The Best of Bogart? Warner Brothers could easily have called this repackaging of four previously released Blu-rays The Best of Hollywood and been just as accurate. The four films collected are some of the most memorable in the medium’s history thanks not only to Humphrey Bogart but also the other members of the casts and crews.
In chronological order, The Maltese Falcon (1941) is a marvelous detective story and considered by some to be the first major film noir. Bogart plays Detective Sam Spade, a man who finds himself in the middle of a mystery that involves a centuries-old treasure and murder, including that of his partner Miles Archer. I don’t know how the phrase “third time’s the charm” originated, but it certainly fits here, providing one of the many exceptions to the rule to those who decry all Hollywood remakes. Warner Brothers adapted Hammett’s brilliant novel twice, The Maltese Falcon (1931) and Satan Met a Lady, before John Huston made his impressive directorial debut with it. The picture was nominated for an Academy Award and Huston also received one for Best Adapted Screenplay (though the legend is his secretary typed up Hammett’s book into a screenplay).
The video is given a 1080p/VC-1 transfer presented at an aspect ratio of 1.37:1, and fans of black and white cinematography are in for a treat because the image looks exquisite. The source is very clean with just some minor print damage in the scene where the cops come to Spade’s apartment when Brigid O’Shaughnessy and Joel Cairo are there. Some frames appear to be missing close to the end, causing Bogart’s body to shift. There’s lighter grain than I expected, although it increases in patches as light from the fireplace in Brigid’s hotel room appear on the opposite wall. The gray scale exhibits great contrast. Blacks are inky and distinct. There’s very fine detail throughout, such as the pinstripes on Spade’s suit, wood finishes on furniture, and the carvings of the Falcon. The shadow delineation is great as would be anticipated for a film noir that uses so much shadow. A good amount of depth is on display in the wide shots. Occasional softness appears on some objects within the frame.
The DTS-HD Master Audio Mono soundtrack reveals its age with a slight hiss, but otherwise delivers a satisfying experience. The dialogue is clear and well balanced with the effects and the music. The gunshot that kills Miles sounds believable. Adolph Deutsch’s score demonstrates the dynamics of the soundtrack as it plays softly underneath scenes and louder to help transitions. The music also engages the subwoofer by providing the most bass.
Casablanca (1942) is one of the greatest love stories ever to grace the silver screen and won three Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director for Michael Curtiz, and Best Screenplay for Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, and Howard Koch. Set in Casablanca, Morocco during WWII, American ex-pat and nightclub owner Rick (Bogart) finds his world turned upside down when Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), the woman who broke his heart, walks into his club with her husband, Czech Resistance leader Victor Lazlo (Paul Henreid). They are looking to escape the Nazis who are on their trail. Rick has the ability to help but is too bitter after Ilsa disappeared without explanation. The film is filled with many memorable scenes and lines of dialogue as viewers, and the story strikes a perfect balance in dealing with a love triangle.
Previously available in the 70th Anniversary Giftset, the film went through a 4K scan and restoration before being given a 1080p/ MPEG-4 AVC transfer presented at an aspect ratio of 1.37:1. The image delivers inky blacks, bright whites, and an appealing spectrum of grays. There is noticeable softness and damage as a result of the source. Grain fluctuates but detail and edges are sharp.
The DTS-HD Master Audio Mono offers a satisfying experience with a track free of hiss or defect. Dialogue is clear throughout. Music and effects, while not robust, come through as expected for a film of this age as they reveal a limited dynamic range.
Winner of three Oscars and reuniting Bogart with director John Huston, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1947) Blu-ray was previously reviewed at Blogcritics.
Bogart and Huston worked together again on The African Queen (1951), which earned the actor the only Oscar of his career. Set in German East Africa at the start of WWI, British missionary Rose (Katherine Hepburn) seeks revenge against the Germans who killed her brother with the reluctant aid of boat captain Charlie Allnut (Bogart). Although they are opposites, the danger brings them closer together, and the charm of the two leads creates a believable romance in this adventure story.
The video has been given a 1080p/ MPEG-4 AVC transfer presented at an aspect ratio of 1.37:1. It is the only color film of the set and the hues look splendid, from the green foliage to the different shades of actors’ skin tones. There is a good, consistent amount of film grain and clear details on display. Softness creeps in at times and the high-definition draws attention to the rear projections. Otherwise, it’s another quality video presentation.
Surely a disappointment to audiophiles, the sound is presented on a Dolby Digital Mono track. Dialogue is always understandable while effects, from jungle ambiance to gunshots, sound a bit thin. The track sounds free of age or defect.
The extras on the Warner Brothers discs are outstanding as they allow viewers to dig deeper into the films’ histories. Warner Night at the Movies recreates the film-going experience of the era with cartoons, newsreels, and trailers. There are commentary tracks and radio shows and featurettes about the projects and participants. Each one offers hours of additional entertainment. Paramount only offers a single extra, Embracing Chaos: Making The African Queen, but it is still an in-depth, hour-long look at the production.
The packaging for this set leaves much to be desired. The case holds two discs on each plastic spindle rather than having trays so each disc could be stored separately. There is a set of four reproduction art cards for each movie that resemble either posters or lobby cards
For those who don’t own any of these discs, which is hard to imagine unless one is new to the format or new to watching old movies, The Best of Bogart Collection is a necessary edition to any classic film fan’s library. [amazon asin=B00GY71GJC]