It’s “Casablanca.” Do I need to say anything else? Maybe you think it’s a mushy “chick flick,” but all I can say is this: Rent it sometime. You don’t have to tell anyone you did it. You can watch it when your girlfriend or wife isn’t around, and you can tell your friends that you’re busy taking in “300” or something. It’s cool; I won’t tell anyone.
You may not like it enough to want this Ultimate Collector’s Edition, which once again shows the love and care Warner Bros. puts into its classic films, but hopefully you’ll at least appreciate its fine storytelling. It’s like drinking a great wine or an import beer; indulge yourself every once in a while. And you can hide it so no one knows that you really like it.
But if you love, love, love this movie, then you’ll want this set, even if you already have the two-disc Special Edition contained in it. You also get a third disc with a documentary about Jack Warner, as well as a bunch of physical extras: seven replicas of “Casablanca” movie posters, three replicas of lobby cards, and three replicas of Warner Bros. documents (a memo about turning around the gangster persona Bogart had at the time, a memo about changing the title from “Everybody Comes to Rick’s,” and a memo to Jack Warner in support of Bogart over George Raft, who was the original choice to play Rick). There’s also a 48-page hardcover photo book, a replica of the letter of transit prop, and a passport holder and luggage tag with the film’s logo on them.
“Jack Warner: The Last Mogul,” a documentary made by his grandson in 1993, runs almost an hour and covers his early days with his brothers all the way through his last days with the studio in the 1960s. In between, Warner cheated on two spouses, fought with his brothers for control of the company, put his weight behind World War II and the Cold War, and engaged in no-holds-barred business dealings that produced some of the most memorable movies of all time but also tweaked more than a few noses. His immoral involvement in the House Un-American Activities Committee also ended the careers of several screenwriters, an event that, like many other controversial ones, is presented without gloss. Warner probably wouldn’t have liked that if he had lived to see the film, but I bet he would have secretly admired his grandson’s willingness to lay everything bare.
As for the two-disc Special Edition of “Casablanca,” it remains a must-have for those who enjoy this movie but maybe don’t love it so much that they need replicas of props and the Jack Warner documentary. It’s still available, so grab a copy if you get a chance. You get a pair of commentaries, one with Roger Ebert and the other with film historian Rudy Behlmer, along with a host of bonus materials on disc two, including two documentaries (one about the movie, one about Bogey) hosted by Bogart’s widow, Lauren Bacall, additional scenes and outtakes, a Bugs Bunny homage cartoon, the premiere episode from the 1955 TV series adaptation of the film, and a radio adaptation.
It’s all good stuff, although you’ll want to listen to the commentaries to really get to the meat of the movie and its impact on both popular culture and filmmaking; both commentaries are worthwhile as they don’t tread too much on the same territory. The Bacall documentaries are a bit glossy, as you might imagine, and I could have lived without the TV series episode. However, you need to look at it all in one package to get the big picture view on the legacy of “Casablanca,” and these two discs accomplish that. The Warner documentary on disc three and the various keepsakes are just icing on the cake.