Friday, December 13, 2013

Casablanca (Two-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition) (2008)

CasablancaOne of the greatest movies ever and an enduring American classic is back for another DVD go-around! Say it isn't so. In 2003, I snapped up the impressive 2-Disc Special Edition DVD. In 2008, I couldn't resist going Blu-ray with the comprehensive Ultimate Collector's Edition. I didn't think that a few years later, Warner would be trumpeting an even more advanced collection. How many times are we expected to dip into the same well? I mean, I know it's "Casablanca" but when is enough actually enough? And to use their own terminology, when does ultimate really mean ultimate? I'm not going to synopsize the film or offer a traditional review, I suspect if you're shopping this pricey new version that you are well aware of the merits of the film itself. Instead, I will highlight what is included. Is it worth the upgrade? That's an individual answer, to be sure, but if you are an enthusiast who owns the Ultimate Collection or a casual viewer that already has the Blu-ray edition--the conclusion might indeed be "no." If, however, you have yet to go Blu on this title or are a compulsive completist/collector--now may be as good a time as any to pony up the bucks for this limited edition set.

Contents: This box set will be a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack with 3 discs, the third disc being dedicated to three feature length documentaries. It is a numbered Limited Edition, only 50,000 will be made available. The double wide display box contains several new collectibles including a 62 page production art book (with never before seen photos, communications, and archived documents about the film), a full size reproduction of the 1942 movie poster, and four drink coasters. I love this silly collectible stuff, but what is it with coasters in these deluxe sets?

Transfer: Both the DVD and Blu-ray are boasting new 2012 4K transfers. Arguably, this is the one aspect that might make me seriously recommend an upgrade. For my money, though, the previous Blu-ray release is extremely satisfying and competent. It is NOT a transfer that was begging for a polish.

NEW Special Features: 2 Documentaries (about 45 minutes of content total):

1) Casablanca: An Unlikely Classic

2) Michael Curtiz: The Greatest Director You Never Heard Of

Feature Length Documentaries On Third Disc (all previously released):

1) You Must Remember This: The Warner Bros. Story (2008)

2) The Brothers Warner (2008)

3) Jack L. Warner: The Last Mogul (1993)

OLD Special Features: Items from the Ultimate Collection will all be carried over. They include:

1) Commentary by Roger Ebert

2) Commentary by Rudy Behlmer

3) Introduction by Lauren Bacall

4) "Now Voyager" Trailer

5) Newsreel footage

6) Vaudeville Days short

7) The Bird Came C.O.D short

8) The Squawkin' Hawk short

9) The Dover Boys at Pimento University or The Rivals of Roquefort Hall

10) Great Performances: Bacall on Bogart

11) You Must Remember This: A Tribute to Casablanca

12) As Time Goes By: The Children Remember

13) Deleted Scenes

14) Outtakes

15) Who Holds Tomorrow?

16) Carrotblanca Vintage Cartoon

17) Scoring Stage Sessions

18) 4/26/43 Lady Esther Screen Guild Theater Radio Broadcast

19) 11/19/47 Vox Pop Radio Broadcast

As you can see, it is a comprehensive list of extras. All told, there is over 14 hours worth of material, but only about 45 minutes of it is new. Worth an upgrade? Probably not if you own the Ultimate, but you won't catch me giving "Casablanca" less than 5 stars. KGHarris, 2/12.

This 2009 release of "Casablanca" is identical to the 2003 Special Edition release, except it's packaged in a regular DVD case as opposed to the cardboard case of the original. The first disc contains two commentary tracks (one with Roger Ebert, one with historian Rudy Behlmer), a two-minute introduction by Lauren Bacall, and a gallery of trailers. The film transfer is also identical to the original release, but this film looks about as great as it possibly can on DVD.

The second disc contains the one hour and twenty minute 1988 "Bacall on Bogart" documentary and a thirty-five minute making-of documentary "You Must Remember This: A Tribute to Casablanca". Next is a seven minute feature with Bogart's son and Bergman's daughter titled "As Time Goes By: The Children Remember", along with the eight minute 1995 cartoon spoof "Carrotblanca". A selection of deleted scenes and outtakes, totalling about seven minutes, are of particular interest here (though there is no sound for any of them), and a "Production Research" gallery. Of lesser interest is the premiere episode from the 1955 "Casablanca" TV series titled "Who Holds Tomorrow?", it's a noble failure and clocks in at about nineteen minutes.

As far as special features go, the only thing the "Casablanca" Ultimate Collector's Edition has over this release is the hour-long 1993 documentary "Jack Warner: The Last Mogul" on a third disc. It's quite entertaining and informative, particularly for film buffs, but it's really the only reason to purchase the 'Ultimate' edition. That is, unless one cares about a small book of production photos, office memos, lobby & poster cards, and a passport holder and luggage tag emblazoned with "Casablanca".

Buy Casablanca (Two-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition) (2008) Now

Perhaps not in all of cinema's history has there been a movie with such brilliant writing, scoring, acting, and numbers of emotional close ups.

Casablanca is a legend of nearly 70 years, but thanks to Blu Ray technology it doesn't have to feel that way. Watching this classic in 1080p is truly an experience, and I have to praise Warner for providing us with the absolutely best possible transfer this film has ever seen. There's not a trace of grain or flicker or anything you'd expect from a film this old, and the result is stunning. If you've seen the movie before, it's time to relive with this remarkable new technology. If you've somehow missed it on TCM, get cultured and experience one of the greatest films in our history in a way no generation has ever been able to do. Blu Ray. It not only improves the viewing experience, but it invites the viewer right into the moment. With clarity as perfect as this, you forget you're even watching a film and instead feel as though you've tapped into the memories of the characters portrayed.

I don't feel the need to mention the movie's plot, as most I'm guessing have either already seen it before or can find that out elsewhere, so I want to end this review with what you are probably most wondering about anyway. Is the Blu Ray transfer worth buying this for? If I haven't made it clear enough already, YES. I've seen some poor Blu Rays transfers, but this is not one of them. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's one of the best I've seen. The extras, though I haven't experienced them yet, look interesting, including an audio commentary by movie critic Roger Ebert. All in all I'd say that this release is definitely worth getting even if Casablanca isn't your favorite movie of all time. It is a classic, and it is an experience, and with Blu Ray it's better than ever before.

Read Best Reviews of Casablanca (Two-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition) (2008) Here

It's hard to believe that when Casablanca was filmed at Warner Bros. Studios in 1942 it was "just another" of the 50 or so films that the studio was producing every year, as Lauren Bacall points out in the documentary about the film included in the special features. The movie was an instant success with audiences everywhere, and won three Academy Awards including Best Picture. Called "America's most popular and beloved movieand rightly so" by The Motion Picture Guide, and "The best Hollywood movie of all time" by Leonard Maltin, Casablanca was voted the #2 film in a list of the top 100 films of this century by the American Film Institute.

Set in refugee strewn French North Africa in 1942, Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), a night club owner, and his friend Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains), Prefect of Police, enter into a wager as to whether or not Resistance Leader Victor Laslo (Paul Henreid) will be able to escape Casablanca and reach the Free World. When Laslo arrives in Casablanca, Rick is stunned to find him accompanied by his ex-lover, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman). Filled with mystery, suspense, intrigue and romance, Casablanca will remain a favorite of classic movie lovers for years to come.

The supporting cast include Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and Dooley Wilson as Rick's piano playing confidant, Sam. The entire cast are superb, the settings are excellent, and the cinematogrophy is wonderful.

The song "As Time Goes By" was made famous by Casablanca, as it's melody is entwined throughout the film, and it too is now a classic, filled with romance and nostalgia.

This is one film that absolutely MUST be in your DVD library!

Want Casablanca (Two-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition) (2008) Discount?

Even after 70 years, the greatness of CASABLANCA remains timeless. This captivating classic, so vividly played out and cinematically crafted, is a textbook example of the Hollywood studio system at its absolute best.

The 70th Anniversary Blu-ray Edition restores the film's pictorial splendor, surpassing the previous version which used too much DNR. This time the film's inherent grain texture isn't smoothed away along with a measure of sharpness, but is evenly configurated resulting in perfect black and white image resolution that replicates 35mm film.

CASABLANCA is offered both as a Blu-ray/DVD special combo package and as a single Blu-ray disc. The big set comes with an array of bonus material, much of which was bumped over from the previous Blu-ray edition, including the commentaries by Roger Ebert and Rudy Behlmer. There's also some photographic and printed memorabilia, and a few new documentaries on the making of the film, on its director, Michael Curtiz, another on the history of Warner Bros., and one on its chief mogul, Jack L. Warner. The single Blu-ray has all the video/audio extras except the two Warner documentaries, and doesn't include any memorabilia items.

One of my all-time top favorites, CASABLANCA is a movie I enjoy playing again and again, and if that's true of you, then this upgrade is a must.

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