Casablanca—Warner Brothers (HD DVD)
Unashamedly, this is my favorite movie of all time. From the dialogue, to the acting, to the story, everything about this movie is awesome. If you never have, you owe it to yourself to see it. The story centers around hardened bar owner Rick, a lost love, and sticking it to some Nazis, which always make for good entertainment. As usual with a superior movie like this one, it’s about all that and more.
So what is a 65-year-old, 1.33:1, black-and-white movie doing on HD DVD? Looking surprisingly good, actually. Four years ago, the film underwent a new transfer and restoration by the incredibly talented Lowry Digital Images (now DTS Digital Images) that also cleaned up Citizen Kane, North by Northwest, and others. The result is incredible. There is detail and contrast that hasn’t been seen since the film’s original release (and perhaps not even then). Sure, it’s not quite as detailed as more recent movies, and it’s a little grainy. Still, considering its age, it’s excellent. The audio (Dolby Digital Plus 1.0) doesn’t fare quite as well, as it sounds like it’s a bit compressed. Again, though, it’s better than we’ve heard before.
The extras are basically the same as those found on the 2003 DVD release. There’s commentary by Roger Ebert and a film historian, several documentaries, the pilot for the 1955 TV show, and—amazingly—outtakes and some extra scenes (without sound).
This one’s a no-brainer, even if it won’t show off your system.