Casablanca Blu-ray Review

by AVForums
Movies & TV Review

5

Casablanca Blu-ray Review
SRP: £40.29

Picture

Opened up slightly at the top and bottom from it's original academy aspect ratio and given a 1080P makeover courtesy of a pristine VC-1 encode, the 1.33:1 picture on this Blu-ray disc is identical to the HD DVD version that was released a little while ago.

Lovingly restored but thankfully left in it's original black and white, you could be fooled into thinking that this film was made yesterday instead of 66 years ago. But what is the picture quality's biggest asset will be looked upon as it's biggest downfall by purists everywhere - the fact that the source has been DNR'd to remove any traces of grain - but I reckon it can be forgiven on this occasion.


There isn't much to report on the picture quality to be honest. The fact that all traces of print damage have disappeared and that the picture is blisteringly sharp is probably the biggest compliment that I can pay. Viewed on a 92” screen in all it's 4.3 glory, there really isn't a mark or blemish to be seen. The black and white levels are pretty much spot on and the amount of detail stays high in the many dark scenes. If I look this good when I'm 66, I'll not be complaining.

Casablanca

Sound

The sound has been given the same painstaking restoration that the picture went through and is presented here in Dolby Digital mono. To be honest, I don't think I would have it any other way - this film was made to exercise your centre speaker.

The restoration has removed any hiss that may have been present before and at the same time, the dialogue is pin sharp and easily audible.


I could try and draw out this section for a little longer - but I can't see the point. I think the biggest plus is that this film sounds like it's meant to. And that's fine by me.

Casablanca

Extras

Being an almost direct port from the aforementioned HD DVD, this Blu-ray disc is crammed to the gills with the same extras - I did say almost...being a special edition, there are few extras that differ from any previous release - and I'll cover those first.


The first thing to mention is the packaging. The set comes in a large cardboard package that slides off to reveal the contents. The cover of the box is cut to look like lace and through the lace is a gold leaf profile of Rick and Isla. However, though it looks fantastic, it's also a bit fiddly. There is a piece of card that runs down the back of the set detailing the contents inside - this flap is stuck to the top of the box with a blob of glue that, once unstuck, will never stick again. So once you've opened the treasure trove, you can never seal it again. Also, as you pull the white cover off, ensure you have the bottom cupped in your other hand otherwise the contents will fall onto the floor as mine did.


Casablanca leather passport holder and luggage tag - keeping in the traditions of the film (remember it is all about escaping from somewhere), Warner have given you your very own passport holder and luggage tag to use when you escape in the summer. They are just plain brown imitation leather with the Casablanca logo embossed on them and to be honest, I'll probably never use them, but it's the thought that counts!


Photobook of stills from the set. It also contains some of the concept artwork as well and is a very nice book to have for collectors.


An envelope containing posters and internal communications that would be called “memos” today. Some interesting snippets about Hedley Lemar in one of the memos from Hal Wallis to Jack Warner - it also contains ten full colour mini reproductions of the original film posters and some more stills from the film.


Now onto the discs themselves - I'll go against tradition here and start with the second disc in the set.

Jack L Warner - The Last Mogul (84.00 SD) is a documentary about one of the co-founders of Warner Brothers studios. Interestingly, the feature is made by his grandson, Gregory Orr. It's a fascinating look into the life of one of Hollywood's last big characters - you'll find out when you watch this exactly who did run tinseltown in those days...

Unfortunately, this second disc is a Region 1 encoded DVD. Those of you that wish to import this set from the US (as it's not currently available over here in the UK) will have to have a multi-region DVD player to watch it on. The Blu-ray disc that contains the film and the bulk of the extras is a Region free platter...


And contained on that disc are the same extras that came on the HD DVD...first up:


An introduction by Lauren Bacall. Mrs Humphrey Bogart does a rather bleary eyed intro to the movie itself. I found it a bit wet and I'm not sure the man himself would have approved.

Ms Bacall is filmed through a kind of haze and you sometimes worry about her disappearing into the fog.

Thankfully, the rest of the extras package more than make up for this misplaced intro


As Time Goes By - The Children Remember (06.46 SD) is a short piece featuring Bogart's son and Ms Bergman's daughter reminiscing the days when the film was made. Well worth a watch and actually gives away quite a lot - like the fact that Ingrid Bergman never really wanted to make the film in the first place.


Bacall On Bogart (83.28 SD) is a brilliant feature made in 1993 featuring Lauren Bacall telling us the story of Humphrey Bogart's life.

It's a bit like This Is Your Life without the red book at the end. It also contains clips from the majority of Bogeys films and is a must watch for any serious film lover.


You Must remember This: The Story Of Casablanca (34.39 SD) is an all too short featurette detailing how the film made it to the silver screen in the first place. If you've seen the film, you simply must watch this - it's worth the cost of the set alone.





Production Research is a Java based extra that allows the viewer to read various memos from the studio and view plenty of pictures from both on and off the set. If I have to nit pick, the actual shots are a little small; to read the writing, I had to stand in front of the screen. But again, there's some priceless material on here well worth watching.


Trailers for:

The Original Version

The 1992 Re-release

The Adventures Of Robin Hood With Errol Flynn


Additional Scenes contains two re-mastered scenes that were originally cut from the film. They are in very good condition but neither of them has any audio so both are subtitled. Also - neither of them are the lost alternate ending that was featured in an episode of The Simpsons...

There are also a couple of Out takes from the film as well - however, they too are silent and subtitled and, as such, lose some of the appeal that a normal out takes reel may have.


Television Adaptation from 1955 (18.50 SD). In the 1950's, Warner produced a short TV series in which some of the studios classics were shortened and brought up to date. Among the films to suffer - err - get the treatment were Cheyenne as well as Casablanca.

Brought to us by Chesterfield cigarettes - to put a smile into your smoking - they really needn't have bothered to be honest. Trying to cram the whole film in fifteen minutes and bring it into the cold war era just didn't work - but again, it's well worth a look.


Carrotblanca (08.03 SD) is a Looney Tunes short tribute to the film.

Starring Bugs as Rick and featuring Daffy, Pepe Le Pew and Tweety as Peter Lorres character, it's the best extra on the disc in my opinion. What the studio couldn't do in 1955 by trying to cram the film into fifteen minutes, they have succeeded in this cartoon - which was made in 1995.

Quite simply - brilliant.


Scoring Stage Sessions is an audio only feature which features live footage of the big musical numbers from the film being recorded. There's also a radio only version of the script in there as well that features the original cast.


And that - as they say - is that. It seems that just about everything that is available for this film has been included. On top of that, we're given a superb book, some stills to treasure and the (little to gimmicky) passport holder and luggage tag.

This is how an extras package should be done. More please.

Casablanca
A classic by the truest definition of the word, Casablanca has been given the super special edition treatment by Warner.

Packaged in a neat little box that's lovely to look at but a bit fiddly to handle, it comes with some nice little keep sakes in the form of a passport holder and luggage tag, a book containing stills from both on and off set and some nice pictures that you can frame if you wish. There's a new documentary that has only ever been released on VHS before about the man that virtually ran Hollywood from the silent era right up until about 1955 - Jack L Warner. It also comes with all the extras that appeared on the HD DVD and 2 disc SE SD DVD a little while ago - and that's not a bad thing.


Couple one of the best extras packages that I have ever seen with a lovingly restored picture, great sound and one of the finest films ever made, you owe it yourselves to own this timeless piece of cinema history before to much more Time Goes By...

Casablanca

Scores

Movie

10

Picture Quality

.
.
8

Sound Quality

.
.
8

Extras

10

Overall

.
9
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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