Is there a more famous line in cinema that packs as big a punch?
CASABLANCA is full of unforgettable moments like this. Itís a classic story on every levelóa film of its time that remains just as memorable, relevant and enjoyable 70 years later.
The fantastic script, chock full of wonderful characterization and smart writing, perfectly balances the historical drama and heartbreaking romance and rounds everything out with touches of suspense and even humor. CASABLANCA is also easily one of the most quotable films ever made, with lines that have crossed in to everyday lexicon and reference. It wasnít until my most recent viewing that I realized the term ďusual suspectsĒ likely may have originated from Captain Renaultís one unremarkable line.
As good as the writing on the page is, itís the brilliant cast of international actors that really sells it. And what can be said about Bogart and Bergman in this film, except perfection? Rick Blaine is a strong man, but not an obvious one, and Bogart plays it very subtly in a performance that simmers and speaks volumes without actually saying a lot. The actor had not done a lot of romantic roles before this but his chemistry with Bergman is undeniable. Ilsa is a surprisingly strong character given her gender and the time period, and Bergman plays her with grace and just the right amount of vulnerability. Together the pair makes it nearly impossible to not completely buy in to their relationship. The brief flashback to Rick and Ilsaís life together in Paris is enough to carry the conflict throughout the film and make the ending that much more powerful.
Everyone else in the cast, from Paul Henreid as the stoic Victor Lazlo to Claude Rainsí Renault, does great work. (My love for the amazing Peter Lorre always made wish his slimy Ugarte had more screentime.) Many of the actors in CASABLANCA were European exiles themselves, which adds a meaningful undercurrent for future viewings. And itís easy to forget that the film came out while WORLD WAR II was still going on, so while it romanticizes the characters and situations in the way that truly great cinema can, the subject matter probably hit close to home for both the actors and the audience, offering a heartbreaking moment of hope and relief from the world around them. Itís just one of the things that makes CASABLANCA unique and (hopefully) untouchable in cinematic history.
Introduction by Lauren Bacall: Though she had nothing to do with the movie itself, Bacall was married to Bogart, so I suppose sheís somewhat qualified to welcome you to the film.
Commentaries: There are two commentaries available with the film, one with critic Roger Ebert and one with historian Rudy Behlmer. As both men are experts in their field, both tracks are rich with great information about the movieís production and legacy, and neither steps on the otherís toes. Sadly itís impossible to hear from all the major players from the film itself, so this is the next best thing. If you have the time, I donít think youíll be disappointed.
Warner Night at the Movies: This is great! Want to watch CASABLANCA as if you had been in the theater opening night? Select this option and you get nearly an hour of pre-feature entertainment including old trailers, newsreels from the war, a vaudeville short, and three Merrie Melodies cartoons. Itís a bit long, but I think any real film fan weíll appreciate this immersive element.
Great Performances: Bacall on Bogart: This nearly 90 minute documentary covers all aspects of the actorís life, from his work onscreen to his life off of it. If youíre a fan of the man, this is a must-watch.
Michael Curtiz: The Greatest Director You've Never Heard Of: Sadly, this is pretty accurate. Though he directed this classic movie, you might not recognize Curtizís name. In this feature, which clocks in over half an hour, other filmmakers from Steven Spielberg to William Friedkin, and other experts sit down to talk about the director.
CASABLANCA: An Unlikely Classic: Spielberg, Friedken and friends returns for this half-hour featurette about pretty much everything about the movie, from the production to the release to its long lasting legacy. Itís funny to think that the movieís success was unexpected.
You Must Remember This: A Tribute to Casablanca: Compared to the other special features, this is skippable. At 35 minutes it does go in to detail in its love for the movie, but covers similar ground.
As Time Goes By: The Children Remember: A quick chat with the children of the actors, including Stephen Bogart. Itís short and gives a different perspective than you might be used to.
You Must Remember This: The Warner Bros. Story: This documentary about the history of the studio behind CASABLANCA is FIVE HOURS LONG! Itís pretty incredible, with participation from esteemed critics and filmmakers, including narrator Clint Eastwood. The whole thing is broken in to five parts which makes it more manageable. If you have the time and love movies, I think youíll find some interesting stuff here.
The Brothers Warner: Who were the actual brothers behind the studio (not Yakko and Wakko). Find out all about them in this hour and a half documentary on their rise to power and legacy.
Jack L. Warner: The Last Mogul: Another hour long doc about another studio head. Itís cool for film history buffs, but not really about CASABLANCA.
Additional Footage: You get a few deleted scenes (with no audio) and a Looney Tunes parody of the film.
Audio Only Content: Listen to a few radio broadcasts about the movie, as well as some musical numbers from the film.
A Trailer for the movie is also included.
Extra Tidbit: Apparently Jack Benny has a quick cameo in this movie, but Iíve never been able to find it.