Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Casablanca - 70th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray review

There is, of course, no such thing as a perfect movie. There’s always a little visual flub that got past a cinematographer or an editor, or there will be a bit of dialogue that doesn’t jive with reality. Such things are part and parcel of the art and business of filmmaking, after all.

(C) 2012 Warner Home Video
For instance, history-savvy "Casablanca" fans often wonder why the Nazis would honor letters of transit signed by Gen. Charles De Gaulle. De Gaulle, after all, was considered a traitor by the French collaborative government in Vichy. A more accurate script would have mentioned General Weygand as the issuer of the letters of transit.

However, there are a handful of movies that are so good that they’re considered perfect even if they have flaws, and 1942’s Best Picture winner “Casablanca” is one of them.

Written by Julius and Philip Epstein with Howard Koch, the screenplay is based on the stage play "Everybody Comes to Rick's" by Murray Burnett and Joan Allison. Part love story, part propaganda film, “Casablanca” tells a dramatic story of refugees fleeing from war-torn Europe to the city of Casablanca in French Morocco.

It is December 1941. Most of Morocco is under the control of Vichy France. Ostensibly neutral in World War II, Vichy France is nevertheless a German vassal state, as the arrival of Major Strasser (Conrad Veldt) clearly demonstrates.

Strasser's mission in Casablanca: to stop Czech underground leader Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) from obtaining one of two exit visas stolen from two murdered German couriers and escaping from the Gestapo.

Major Strasser has tracked Laszlo after his escape from a Nazi concentration camp all the way to North Africa. A Nazi Party loyalist to the core, Strasser is determined to capture the Czech resistance leader once and for all.

Accompanying Laszlo is the beautiful Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), whom he married in secret before he was captured by the Gestapo in 1940. Devoted to her husband and his great cause, Ilsa has been at his side since Laszlo's miraculous escape and sudden reappearance in Paris.

Unbeknownst to Laszlo, however, his fate will now rest in the hands of an American ex-pat, Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart). Owner of the Cafe Americain saloon, Rick is a multifaceted character – tough and sardonic on the outside, yet decent and compassionate beneath the cynical shell he presents to the world.

Rick has two reasons for not helping Laszlo escape: First, he is trying to maintain a state of neutrality with the Vichy French to keep his saloon open. Second, he and Ilsa had had a brief but torrid romance during a time in which Laszlo was reported dead after his escape from Nazi authorities.

Now, in the eve of America's entry into World War II, Victor Laszlo's fate hangs on the conflicting emotions felt by both Rick and Ilsa, as well as the shifting loyalties of French police Capt. Louis Renault (Claude Rains).

The Oscar-winning screenplay for “Casablanca” contains a wonderful mixture of romance, intrigue, drama and comedy, the latter provided both by colorful characters and witty exchanges. The Epstein twins and co-writer Howard Koch wrote clever lines of dialogue that have become part of the American cultural lexicon.

Captain Renault: Rick, there are many exit visas sold in this café, but we know that you've never sold one. That is the reason we permit you to remain open.
Rick: Oh? I thought it was because I let you win at roulette.
Captain Renault: That is another reason.

Academy Award-winning director Michael Curtiz and producer Hal B. Wallis made “Casablanca” as one of many movies produced in 1942, never knowing that it would become a classic of Hollywood's Golden Era.

Warner Home Video and Turner Entertainment have released “Casablanca” on DVD and Blu-ray several times since 1998. The latest release on Blu-ray, 2012’s “Casablanca: 70th Anniversary Edition” is a one-disc set that contains:

  • · A 4K resolution scan digitally remastered version of “Casablanca”
  • · “Michael Curtiz: The Greatest Director You Never Heard Of”
  • · “Casablanca: An Unlikely Classic”
  • · Introduction by Lauren Bacall
  • · Two audio commentaries, one by Roger Ebert, the other by film historian Rudy Behlmer
  • · “Warner Night at the Movies”
  • · “Great Performances: Bacall on Bogart”
  • · “You Must Remember This: A Tribute to Casablanca”
  • · “As Time Goes By: The Children Remember”
  • · Deleted scenes
  • · Outtakes and cartoons of the period
  • · Audio scoring stage sessions
  • · A recording of the Vox Pop radio broadcast version aired on November 19. 1947
  • · Theatrical trailers