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Casablanca

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All-Reviews.com Movie Review: Casablanca

Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman
Director: Michael Curtiz
Rated: PG
RunTime: 102 Minutes
Release Date: January 1943
Genres: Drama, Romance, Suspense, Classic


*Also starring: Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Dooley Wilson, Marcel Dalio



Review by Brian Koller
4 stars out of 4

"Casablanca" comes closer to perfection than any other film that I have seen, and is probably the best film ever made. "Casablanca" has everything: a great script, a great cast, and outstanding cinematography and direction.

If you are reading this, you've probably seen the film several times. "Casablanca" stars Humphrey Bogart as Rick, who owns a popular nightclub in Casablanca, Morocco. The film takes place during World War II, and the Nazis have taken France. Morocco is a French territory. Casablanca is filled with refugees trying to escape Nazi influence, and there is a black market for exit visas.

Deeply cynical Rick tries to suppress his anti-Nazi sentiments, as does corrupt official Claude Rains. Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet are simply profiteers. Conrad Veidt plays a dislikable Nazi officer, who is chasing fugitive Paul Henreid. Henreid is married to lovely Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), who once had an affair with Rick. Rick, whose motto is "I don't stick my neck out for nobody", is asked to help Henreid escape. He is also tempted to resume his romance with Ilsa.

What makes "Casablanca" possibly the best film ever made? The most important element is the script, which is the most quoted in film history. The script was based on an obscure unproduced play, "Everybody comes to Rick's", and according to legend was written hastily during filming. But more than in any other movie, the script brings out the depth of the characters, with Veidt's contemptible Nazi as the only stereotype. Even minor supporting actors, such as piano player Sam (Dooley Wilson) and desperate refugee Annina (Joy Page) are made real.

The glorious black and white cinematography is the second most important element. The cinematographer was Arthur Edeson, who was also behind the camera for two of the best films from the 1930s, "All Quiet on the Western Front" and "Mutiny on the Bounty". But of course the shots were under the Director's supervision. The director was Michael Curtiz, who remains relatively obscure despite his body of work, over 150 films including "The Adventures of Robin Hood", "Angels with Dirty Faces", "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and "Life with Father". These famous films are all very different, ranging from crime drama to comedy to adventure to musical, showing the range that Curtiz had.

As great as the cast is, it is less important than the script and cinematography. Rains should have won Best Supporting Actor, while Bogart and Bergman are inseparable from their roles. Lorre is probably my all-time favorite character actor. "Casablanca" was key to Bogart's subsequent career as an anti-hero male lead, as he previously was noted for supporting roles portraying gangsters.

Copyright 1997 Brian Koller

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