Top positive review
117 people found this helpful
on 24 February 2010
This is a review of the Blu-Ray quality, not of the film itself which is one of the all-time cinematic classics.
"Casablanca" on Blu-Ray is very beautiful to behold. It seems that the print was in very good condition and the transfer is very clear and detailed. Some shots do highlight the differences in cinematography and camera technology over time; so that, for example, when three people's faces are shown in close-up with the focus on one of them, the two faces out of focus are much more blurry than in modern films. This is a little disturbing at first, but you soon get used to it. And the face in focus, so often Ingrid Bergman's, is crystal clear and radiant with detail; the sparkling of her diamond earings is captured quite sublimely. An advantage for HD here is that the camera often allows itself much longer, still lingering shots than you would see in our impatient modern age. This allows the fine acting skills (of a generation that knew no Botox!) to be observed minutely and shows off the resolution of the image very nicely.
"Casablanca" is comfortably the oldest Blu-Ray I have seen (although "Metropolis" is rumoured to be on the way at the end of this year!) and yet very high up the quality ladder. It does not really have reference quality depth and plasticity, but the black/white contrasts are pretty good, and in general there is nothing to criticise in this subline transfer of a film getting on for 70 years old. It is perhaps worth mentioning though that the correct original aspect ratio of 4:3 will produce vertical black bars at the side of the image on your TV. I watched this with a projector and the bars are not really noticeable, but on a TV it might disturb a little; it does take more getting used to than the horizontal black bars because it makes the image seem a little 'thin'.
Speaking of 'thin' brings us, of course, to the Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtrack. Now, of course, the option of the original mono soundtrack should be offered to satify purists. But what would have been wrong with the additional option of a skilfully reworked surround track as seen on so many Disney BD releases e.g. "Snow White"? My receiver can synthesise a surround track, but the results produced by a team of dedicated engineers would have been much better - as a comparison with "Snow White" makes clear. And why on earth is the mono soundtrack compressed? A mono soundtrack is acceptable, but it should have been PCM, True HD or DTS HD Master Audio. The soundtrack maybe just about holds its own in a living room (depending on your expectations), but in a dedicated home cinema set-up it is a bit of a damp squib.
It goes against the grain not to give five stars, but the laziness behind this release on the audio front (imagine how 'La Marseillaise' might have sounded in lossless quality!) means that this five star film with five star visuals just has to relinquish one star because of the soundtrack. Should it ever get a re-release with a lossless soundtrack (preferably with a surround mix, but in mono would do) then I will delete this review and re-write a five star one!
I hope this is of some help to prospective BD purchasers. The disc is recommended, but be prepared for a soundtrack that leaves a lot to be desired.