Few actors have been nearly as endearing and iconic as Humphrey Bogart, who had a long, and successful, career at Warner Bros. In fact, his relationship was so good with them, that he managed to make four of his most iconic and memorable films with them during his career. These four films are considered classics by every film fan across the globe, and ones that left an impact on filmmaking for future of cinema. In honor of this legacy, Warner Bros. has decided to bring us a collection featuring The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and The African Queen, for the first time together on blu-ray. The set is one that fans, who don’t already own these films, is really going to love.
It’s always great to see some of these timeless classics on blu-ray, and thankfully with this collection, Warner Bros. have given each of these films a very nice high definition presentation. These films have never looked better, especially The African Queen and Casablanca, which have both been meticulously remastered from the ground up. I say this as someone who grew up watching all these films on VHS, and then later DVD. None of these films have ever, or will ever, look better than they do on the set. But The African Queen and Casablanca both look absolutely breathtaking, and you can tell how much time and love was put into bringing these two films to look the best they possibly could. There’s not a single problem to be found with the presentations of these films. Just because those two are getting the most praise though doesn’t mean that Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The Maltese Falcon are lacking at all. While they didn’t get the fully meticulous restoration of their two counterparts, they look the best they’ve ever looked as well. There’s a common misconception that older films don’t benefit from high definition transfers, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth, as this set shows. The fact that these four films have never looked better than this actually shows that older films actually benefit more from their high definition transfers, when done correctly, than any other films out there. All four of the films also feature great HD lossless audio, which brings these movies to life better than ever before. They’re all true to their source, mono tracks, so it’s not going to light up your home theater system, but they sound excellent. They’ll at least use your front speakers well, and you won’t be upset about it not using anything else.
Thankfully, this set isn’t just great audio and video. All the films have some excellent special features, rounding out these set in a great way. It’ll be much easier to break this down by each film, so here we go.
The African Queen
The African Queen comes to blu-ray with only one special feature, and while that may not sound like a lot, it’s actually a great hour long documentary, Embracing Chaos: The Making of ‘The African Queen’, which looks back at not only the making of the film, but the impact and legacy it’s had. It features filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Humphrey Bogart Biographer Eric Lax, crew from the film, and so much more, who take us through a verbal history of the film. It’s so much fun to watch, and is offered in high definition, which makes it even better. It’s a great retrospective for the film, and one that fans will love.
Of al the films in this set, ‘Casablanca’ is the film that is the most jam packed with special features. The disc features two commentaries, one from the late film critic, Roger Ebert, and one by film historian Rudy Behlmer, which are both really fun and insightful looks into the film. The disc also holds the 1953 premiere episode of the TV show, ‘Who Holds Tomorrow?’, a Warner TV adaptation of the film. There’s also a handful of deleted scenes and outtakes. That’s a bit of the smaller things on the set, but it’s the bigger things where the disc soars. It features an 80 minute documentary, Bacall on Bogart, which sees Lauren Bacall talking about not just Bogart the man, but the actor as well. It’s very interesting, and a lot of fun to watch. Another great feature is, You Must Remember This: A Tribute to Casablanca, which features some more insights into the film, and looking back at the film. Cinephiles and fans will really love it. The disc also has Warner Night at the Movies, which will let you experience the film the same way it opened in the 1940s. It features a trailer for ‘Now, Voyager’, has a classic war reel, three Merrie Melodies shorts, and when the play all button is selected, it will segway straight into the film, the same way it did back in the Golden Years of cinema. That’s probably my favorite special feature out of the bunch, because it’s a truly different and fun experience. There’s also a few audio only features, featuring a radio production and scoring sessions.
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
The disc, as the Casablanca disc before it, Treasure of the Sierra Madre features an audio commentary on the film, this time featuring Eric Lax, the Bogart biographer. It also has two documentaries, the first being, Discovering Treasure: The Story of ‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre’, which is an almost hour long in depth look at the making of the film. It’s great fun, and very interesting. But even more interesting is the two hour documentary, John Huston: The Man, The Movies, The Maverick, an incredibly in depth look about the man behind the camera, and underrated director by many, John Houston. It’s one of the most informative documentaries I’ve ever gotten to watch, and delves into so much of his life, as well as his work, it’s hard to believe how many people forget about him as a director. Also, as the previous ‘Casablanca’ disc features, this movie also has another Warner Night at the Movies, which recreates what you saw before the film opened in 1948. This time, you have a trailer for ‘Key Largo’, another vintage news reel, another Warner cartoon, and a Joe McDoakes short, entitled, So You Want to Be a Detective?. Again, the Warner Night At the Movies proves to be one of the most fun and interesting special features on the disc, giving me a chance to relive what a film night would have looked like back in the golden era of film.
The Maltese Falcon
As with The Treasure of the Sierra Madre disc before it, The Maltese Falcon features a commentary by Bogart biographer Eric Lax, which is a very good listen. There’s also a half hour featurette, The Maltese Falcon: One Magnificent Bird, which features a historical look back at the making of the film. But one of the more interesting features on the disc is entitled, Becoming Attractions: The Trailers of Humphrey Bogart, which is about forty five minutes long, and chronicles the way that Warner Bros. marketed Bogart’s films. It’s fascinating seeing how different some of the campaigns were, and for someone who loves move marketing and movie trailers, it’s a great watch. Cinephiles and film fans will certainly love this as well. And, as the last two discs had, once again we have another Warner Night at the Movies, this time featuring the Sergeant York trailer, another vintage Newsreel, a musical short called, A Gay Parisian, and two more Warner cartoons, Hiawatha’s Rabbit Hunt and Meet John Doughboy. The Warner Night Out features are honestly my favorite amongst the set, just because it’s fun to have that vintage look into what it was like to going to the movies during that time, because it’s so different now.
The Best of Bogart blu-ray collection is a great value for fans and cinephiles who don’t already own these films on blu-ray, and it’s great having them in one collection. But for fans who already own these titles, there’s nothing new to see here, so you might as well stick with your copies you already have. It’s a great set all around though, and features four timeless classics that all film fans should see. It was great revisiting these films, and getting to delve into the special features, which really makes the set even more special. Fans of Bogart who don’t own these films should definitely pick this up.