THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"CASABLANCA 70th ANNIVERSARY EDITION"
Everybody has a story about the first time they saw Casablanca. My original viewing was in 1989. I was 21 and had a close female friend who identified it as her all-time favorite movie. She was kind of appalled that I'd never seen it (so was I, actually), so one Sunday afternoon I sat in my bedroom and popped a copy of the film into the VCR. Needless to say, it was magnificent. Few films stand the test of time the way Casablanca has. The new 70th Anniversary Edition Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack (on sale March 27) is the kind of thing fans will totally geek out over. I say that from experience.
Packaged in a fancy – and surprisingly heavy – box, the 70th Anniversary Edition is numbered on the front; there are only 81,000 of these, which makes them a must-have for collectors. Inside are three discs. Disc 1 presents the movie in a newly remastered 4K scan, which makes it look better than ever. If you choose to do so, you can watch the great Lauren Bacall introduce the movie, or listen to one of the two audio commentaries from film historian Rudy Behlmer and film critic Roger Ebert. The other bonus features are abundant, to say the least. You get “Michael Curtiz: The Greatest Director You Never Heard Of,” a previously unreleased documentary detailing the filmmaker's career. Modern luminaries like Steven Spielberg offer thoughts on Curtiz's work and his importance to cinema. “Casablanca: An Unlikely Classic” is also brand new, and it focuses on the enduring legacy the movie has had. Both run around 35 minutes or so. The other documentaries on the disc were released on previous Blu-Ray/DVD versions. They are the 90-minute “Great Performances: Bacall on Bogart,” “You Must Remember This: A Tribute to Casablanca,” and “As Time Goes By: The Children Remember.”
Also on the Blu-Ray, you'll find fascinating deleted scenes and outtakes, audio scoring stage sessions, and a 1947 Vox Pop radio broadcast pertaining to the film. Last, but not least, is the awesome “Warner Night at the Movies” feature which provides you with the kind of pre-show entertainment (cartoons, newsreels, short subjects, previews, etc.) you'd have seen had you caught Casablanca during its original theatrical run. You just don't get that kind of experience today, which is why I've always been a fan of “Warner Night at the Movies.” There are hours and hours of material to peruse here, all of it of the highest quality.
Disc 2 is also a Blu-Ray, and it has three documentaries. “You Must Remember This: The Warner Bros. Story,” is a 2008 doc that, over the course of five hours, gives you an exhaustive history of both the studio and the films that shaped it. “The Brothers Warner,” also from 2008, focuses on the siblings who founded the studio. I reviewed it a few years ago, and found it to be extremely informative. Finally, there's “Jack L. Warner: The Last Mogul,” which goes even further in-depth into the life and career of the most famous (and some would say infamous) of the Warner brothers.
Disc 3 is Casablanca on DVD.
I think you can see just how crammed full of content this Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack is, but there's more. Some really fantastic physical goodies are packaged in the box, starting with a gorgeous 60-page hardcover production art book. Inside its pages are photos and documents related to the making of Casablanca, many of them never made public before now. A reproduction of the original 1942 theatrical poster is in there too, as are four collectable “Rick's Cafe Americain” drink coasters in a nice leather holder.
It goes without saying that Casablanca is one of the greatest films ever made, and the 70th Anniversary 3-Disc Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack is befitting of such a monumental film. Whether you want to see the movie for the first time or revisit it yet again, this is an impressive package certain to be a crown jewel in anyone's personal DVD collection.
Casablanca 70th Anniversary Edition - Own it on Blu-Ray March 27.
( out of four)
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