Best of Bogart Collection Blu-ray Review
THE MALTESE FALCON (1941) – 9.5/10
“The stuff that dreams are made of.”
When listing the greatest film detectives of all time, the first name most think of is Sam Spade, the San Francisco-based P.I. created by Dashiell Hammett in the novel The Maltese Falcon, on which John Huston’s essential 1941 film noir is based.
As Spade (Bogart) hunts for the elusive jewel-encrusted bird, he weaves through a tangled plot that finds him handling toughs and henchmen like Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet) and Cairo (Peter Lorre), being duped by femme fatale Brigid O’Shaughnessy (Mary Astor) and spouting lines like, “I hope they don’t hang you, precious, by that sweet neck.” All the while, he keeps his head straight and his cigarettes lit.
One could argue that THE MALTESE FALCON was indeed not the first film noir (some may credit 1931’s CITY STREETS, also based on a Hammett story), but it’d be tough to pose that it isn’t one of the greatest, ranking up there with DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) and THE BIG SLEEP (1946), also starring Bogart. Credit here belongs to debut director Huston, the exquisite cast (which also features Elisha Cook, Jr., Gladys George and Barton MacLane) and the moody cinematography by Arthur Edeson (who would later lens CASABLANCA).
THE MALTESE FALCON is the sort of hard-boiled work that genre aficionados can’t help but compare all other films of its nature to. It is tough, complex and perhaps the quintessential film noir/mystery.
THE MALTESE FALCON was nominated for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Greenstreet.
CASABLANCA (1942) – 10/10
“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”
Bogart is Rick Blaine, a nightclub owner who came to the Moroccan city for the waters and stayed for the gin.
As his luck would have it, in steps his true love, Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), and on comes their song, “As Times Goes By.” By her side is Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), a Czech Resistance leader on the run from the Nazis. Questions arise regarding the history between Rick and Ilsa, as well as their future: will he use the letters of transit to make it to America himself or use them selflessly so his former flame can live truly happily? It’s all answered in one of cinema’s most indelible final scenes and those iconic words: “Here’s looking at you, kid.”
Michael Curtiz’s CASABLANCA stands not just as one of the greatest romances, but also as a demonstration of what sacrifice really means. Here is a character who begins as a bitter soul and develops into one of the most noble heroes in film history.
The supporting cast also includes Claude Rains as Captain Renault, Peter Lorre as Ugarte, Conrad Veidt as Major Strasser and Dooley Wilson as Sam. While their characters wouldn’t be nearly as memorable without the fine performances from the actors, they—and their surrounding world and plot—wouldn’t exist without the words and ideas of Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch, whose screenplay is one of the most perfect there is.
In addition to winning an Academy Award for the screenplay, CASABLANCA also took home Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director.
THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (1948) – 9/10
“I know what gold does to men’s souls.”
What it does is turn it inside out. After Americans Fred C. Dobbs (Bogart) and Bob Curtin (Tim Holt) are swindled out of earned money, they team with an old prospector named Howard (Walter Huston, father of director John), who knows that the mountains of Sierra Madre hold all the gold a man could ever need.
And so begins the tale of greed and paranoia and what both can do to the soul. To call THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE merely an adventure would be to shortchange it. It is a deep, philosophical movie that transcends genre, no matter what the trip, banditos and gun slinging might suggest. It is a film that dissects the male figure and shows that the tough, the young and the old could very well all end up in the same place in the end.
It is based on B. Traven’s 1927 novel and directed by John Huston, who helmed some of the toughest motion pictures of their time. THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE is certainly one of them.
THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE won Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Huston.
THE AFRICAN QUEEN (1951) – 6/10
“I pronounce you man and wife. Proceed with the execution.”
At the dawn of World War I, Charlie Allnut (Bogart) serves as the captain of The African Queen, which delivers supplies to British missionary Rose Sayer (Katherine Hepburn) in German East Africa. When Germans destroy the village she’s aiding, Rose decides to turn the African Queen into a war boat and get revenge.
As their trip into enemy territory continues, they face forces of nature, struggle to maintain the boat and, of course, create a romance. Bogart and Hepburn—two of the most recognizable and iconic movie stars of all time—are an ideal pairing. While the two have a terrific chemistry and are as wonderful as always, THE AFRICAN QUEEN still just feels like it exists only as an excuse to put both stars in an exotic location and have them pretend to fall in love.
John Huston’s THE AFRICAN QUEEN, based on C.S. Forster’s 1935 novel, bills itself as an adventure. The more thrilling moments—like the rapid sequences or the mosquito attack—might have worked in 1951, but today, they are laughable and noticeably phony. And so the modern audience is left to be entertained by the romance angle, which itself is forced and unlikely.
These are the aspects that THE AFRICAN QUEEN is supposed to be remembered for. But the only reason the movie is still watched today is because of the people it stars. That can be good and well, but when they’re not given a whole lot more to do than pretend they’ve accidentally become a part of the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland, then it’s nearly insufferable.
BEST OF BOGART COLLECTION BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 1.33:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec on all four films.
Those that own any of the initial Blu-rays of any of the films (which were released between 2008 and 2010) will find no differences between the transfers on those releases and this collection. That’s not to shortchange the transfers themselves—they present the films with tremendous clarity and detail—but buyers should beware that these discs are far from an upgrade.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 and Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 on THE MALTESE FALCON; English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 on CASABLANCA; English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 and French and Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 on THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE; English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 on THE AFRICAN QUEEN.
As with the video transfers, the audio transfers have simply been ported over from the initial Blu-ray releases. Again, the transfers are top-notch and the best available on home video, but those looking to double-dip should reconsider.
THE MALTESE FALCON
Commentary by Eric Lax: Lax gives a stellar commentary, as he spends the track detailing the film’s production, its legacy, the cast and much more.
THE MALTESE FALCON: ONE MAGNIFICENT BIRD (32:05): Biographers, family members and famous fans sit down to discuss the production and legacy of THE MALTESE FALCON.
BREAKDOWN OF 1941 (12:53) is a studio blooper reel featuring various studio stars.
Makeup Tests (1:15) for Mary Astor.
BECOMING ATTRACTIONS: THE TRAILER OF HUMPHREY BOGART (44:45): Film historian and Turner Classic Movies face Robert Osborne hosts this documentary about the role of movie trailers in Bogart’s career.
WARNER NIGHT AT THE MOVIES 1941 Short Subjects Gallery: Included here are five pieces that played in theaters with THE MALTESE FALCON. They are: “SERGEANT YORK Theatrical Trailer,” “Newsreel,” “THE GAY PARISIAN,” “HAIWATHA’S RABBIT HUNT” and “MEET JOHN DOUGHBOY.”
Audio Vault: Included here are three pieces: 2/8/1943 Lux Radio Broadcast (57:39), 9/20/1943 Screen Guild Theater Broadcast (28:46) and 7/3/1948 Academy Award Theater Broadcast (27:34).
Introduction by Lauren Bacall (2:05)
Commentary by Roger Ebert: Film critic Ebert gives one of his many excellent commentaries, dishing out enough details on the film’s production, context, legacy and more to please any fan.
Commentary by historian Rudy Behlmer: This is another strong track that manages to cover a number of details left out of the previous commentary.
WARNER NIGHT AT THE MOVIES: Included here are six pieces that played in theaters with CASABLANCA. They are: “NOW VOYAGER Theatrical Trailer,” “Newsreel,” “VAUDEVILLE DAYS,” “THE BIRD CAME C.O.D.,” “THE SQUAWKIN’ HAWK” and “THE DOVER BOYS AT PIMENTO UNIVERSITY.”
Behind the Story: Housed here are five documentaries. They are: BACALL ON BOGART (1:23:23), MICHAEL CURTIZ: THE GREATEST DIRECTOR YOU NEVER HEARD OF (37:20), CASABLANCA: AN UNLIKELY CLASSIC (34:59), YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS: A TRIBUTE TO CASABLANCA (34:37) and AS TIME GOES BY: THE CHILDREN REMEMBER (6:46).
Additional Footage: Housed here are Deleted Scenes (1:40), Outtakes (4:58), a television adaptation of CASABLANCA called WHO HOLDS TOMORROW? (18:37) and the 1995 Looney Tunes spoof CARROTBLANCA (8:03).
Scoring Stage Sessions (15:22 includes eight tracks isolated from the film.
4/26/43 LADY ESTHER SCREEN GUILD THEATER Radio Broadcast (29:38)
11/19/47 VOX POP Radio Broadcast (29:35)
THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE
Commentary by Eric Lax: As with his commentary for THE MALTESE FALCON, Lax offers insightful details regarding everything from the film’s production to its place in cinema history.
DISCOVERING TREASURE: THE STORY OF THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (49:57): This in-depth documentary looks at the making of THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE and those involved, with comments from filmmaker Martin Scorsese, critic Leonard Maltin, historian Robert Osborne and more.
JOHN HUSTON: THE MAN, THE MOVIES, THE MAVERICK (2:08:13): Directed by Frank Martin, this 1988 documentary explores legendary filmmaker John Huston, who died in 1987. Interviewees include children Anjelica and Danny, actors Robert Mitchum and Paul Newman, and playwright Arthur Miller.
Warner Night at the Movies 1948 Short Subjects Gallery: Included here are four pieces that played in theaters with THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE: They are: “KEY LARGO Theatrical Trailer,” “Newsreel,” “HOT CROSS BUNNY” and “SO YOU WANT TO BE A DETECTIVE.” Also housed here is an Introduction by Leonard Maltin.
8 BALL BUNNY (7:08) is a 1950 animated short starring Bugs Bunny.
4/18/1949 Lux Radio Theater Broadcast (59:42)
THE AFRICAN QUEEN
EMBRACING CHAOS: THE MAKING OF THE AFRICAN QUEEN (59:23): This documentary looks at the production, history and cast of THE AFRICAN QUEEN. Interviewees include Martin Scorsese, film historian Richard Schickel and various biographers.