Casablanca: Ultimate Collector’s EditionWarner Bros. (Blu-ray)
"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, whose only hope is Rick Blaine, a cynical American who sticks his neck out for no one - especially Victor's wife Ilsa, 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.
Warner finally delivers this classic to Blu-ray and in collector’s edition form. This was previously released onto HD DVD in movie only form but we finally see it on Blu. I’ve always found this film to be an interesting look at vintage Hollywood cinema. The story is solid enough but I wonder how well it would play to audiences if it was released today. The story is a bit simple and some of the themes don’t hold up as well in modern society as they did then in my opinion. Still it is a great production with moving performances and I’m glad to see Warner finally deliver it to Blu-ray.
Warner has done an impeccable job restoring this one for HD. The print doesn’t look like it has aged a day and holds up really well. Depth and dimension are outstanding for such an old release and contrast levels are pretty strong. Fine object detail doesn’t seem to be quite as stunning as I remember the HD DVD looking, but unfortunately I didn’t have the HD DVD on hand to do direct comparisons. Still there is no lack of detail in the shots and I didn’t notice any signs of noise reduction or motion blur. Considering its age, this is a sight to behold.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital mono and was a bit of a disappointment. It didn’t bother me at all that the mix is in mono but it seemed a bit low in overall volume. Dialogue was soft and even the film’s limited musical numbers didn’t have the range I was hoping for. The sound design was better than I was expecting for an old film but the track is pretty thin in range. Tonal balance for the dialogue is natural enough and imaging wasn’t an issue.
This release is absolutely loaded for the film collector and comes in a great white case that houses the discs along with a photo book full of production and film photos, cast info and production notes. You also get some one-sheet cards with different posters for the film and some correspondence work ups in theme with the film. The two-disc set includes two feature commentaries along with an introduction by the great Lauren Bacall. There are also two documentaries including one on Bogart and one that looks at the impact the film had on Hollywood. Some retrospectives are also included along with the first episode of the short lived TV series based on the film. One of the coolest features though is the audio-only radio broadcast of the film in three parts. The second disc is a DVD and features a documentary on Jack Warner and his rise in Hollywood.