Blu-ray Review “Casablanca: 70th Anniversary Limited Collector’s Edition”

Directed by: Michael Curtiz
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt
Distributed by: Warner Home Video
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Release Date: March 27, 2012
Running Time: 102 minutes

Film: 5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Warner Bros. is becoming know for releasing these amazing Anniversary Limited Collector’s Edition Blu-rays. They did it last year with both “Ben-Hur” and “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”, both which were two of my favorite releases of the year. This 70th Anniversary Limited Edition Blu-ray release of “Casablanca” comes packaged in a large rectangle box and is jam packed with amazing collectibles. Inside the box, you get 3-disc Digipak with two Blu-rays and a standard DVD. There is a simply breathtaking 62-page hardcover book with rare production notes and really great behind-the-scenes photos and drawings. There are four drink coasters included but not just loose, they come in a sweet faux-leather collectable box. Lastly there is a 21 x 15-inch 1942 French theatrical mini movie poster. All that amazing stuff is just inside the box, we haven’t even talked about the more than thirteen hours of special features and the amazing Blu-ray transfer yet.

The video presentation of this 70 year old film looks beyond fantastic and really shines on Blu-ray. You can thank this stunning 1080p transfer to an all-new 4K scan and a very in-depth frame by frame restoration. The audio a decent DTS-HD Master Audio Mono 1.0 track. Even though it is a restored single-channel mix, I felt that the audio was great but just a little lacking with the dialogue. Overall still very impressive audio and visual, nonetheless.

The special features are split over two Blu-rays and the main downfall to this otherwise amazing release is that most are in standard definition. There are two commentaries, though none with principal cast or crew. The first with film critic Roger Ebert and the second with historian Rudy Behlmer. Both are still very interesting though and informative. The only HD feature on disc one is “Casablanca: An Unlikely Classic”, which runs about 35 minutes and is a newly produced documentary. Many notable talent speak about the film, its impact including like Steven Spielberg, William Friedkin and Rudy Behlmer. There is an introduction by Lauren Bacall speaking about Casablanca’s enduring appeal. “Warner Night at the Movies” runs just under an hour and dives into the 1940s experience of “Casablanca”. “Great Performances: Bacall on Bogart” runs just over 80 minutes and is a solid documentary on Bogart. “You Must Remember This: A Tribute to Casablanca” runs about 35 minutes and carries a bit of repeat from the last documentary on the film but still worth a watch. “As Time Goes By: The Children Remember” features Stephen Bogart and Pia Lindstrom as they discuss their parents and the effect the film has had on them. There is about 75 minutes of audio-only content including a 1943 “Lady Esther Screen Guild Theater Radio Broadcast”, a “VOX Pop Radio Broadcast” from 1947, a series of “Scoring Stage Sessions” featuring alternate versions of the a few songs. There is some additional footage included along with some deleted scenes, as well as outtakes, “Who Holds Tomorrow” (a “Casablanca” television remake), and “Carrotblanca,” a Looney Tunes parody of the film. Lastly on disc one there are the film’s original theatrical trailer and theatrical re-release trailer as well.

The second Blu-ray of special features contains less features but more content. “The Brothers Warner” is an hour and a half feature on Harry Warner and his brothers. It really goes behind the scenes about the brothers and about their process for creating films. It is also presented in high definition. The next feature is a real zinger racking in at almost five hours. “You Must Remember This: The Warner Bros. Story” is a five-hour documentary from director Richard Schickel and narrator Clint Eastwood. It focuses on Warner Bros, obviously. It is split over a few chapters include “A Rising Power (1923-1937),” “War and Peace (1937-1949),” “Age of Anxiety (1950-1969),” “Starting Over (1970-1990)” and “A Living Tradition (1988-2008)”. Lastly there is a feature, which runs about an hour called “Jack L. Warner: The Last Mogul” and looks into this legacy.

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Synopsis: 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 (Limited and Numbered) Edition looks like yet another beginning of a beautiful friendship with an unforgettable classic.

 

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