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Casablanca (Two-Disc Special Edition)
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Considered by many to be the greatest Hollywood movie ever made, this WW2 classic takes place in war-torn Casablanca and tells the tale of mysterious nightclub owner Bogart and his old Flame (Bergman), her husband, underground leader (Heinreid), and other skeletons from his past. Won 3 Oscars - Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay.
The two-disc set of this classic boasts new features and a new transfer. In comparing with the previous 50th anniversary edition, the 2003 edition is arguably better, but there is no debate it has a lot more stuff. As the transfer goes, this edition is pristine, the anniversary edition was excellent, and both are far better than anything seen before. The first-rate, 30-minute anniversary documentary is still here; added is a 90-minute biography on Humphrey Bogart made in the mid-'80s. The best new features are a production archive of photos and production notes (aptly illustrating how the movie was just another in the yearly output of the studio), and two dense commentary tracks. Rudy Belhmer rattles off facts about the production and the key players with machine-gun pacing as he reads, in part, from his book Behind the Scenes. Roger Ebert, as always, is very conversational as he relays facts, dispels myths, and admires the film; it's a real film-fan treat. Less stellar are reminiscences from the children of the stars, an episode from the ill-conceived TV show (1955), and some newly discovered cut scenes. --Doug Thomas
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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".
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.
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.
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