Casablanca: The Greatest Film Ever Made on 4K Ultra HD

Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Casablanca, the greatest film ever made, finally makes its arrival on 4K Ultra HD in honor of the film’s 80th anniversary in November.

The 4K UHD upgrade is thanks to a 2022 4K 16bit film scan of the best-surviving nitrate film elements. Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging meticulously handles the restoration and remastering process. Let me tell you right now that this film is certainly as beautiful as it has ever been.

The film’s bonus features are all legacy features from previous releases. One of the documentaries on director Michael Curtiz certainly complements Alan K. Rode’s recent biography. The Warner Night at the Movies features allows you to reimagine yourself in 1942. Your home might not be a movie palace but it’s the next best thing to taking a time machine to watching the film in its heyday. If you’ve previously purchased the 70th Anniversary Collector’s Edition, it’s probably best to hold onto it. The edition also includes documentaries that are not included with the new release. The classic film’s arrival on 4K UHD is better late than never but it is certainly a must-own.

What follows is my original review from 2020:

Almost 80 years after Warner Bros. released the film in theaters, Casablanca remains one of the greatest films of all time.

Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman put in performances that would also define both of their careers. It was a match made in heaven in casting the film. A love story that was also doomed from the very beginning.

Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), who remains neutral, runs Rick’s Café Americain. It’s December 1941 and this is before the United States entered World War II. The cafe attracts clientele from both sides–some of whom are also wanting to make their way to the United States. One such client manages to also get his hands on letters of transit.  Such letters give someone the freedom to travel around German-occupied Europe. It isn’t surprising that there are other people who want their hands on the letters.

Of course, everything changes for Rick when Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) walks into the joint. All it takes is Sam (Dooley Wilson) playing “As Time Goes By.” Ilsa is trying to escape to the US with her husband, the Czech Resistance leader, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid). While Rick and Ilsa have a history, it’s their history that maybe clouds his own judgement. This is one of the most iconic films of all time so chances are likely that you already know what happens next. It’s also one of the greatest love stories of all time from a certain point of view.

Make no mistake that Michael Curtiz is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. He may not have been the most friendly filmmaker but this didn’t stop people from continuing to work with him. Production on Casablanca started in the summer after the US entered World War II. The November 1942 release came just after the Allied invasion of French North Africa and the Naval Battle of Casablanca in Operation Torch. Come 1943, the film was just as timely with the Casablanca Conference between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British PM Winston Churchill. And yet, it was just one of maybe 50 films that Warner Bros. had in production in 1942. Studios were a factory at this point in time and nobody really knew which films would hit and which would land as duds. Everything just happened to come together for this one and Casablanca became a masterpiece.

One starts to notice more and more things with additional viewings. For instance, Arthur Edeson’s cinematography plays a lot with shadows. Much like Ernst Lubitsch has his own style, the same is true for Michael Curtiz. Shadows play a big part of his movies and it’s never more true than in the relationship between Rick and Ilsa. Edeson hadn’t been a stranger to Bogart, having shot him in The Maltese Falcon. When it comes to Bergman, she couldn’t be more gorgeous on screen as Edeson shoots her from the left side.

I can’t write this review and not discuss Max Steiner’s score. If Steiner had his way, “As Time Goes By” would not even be in the film. Unfortunately for him, Ingrid Bergman had already cut her hair for her role in For Whom the Bells Toll. As such, Steiner was left with no other choice but to incorporate the tune into the Casablanca score. The song isn’t the only one recurring as a leitmotif as French national anthem “La Marseillaise” also recurs throughout the film, reflecting the mood. Meanwhile, one of the best scenes in the film is when Strasser and Laszlo have their duel of the anthems. The tears on the screen are real. By this time, many Jews and other Europeans had left their homes for America because of fascism. The casting adds something that might not have been in the film otherwise.

Who would have ever thought that an unproduced play, Everybody Comes to Rick’s, from Murray Burnett and Joan Alison would become one of the greatest films ever made? It certainly helps that the casting fell into place. Perhaps what is the most surprising about the film’s production is the shooting of scenes not knowing what is coming next. I would not say that the film was rushed into production but one must wonder if a polished script would have given us these results. Given the circumstances, Michael Curtiz certainly did a brilliant job behind the camera. It also speaks to the brilliance of screenwriters Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, and Howard Koch. While not credited in the film, we also have Casey Robinson to thank as well. When it comes to the film’s ending, the only solution is Rick letting Ilsa and Victor leave together.

This film is also a gem of a beauty that continually grows iconic with time. When you think about the top ten–or even five–films of all time, you’ll certainly be hard pressed to find a list that doesn’t contain Casablanca. And yet, here we are admiring the direction, acting, writing, music, etc. As for the film’s design, bar a sequence shot at the Van Nuys airport, everything is on a soundstage or Warner Bros. backlot. It makes Casablanca the city more magical than it actually is–don’t take my word for it but watch the bonus documentaries included with the Blu-ray!

With six of the greatest lines ever, make no mistake that the Oscar-winning screenplay is probably the best one ever:

  • “Here’s looking at you, kid.”
  • “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
  • “Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By.'”
  • “Round up the usual suspects.”
  • “We’ll always have Paris.”
  • “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”

Casablanca is like fine wine–the film only gets better with time.

Bonus Features (Blu-ray and Digital)

  • Commentary by Roger Ebert (Also 4K)
  • Commentary by Rudy Behlmer (Also 4K)
  • Introduction by Lauren Bacall (Also 4K)
  • Warner Night at the Movies
    • Now, Voyager trailer
    • Newsreel
    • Vaudeville Days (1942 WB short)
    • The Bird Came C.O.D. (1942 WB cartoon)
    • The Squawkin’ Hawk (1942 WB cartoon)
    • The Dover Boys at Pimento University (1942 WB cartoon)
  • Great Performances: Bacall on Bogart (1988 PBS special)
  • Michael Curtiz: The Greatest Director You’ve Never Heard Of
  • Casablanca: An Unlikely Classic
  • You Must Remember This: A Tribute to Casablanca (1992 TEC documentary)
  • As Time Goes By: The Children Remember
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Outtakes
  • Who Holds Tomorrow? (1955 “Casablanca” TV episode)
  • Carrotblanca (1955 WB Cartoon)
  • Scoring Stage Sessions (audio only)
  • Lady Esther Screen Guild Theater Radio Broadcast – 4/26/43 (audio only)
  • Vox Pop Radio Broadcast – 11/19/47 (audio only)
  • Trailers

DIRECTOR:  Michael Curtiz
SCREENWRITERS:  Julius J. Epstein and Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch
CAST:  Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, S.Z. Sakall, Madeleine LeBeau, Dooley Wilson, Joy Page, John Qualen, Leonid Kinskey, Curt Bois

Warner Bros. released Casablanca on November 26, 1942.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.