Director: Michael Curtiz
Writers (Screenplay): Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein & Howard Koch
Writers (play “Everybody Comes to Rick’s”): Murray Burnett & Joan Alison
Running time: 102 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): U
USA Release date: 23rd January 1943
Watched on Sky+ Tuesday 3rd January 2012.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
This is a film I’ve seen many times before but this is the first time I’ve actually sat down and ‘watched’ it. I must say I was surprised at just how good it was. Before, there had always been distractions, but today I watched it right through and I must say I was very impressed. It’s the kind of film my parents would watch and so it never featured very high on my radar. But when I got into watching films more seriously this was always one of those that had a lot of critical acclaim and so I added it to ‘The List’. It finally lands on TV and I had a chance to see it tonight… Truly excellent! I will explain what I mean by that after this very brief summary.
At the beginning of World War II many people tried to get out of Europe and one of the preferred routes was via Casablanca to Lisbon and then on to America. Consequently there were many refugees stranded in Casablanca falling prey to corrupt officials and other less savoury characters. Bar owner Rick Blaine wants nothing to do with all this business, in fact he doesn’t even like people talking politics in his place. But when certain travel documents fall into his possession he finds it hard to remain neutral. Particularly when an ex-lover, Ilsa Lund, appears on the scene with her husband Victor Laszlo. Throw in a corrupt, but charismatic, French Police official, Captain Louis Renault, a German, Major Heinrich Strasser who is bent on arresting Victor Laszlo and, of course, Rick’s piano player, Sam, and you’ve got the makings of a really great film. I won’t say any more or the Spoiler Police (Classics Division) will have me in a concentration camp (again).
You would have thought a film made in black and white and shot in a 4:3 aspect ratio would be really hard to watch. I’m here to tell you it’s one of the easiest films to watch I’ve seen it quite a while. All the action is concentrated in the middle of the screen; every shot is set up that way. I guess it helps that it is based on a stage play in that respect. Performance wise, well I cannot fault anyone, but I must give special praise to both Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine and Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund, both were truly excellent! Honourable mentions must also go to; Paul Henreid as Victor Laszlo, Claude Rains as Captain Louis Renault, Conrad Veidt as Major Heinrich Strasser, Sydney Greenstreet as Signor Ferrari and Peter Lorre as Ugarte.
I’m not usually all the big on love stories but in this case I will make an exception. I think it’s the quality of the performances that really makes this work as well as it does. There is a lot of political intrigue in there too. If you remember that at the time it was being made America had not joined the war in Europe and so what it says politically is pretty important too. But getting away from the politics of the thing, I found this film totally engaging all the way through with characters you could believe in and a great script. I said it at the beginning and I’ll say it again… Truly excellent and VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
My score: 9.7/10
IMDb Score: 8.7/10 (based on 204,219 votes at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes ‘Tomatometer’ Score: 97/100 (based on 59 reviews counted at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 94/100 (based on 319,465 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).
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Rick: You know what I want to hear.
Sam: [lying] No, I don't.
Rick: You played it for her, you can play it for me!
Sam: [lying] Well, I don't think I can remember...
Rick: If she can stand it, I can! Play it!
*** [SPOILER ALERT!] ***
Rick: Last night we said a great many things. You said I was to do the thinking for both of us. Well, I've done a lot of it since then, and it all adds up to one thing: you're getting on that plane with Victor where you belong.
Ilsa: But, Richard, no, I... I...
Rick: Now, you've got to listen to me! You have any idea what you'd have to look forward to if you stayed here? Nine chances out of ten, we'd both wind up in a concentration camp. Isn't that true, Louie?
Captain Renault: I'm afraid Major Strasser would insist.
Ilsa: You're saying this only to make me go.
Rick: I'm saying it because it's true. Inside of us, we both know you belong with Victor. You're part of his work, the thing that keeps him going. If that plane leaves the ground and you're not with him, you'll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.
Ilsa: But what about us?
Rick: We'll always have Paris. We didn't have, we, we lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night.
Ilsa: When I said I would never leave you.
Rick: And you never will. But I've got a job to do, too. Where I'm going, you can't follow. What I've got to do, you can't be any part of. Ilsa, I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you'll understand that.
[Ilsa lowers her head and begins to cry]
Rick: Now, now...
[Rick gently places his hand under her chin and raises it so their eyes meet]
Rick: Here's looking at you kid.