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DVD Reviews

HTF Review: Casablanca - 2 Disc SE (Highly Recommended)

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#1 of 50 OFFLINE   Herb Kane

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Posted July 30 2003 - 12:35 PM

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Casablanca: 2 Disc Special Edition

Studio: Warner Brothers
Year: 1943
Rated: PG
Film Length: 102 Mins.
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: DD Mono
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish

The Feature:
To commemorate the 60th anniversary of the release of Casablanca, Warner Brothers has released a 2-disc Special Edition set of one the best motion pictures ever made. Arguably, “the” best. Although the AFI puts it at #2, my vote would have it in top spot. This is one of my favorite movies starring perhaps, my favorite actor of the era; Humphrey Bogart. To say that I am excited to start off my Warner reviews with this movie in particular, would be an understatement. In fact, I’d say it’s almost intimidating.

Warner has given us a beautiful 2 disc set with gorgeous cover art (similar to the many SE’s they have already released). On disc one is the feature sporting an all new digital transfer and two commentaries featuring critic Roger Ebert and historian Rudy Behlmer. The disc is introduced by Lauren Bacall. The second disc hosts the bonus material which I’ll get into further into the review.

For those not familiar with the movie (and I can’t imagine there are many…), the movie starts with a short geography lesson explaining Morocco’s geographical importance during the Second World War. During that time, Casablanca was seen as a refuge for many of the local (and not so local) miscreants to plot and scheme. Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) is the owner of Rick’s Café who seems to have all the right connections, and is a sucker for the underdog. After a couple of Germans are killed and robbed of some important travel papers, it’s almost common knowledge that Rick would be the one to see for anyone wanting to escape the clutches of the Third Reich. Everything becomes very complicated when Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) shows up needing papers to escape to freedom in America. There’s just one problem. The lady who has accompanied him, his wife Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), was once in love with Rick. Rick is forced to decide whether or not to allow his ex-love to leave with her husband to the freedom that awaits them in America, or to save himself.

Generally, I find movies of this era rather easy to differentiate in terms of audio quality and this is no exception. I was concerned (to say the least) when I first popped in the disc as the menu contained a great deal of hiss. The DD mono track during the film however, is very solid. During the movie, there was no hiss whatsoever. I found some of the gunshots and plane scenes to be almost dynamic in nature. In particular, the scene where Rick and Capt. Renault (Claude Rains) are sitting on a patio and a plane takes off just over their seating area. It sounds quite full and robust. Dialogue is exceptionally clear. Something else I find with many of the older films, is the lack of consistency where the audio (or video) changes part way through the movie. This was not the case. The audio is very pleasing from start to finish.

This is where the disc really shows off. I really had no idea what to expect in terms of the new transfer and the previous version. The version I had was the MGM release from 1998. I don’t know if the transfer from the MGM version or the last WB version is the same, but when compared to this new set, there was a difference of day and night. I found the scene in chapter 3 to be the most revealing where the plane is landing. The amount of grain in the sky is almost unbearable. The new version is beautiful. I found the new transfer to be very film like with an almost 3-D like appearance, especially for many of the outdoor scenes. The image is very sharp and detailed. Contrast is excellent with great black levels. I could not detect any dirt, video noise and the shadow detail was exceptional. Having said all of that, I did detect a slight (and I mean very slight) amount of grain. I don’t think the amount of grain could be any less noticeable and I suspect the only reason I am seeing it is the fact I am projecting on a 96” screen. Let me emphasize, this is not a grainy transfer and I was extremely satisfied. It is simply not as “digital looking” (which, obviously, isn’t necessarily a good thing) as a few of the recent releases i.e. Sunset Boulevard. I believe this will look outstanding on an average size RPTV.

Special Features:
The folks at Warner have pulled out all the stops on the special features on this set. There is an amazing amount of special features and extras. On disc one, along with the feature, included are the following supplements:

-Commentaries by film critic Roger Ebert and film historian Rudy Behlmer
-A Cast Worth Remembering. An interesting set of notes on the various cast members and other projects they worked on.
-Other Legendary Titles Available from Warner Brothers
-Cast & Crew
-Theatrical Trailer
-Re-Release Theatrical Trailer 1992

On disc two, the following supplements can be found:

-The Children Remember
-Additional Scenes
-Scoring Stage Sessions
-Bacall on Bogart
-You Must Remember This: A Tribute To Casablanca (narrated by Lauren Bacall)
-Screen Guild Theater
-Radio Show – 1943
-Television Adaptation 1955; Who Holds Tomorrow
-Carrotblanca (Warner Brother animated short)
-Production Research

Final Thoughts:
This is truly an exceptional set. It’s amazing how this format keeps progressing since I was basically satisfied with my current version…. that is, until I popped this one in. This is a must buy for any film buff or any library. Highly Recommended!

Release Date: August 5th, 2003
My Top 25 Noirs:

25. 711 Ocean Drive (1950), 24. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), 23. Desperate (1947), 22. Pushover (1954), 21. The Blue Dahlia (1946), 20. The File on Thelma Jordon (1949), 19. He Ran All the Way (1951), 18. The Asphalt Jungle (1950), 17. The Killing (1956), 16. I Walk Alone (1948),...

#2 of 50 OFFLINE   Lou Sytsma

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Posted July 30 2003 - 01:54 PM

Thanks Herb. From one Canuck to another great first review! Helps when you start with a movie of this calibre.

Added another must buy to my list.

BTW - excellent formatting of your review into clearly defined sections.Posted Image
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#3 of 50 OFFLINE   Tim Glover

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Posted July 30 2003 - 01:57 PM

Nice review Herb. Already pre-ordered this classic. Can't wait until next week. Posted Image

#4 of 50 OFFLINE   LarryE


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Posted July 30 2003 - 02:45 PM

Great review! I shockingly have not seen this movie (Please don't revoke my membership, or send me hate mail), but I plan to buy it when it streets. I'm just getting into older films, but I loved Lawrence of Arabia, and Citizen Kane. I'm sure I will love this one as well.

#5 of 50 OFFLINE   Adam_S



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Posted July 30 2003 - 03:03 PM

This is an auto-buy for me regardless. Glad to hear the audio and video are up to scratch. Any thoughts on the commentaries and extras?

#6 of 50 OFFLINE   Nick Senger

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Posted July 30 2003 - 04:17 PM

This will be my first ever double dip, but it will be worth it!

#7 of 50 OFFLINE   Eric Brunton

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Posted July 30 2003 - 05:05 PM

Don't worry Larry, I haven't seen this movie either (Please no hate mail!) . However, I am excited about getting this disc on a blind purchase because I have heard so many great things about the film. I have seen LOA and am getting ready to watch CK and Casablanca, can't wait!

#8 of 50 OFFLINE   Chris Farmer

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Posted July 30 2003 - 05:27 PM

Blind buy for me on the street date. Never seen it, but I'd rather skip the rental phase cause I'm sure I'll buy this one anyway.

#9 of 50 OFFLINE   oscar_merkx


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Posted July 30 2003 - 07:07 PM

a must buy and thanks for the review

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#10 of 50 OFFLINE   Gordon McMurphy

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Posted July 30 2003 - 10:30 PM

Good review, Herb. Posted Image Posted Image

I received mine today. I'll watch it tonight.

Beautiful, masterly filmed classic.


#11 of 50 OFFLINE   Steve Christou

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Posted July 31 2003 - 12:32 AM

Thanks for the review, one of my absolute favorites, have watched it at least once a year for the past 20 years, looking forward to recieving my copy soon.

Coming soon from WB - Treasure of the Sierra Madre [oooh], Yankee Doodle Dandy [aaah], Adventures of Robin Hood [wahay!], and 2-disc special editions! [faints]Posted Image

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#12 of 50 OFFLINE   Ric Easton

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Posted July 31 2003 - 02:24 AM

Herb, What a great way to start your reviews. Anything after this is gonna be anticlimatic for you! I already have the earlier release... you just sold me on the new one. Ric

#13 of 50 OFFLINE   Tony Whalen

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Posted July 31 2003 - 02:59 AM

Great review Herb!

I'm convinced!

I'll be picking this up...maybe not today...maybe not tomorrow, but soon. Posted Image (sorry... couldn't resist.)

#14 of 50 OFFLINE   Matt Butler

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Posted July 31 2003 - 08:12 AM

Already sold my old bare-bones 98 MGM release of this in anticiaption of this new one. Thinking about the Robin Hood SE as well.
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#15 of 50 OFFLINE   Jon Robertson

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Posted July 31 2003 - 08:14 AM

Herb - do you think you could tell us anything about the extras that we can't already get from the back of the case?

#16 of 50 OFFLINE   Dome Vongvises

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Posted July 31 2003 - 08:39 AM


#17 of 50 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted July 31 2003 - 10:16 AM

...Of all the forums in all the world he had to post in mine...

Nice review. Glad to hear the image looks so outstanding on a front projection system. BRAVO. Can't wait to get my *own* 100" screen up over the next year and *really* start to review!!!

I'll tell ya Herb...You've really got the reviews crankin' out! Wish I could "spread around" the abundance and get Disney to send me some cool flicks to review and fast!

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#18 of 50 OFFLINE   andrew markworthy

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Posted July 31 2003 - 08:06 PM

Agree wholeheartedly with Herb's review (though I think you were a *little* harsh on the previous DVD, Herb). The Ebert commentary is excellent. He's very good at pointing out plot flaws and other weaknesses without spoiling enjoyment. I also loved the 'Carrotblanca' short cartoon (keep your eyes peeled for some of the background signs and writing - the Eleanor Roosevelt joke in particular is superb).

#19 of 50 OFFLINE   Jeff Swearingen

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Posted July 31 2003 - 11:30 PM

Can someone please compare this to the single disc WB release? The only reviews I have seen online compare the MGM version with this SE. I am really interested in if the transfer is significantly better than the WB single disc version.

#20 of 50 OFFLINE   Gordon McMurphy

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Posted August 01 2003 - 02:01 AM

Jeff, the previous Warner edition's transfer is identical to the MGM edition - the exact same transfer. The film's rights passed to Warner - as all pre-1986 MGM (but not United Artist film still owned by MGM) and they just repackaged those film - including Casablanca in their own much-dreaded snapper cases.

But a comparison will be up at www.dvdbeaver.com this weekend - says so here: http://www.hometheat....&pagenumber=12

Now, if only Tooze can get a Halloween comparsion up on his site...


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