BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Aug 5th, 2003 •

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Warner Home Video
2 Disc Special Edition

CASABLANCA of course needs no introduction, being hailed by many as one of the finest movies ever made, albeit accidentally. I have to say it’s been many years since I watched it and I’d forgotten just how good it is. The dialogue is slick, witty and economical and has rightly, with allegedly a little rephrasing from Bogart, spawned some of the most quoted lines in movie history. I lost count of the number of frivolously double-edged and charmingly barbed lines delivered by Rains’ Capt. Renault, to whom everyone is a target at the beginning of the movie, almost as if he were unsure of exactly whose side he was on, which is most likely the case as the script was constantly being re-doctored and changed during filming. Even Bergman, who was already preoccupied with the prospect of her next film, FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS, had to ask which guy she was meant to be in love with. With the typical ambiguity evident in the rest of the production, she was told to ‘play it down the middle’. In fact none of the actors had any more idea of how the whole thing was going to end than the audience did on first viewing.

Everything that makes CASABLANCA a great film seems to have been by happy accident. Originally cast in the three lead roles were Ronald Reagan, Ann Sheridan and Dennis Morgan. Doesn’t bear thinking about does it? Thankfully they were unavailable. The now classic ‘As Time Goes By’ was an established hit that was specified in the original play, but score composer Max Steiner (KING KONG, GONE WITH THE WIND) tried hard to have it replaced by one of his own compositions. Bergman however had by this time had her hair cropped for FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS, which made it impossible to reshoot the necessary scenes (at least that’s what they told Steiner). As it is, as the NFT said in 1974, ‘the sum of all it’s many marvellous parts far exceeds the whole’.

Here is presented everything you ever wanted to know about this historic piece of filmmaking. From an intro and documentary on Bogart from ‘Mrs. Bogie’ Lauren Bacall, through fascinating soundless outtakes and deleted scenes, brief reminiscences from Stephen Bogart and Pia Lindstrom (son and daughter of Bogie and Ingrid Bergman, respectively), two separate audio commentaries by Roger Ebert and Rudy Behlmer, and much more.

The newly discovered outtakes and deleted scenes are a revelation and show clapperboard operators in action, the cast standing around and then suddenly busying themselves en masse as the unheard ‘Action!’ cue is called, and then subsequently ceasing activities following ‘Cut!’, all this usually followed by a quizzical look toward camera from Bogart.

The Scoring Session Outtakes feature sections of the score from Max Steiner, and Dooley Wilson recording a couple of songs for the movie (including THE song) and having to tell the Warner’s staff pianist Elliot Carpenter to slow down. Dooley himself was a drummer and singer (just watch his hands on the keyboard in the movie. Not only can’t he play, he can’t mime either).

An abridged version of the movie is presented in the form of a radio play from 1943 from the Screen Guild Players, with Bogart, Bergman and Henreid reprising their movie roles. Also included is the premiere episode, ‘Who Holds Tomorrow’, from the 1955 Warner Bros. Presents series TV adaptation. The show is presented by Gig Young who teases us with an interview with John Wayne later in the show but which sadly we don’t get to see. We are however treated to a couple of ‘Messages from our Sponsors’ featuring a very non-PC (these days) cigarette commercial and a beautifully manicured and glamorously befrocked woman demonstrating General Electric’s latest Steam-and-Dry iron. Those were the days.

Last but by no means least is Carrotblanca, the Looney Tunes homage starring Bugs as Bogie, Tweety as Lorre, Sylvester as Henreid, Yosemite Sam as Veidt, Pepe Le Pew as Rains and many other Looney Tunes characters in their own version of the classic.

The set is available in two forms. Basically you can just get the two discs, but if you’re a real fan and want to go the extra yard (and to the extra expense) there is a Collector’s Box Set comprising the two discs plus 8 reproductions of the original motion picture lobby cards, a set of 6 limited edition black and white publicity photos, a collectible film Senitype (image from the film and 35mm film frame) and a reproduction of the original US cinema poster (27″ x 40″ – one sheet).

Either way, it’s two discs of sheer magic, and a must-have for any self-respecting Cinephile.

Special Features:
New Digital Transfer
Introduction By Lauren Bacall
Commentary By Roger Ebert And Rudy Behlmer
Theatrical Trailer
Deleted Scenes
Out Takes
Making Of Casablanca Documentary
Bacall On Bogart Documentary
The Children Remember Documentary
Looney Tunes Carrotblanca
First Episode From 1955 TV Series Casablanca
Radio Production With The Three Stars
Scoring Session Outtakes
Production History Gallery
Press Materials
Studio Correspondence Memorabilia

Based on the play ‘Everybody Comes to Rick’s’ by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison

Humphrey Bogart …. Rick Blaine
Ingrid Bergman …. Ilsa
Paul Henreid …. Victor Laszlo
Claude Rains …. Capt. Renault
Conrad Veidt …. Maj. Strasser
Sydney Greenstreet …. Signor Ferrari
Peter Lorre …. Ugarte
S.K. Sakall …. Carl
Madeleine LeBeau …. Yvonne
Dooley Wilson …. Sam

Director: Michael Curtiz
Producer: Hal Wallis

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