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5.0 out of 5 stars New Ultimate edition for collectors (and gift-givers) coming out for Christmas, August 22, 2008
This review is from: Casablanca (Ultimate Collector's Edition) (DVD)
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
-- Trailers
. . . . . 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.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 12, 2008 12:06:43 PM PST
ari180 says:
Thank you so much for the time and effort you dedicated to this.
I can't be the only one struggling to decide between the "Ultimate" edition at ~$40, and the not-so-ultimate edition now on sale at Amazon at roughly 1/4 that price.
This definitely helps.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 15, 2008 10:34:28 AM PST
Sanpete says:
Thanks, ari. Glad it was of some help.
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