“Hey, wait a minute,” you might be saying. “Didn’t Warner Bros. release a special edition of ‘Casablanca’ just five years ago, in celebration of the movie’s 60th birthday?”
The answer is yes, yes they did — but five years after “Casablanca” turned 60, wouldn’t you know it, Warner Bros. has turned 85, and since this is not only one of the studio’s finest films but one of the greatest movies ever made, it stands to reason that a silly old two-disc special edition is no longer enough. Now the true movie buff needs to get his hands on the brand new, three-DVD Ultimate Collector’s Edition.
Much as it might look like it, this isn’t simply a case of a studio soaking its customers with endless slightly different “deluxe” configurations of a film. For all intents and purposes, the latest version of “Casablanca” is the same as the Special Edition: Two of the three DVDs — the important ones, featuring the film and the special features — are holdovers from the 2003 release, and everything else that’s been added is nifty enough, but probably lacks the cool factor that’ll send “Casablanca” fans marching into their local Best Buys, red-faced with shame and anger.
The third DVD consists of “Jack Warner: The Last Mogul,” an hourlong documentary directed in 1993 by Warner’s grandson, Gregory Orr. It’s interesting enough, but relates to “Casablanca” only tangentially, as it covers Warner’s life and times more or less completely (albeit without a lot of depth, which is to be expected, given its abbreviated length). The rest of the Ultimate special features aren’t on the DVDs — they’re assorted bits of swag that have been bundled into the box, including a “Casablanca” passport and luggage tag, a 48-page book with tons of photos and an essay, seven replica posters, and a handful of studio letters and memos pertaining to the film. They’re all nicely made, and owning them will doubtless be appealing to hardcore fans of the movie, but they aren’t the sort of crucial, revelatory added content that would render the Special Edition irrelevant.
Of course, if you love “Casablanca” and don’t already own the Special Edition, this will be the version you want to buy; it looks damn handsome on the shelf, and the 2003 transfer and bonus features (which include everything from featurettes, deleted scenes and bloopers to the animated short “Carrotblanca”) are befitting of a legendary movie like this one. Best of all, it’s currently on sale at Amazon for just under $40, which probably isn’t much more than you paid for that Special Edition copy of “The Incredible Hulk” that’s being used as a coaster in your living room.