who never miss a chance to seeing it again!
on January 1, 2007
I agree that any review of an HD DVD disk should include an opinion as to its technical quality, if possible comparing it to the regular DVD release. For the Casablanca HD DVD, I found the following opinion in the online magazine Perfect Vision, a high end technologically oriented magazine: "Casablanca is the film to see as the black-and-white showcase of hi-def. The setting of Morocco and Rick's Café Americain jump from the screen in breathtaking crystal clarity."
Reviews on Amazon.com can be confusing as they lump reviews for the same movie on every format and version so you have folks complaining about quality next to those doing leaps for joy! To be clear I just picked up the new Ultimate 70th anniversary box set ahead of release date...and the review that follows is for this edition to help others like myself who may have one or all of the previous editions decide if in this economic crunch dipping into the wallet again is worth it. I rushed to write this figuring at $44 on Amazon.com the price is low now and I'm trying to help those "on the fence" as it were.
The movie itself needs no review... its in most peoples top 10 list of all time classics and the volumes of extra features and commentaries are for the most part re-purposed from earlier releases (and spelled out elsewhere so I will not be redundant in listing them) but that isn't always the case with re-issues and I know as I have many duplicate movies because a newer version doesn't contain the featurette or commentary from an inferior previous edition print quality wise... so Kudos to WB for making all previous editions expendable from that standpoint...
so... WHAT is different, and is it worth your money?
the two featurettes that ARE new ..I appreciate a lot. Michael Curtiz is without a doubt one of the greatest directors ever with an early run of classics with Errol Flynn (Captain Blood, The Sea Hawk, Robin Hood, The Charge of the light Brigade and more) to Casablanca, Yankee Doodle Dandy , Mildred Pierce and even White Christmas just for starters in his resume and it great to have something on him finally. To answer the 64k dollar question YES...the image quality on the new blu-ray is noticeably improved and I'm not even a guy with a massively expensive home theater system and I was blown away by the rich blacks and overall just the brilliant and staggeringly beautiful black and white film I was enjoying..seemingly for the first time at moments.
I picked mine up for a bit over 50 bucks and consider it a deal.
If you don't really care about Michael Curtiz or a better picture...the old Blu Ray set or even single blu ray disc will be fine for many... but if you are a film fan and a fan of glorious Black & White with lovely play between shadows and light....don't miss it!
UPDATE!! I just found a single disc version of this as an exclusive at Target for only $14.99!!! Its the same first disc as this set with the two new documentaries...a bunch of the older ones AND the newly upgraded video for a fraction of the price ...so if you don't want the book and the box and the extra DVD ....THIS IS A DEAL. I think had I seen it first I'd skip the box!!!! Hope this helps...
A friend of mine asked me to show him Casablanca about 15 years ago. He seemed to like the film enough until the famous Le Marsailles scene where Paul Henreid's Victor Laszlo rallies the Rick's Cafe Americain crowd (and drowns out the Germans) with a rousing rendition of the French national anthem. At that point my friend sneered with disgust that the scene was ludicrous because the French are a bunch of defeatist cowards who would never show such blatant resistance. I tried to explain to him both the historical context and the importance of the scene to the film. He wouldn't have it -- his mind was made up. Disgusted, I switched off the VCR and told him that if he couldn't accept that scene, he might as well not watch the rest of the movie. I haven't seen this friend in over ten years, so I don't know if he ever saw the whole film and/or broadened his Bill O'Reilly perception of the French. I certainly hope so.
What's amazing to me is that several other people I've met have questioned the purpose of that scene minus the anti-France diatribe. Some of them see the scene as wartime jingoism. Some of them like the scene but still think it's unnecessary. One girl in my college film class even said that the scene's purpose was solely to "give Paul Henreid more to do." Mind boggling, to say the least.
Up until the Le Marsailles scene, we think we know the characters and their motivations: Humphrey Bogart's Rick Blaine is a world-wearly cynic who was left embittered by Ilsa Lund's perceived abandonment -- his past as a gun runner to the Republican forces in Spain seems to be a part of him that is dead and buried; Ingrid Bergman's Ilsa Lund is the woman who has callously deserted our hero for Victor Laszlo, though it is clear she is still in love with Rick; Henreid's Victor Laszlo is a cold and distant person who puts everything, including Ilsa, second to his work; Claude Rains' Louis Renault is an amoral bureaucrat whose own pleasures are his only motivation.
The Les Marsailles scene, however, puts everything into perspective, giving the characters depth as well as foreshadowing what they will do later in the film. The Germans, led by Conrad Veidt's Major Strasser, are singing German military songs when Laszlo commandeers Rick's band and leads them, the patrons and the staff in a chorus of Les Marsailles that drowns out the Germans. Rick doesn't have to order his band to accompany Laszlo in his rendition of Les Marsailles, but he unhesitatingly gives his permission, hinting that his long dormant idealism is still alive and well. It sets up his memorable sacrifice at the end of the film when he gives up the love of his life for the greater good.
The audience, likewise, gains a much greater understanding of Ilsa from that scene. Up until that time, the audience is tempted to wonder why she would leave Rick for this activist who puts his cause above everything, including her. She may still love Rick, but when she gazes at Laszlo during the scene, it's clear that not only does she love him as well, she also believes in his cause and admires the passion and fervor he brings to his work and beliefs. Suddenly, the audience realizes why it's not so easy for Ilsa to simply go back to Rick and why the decision is so difficult for her.
Laszlo suddenly becomes worthy of competing with Rick for Ilsa's affections. As much as we root for Rick, we also realize during this scene that Laszlo is a true hero who, unlike Rick, has never lost his passion and idealism despite the horrors he has been put through and witnessed. For the first time, the audience begins to wonder if Ilsa should really choose Rick over Laszlo. Later, when Rick initially denies the letters of transit to Ilsa so she and Laszlo can escape, the audience's sympathies have turned 180 degrees from the beginning of the film. We begin to see Rick as somewhat selfish for letting his own desires get in the way of the cause. When he comes to his senses and not only gives Ilsa and Laszlo the letters, but gives up Ilsa as well, we know that it's the right decision.
Louis' later conversion to the side of right and virtue isn't as blatantly foreshadowed in the Les Marsailles scene. However, when the Germans are singing their military songs, he does register pronounced disgust with what he is hearing. He half-heartedly fights Major Strasser's later order to shut down Rick's, saying lamely that "everyone is having such a good time." However, he has made clear with his earlier expression of disgust that he detests the Germans and goes along with their orders out of convenience and not idealogical agreement.
Without the Les Marsailles scene, Rick goes from cynic to idealist without any explanation, Ilsa's indecision is inexplicable, Laszlo seems unworthly to take Ilsa from Rick and Louis goes from appeaser to resistor without any warning. The story just wouldn't work without it. The scene switches the focus of the story from lost love to supporting the greater good. It's emotion rivals that of the final airport scene and is absolutely critical to Casablanca. It's so important to the story that I think that the film wouldn't have become the classic it is without it.
In 1981, Harry Reasoner produced an excellent segment for 60 Minutes on Casablanca. He pointed out that when Casablanca was released, the Germans did occupy France as well as large parts of Africa, including Casablanca. This wasn't a period piece about events from a long time ago and the emotions portrayed in the Les Marsailles scene were very fresh and very current at the time Casablanca was being filmed. Not only is it absolutely critical to the plot, but it is also a snapshot of the feelings and passions of that time as it was happening. I hope that those who dismiss the scene can go back and, with some deepened perspective, can understand both why the Les Marsailles scene is so important to Casablanca's greatness and what it tells us about what 1942 America's beliefs and feelings were. It might give renewed perspective on our own conflict in Iraq. At the very least, I hope it convinces my friend that the French aren't really so bad after all.