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Casablanca: easy to enter, but much harder to leave, especially if you're wanted by the Nazis. Such a man is Resistance leader Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), whose only hope is Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), a cynical American who sticks his neck out for no one - especially Victor's wife Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), the ex-lover who broke his heart. Ilsa offers herself in exchange for Laszlo's transport out of the country and bitter Rick must decide what counts more - personal happiness or countless lives hanging in the balance. Winner of three Academy Awards including Best Picture, Casablanca marks its 70th anniversary as a beloved favorite with so many bonuses that no matter how often you've seen it, this beautiful 70th Anniversary Edition looks like yet another beginning of a beautiful friendship with an unforgettable classic.
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In the seven decades since a never mounted stageplay called "Everybody Comes to Rick's" was adapted for the screen by the Epstein twins and Howard Koch, CASABLANCA has spawned two short-lived TV series, but wisely on the part of filmmakers, no motion picture rehashes. Here we have an ideal cast following a perfect script; a timeless love story that ends happily for no one that's set in a North African stopping point for refugees of a merciless war. Their German oppressors are here as well in these final days before the Allied invasion of North Africa.
Former gun runner Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) owns "Rick's Café Américain", a place that folks of all political persuasions and nationalities gravitate to. His loyal friend and piano artisté Sam (Dooley Wilson) performs every song but one, that is until Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) wanders in, spots him at the keys and coos, "Play 'As Time Goes By'." When Rick storms over to chastise Sam for the song he never wants to hear, he and Ilsa are reunited. We soon learn of their affair in Paris and sudden parting while Germans marched in, Rick's hard feelings at Ilsa's disappearance that day, and the love which yet remains within him.
All this amid the chaos of other lives, people scrambling for impossible to get papers of transit even as an ever-present enemy heightens their awareness of danger. The Italian Ugarte (Peter Lorre) gives Rick two of these priceless letters just before he's arrested by Louis Renault (Claude Rains), a corrupt police captain. Ugarte dies in custody, leaving an embittered Rick with the dilemma of giving the transit docs to Ilsa and her husband, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), a Czech Resistance refugee, or saving them for his own escape. Lazlo selflessly suggests that Rick use the papers to escort Ilsa to safety while he remains in Casablanca. Then Laszlo is arrested by Renault on a false charge...
CASABLANCA is the one film that all Classic Era movie fans should own, and the one to be seen repeatedly. It never ages, defying time itself even "as time goes by."
--Roger Weston, author of Global Tilt: A Chuck Brandt Novella (The Brandt Series)
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