Seriously, what else is there to say? The American Film Institute named Humphrey Bogart the number one male screen legend of all time, and he has an undeniably wonderful presence on screen, even in small parts. And, to top it all off, Humphrey Bogart is the reason I just had a spectacular weekend.
“Why?” you ask. Because I sat down and watched Humphrey Bogart – The Signature Collection, Volumes 1 & 2. The first volume contains Casablanca (two-disc edition), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (two-disc edition), They Drive By Night, & High Sierra. Volume 2 contains The Maltese Falcon (three-disc edition), Across the Pacific, Action in the North Atlantic, All Through the Night, and Passage to Marseille.
Some of the movies included in the two collections are absolutely outstanding (Casablanca, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and The Maltese Falcon). Others aren't as good (Across the Pacific) and some are really not very good at all (They Drive By Night). And the rest fall somewhere else along the range. All, however, are definitely worth taking a look at.
Some people might consider me boring for stating that Casablanca, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and The Maltese Falcon are the standout films in the sets, but there is a reason these films are classics (Casablanca having been noted as the #2 movie of all-time by the AFI, with Sierra Madre at 30, and The Maltese Falcon at 23). They are also the ones given the royal treatment by Warner Brothers. All three of these films are loaded with special features. The three-disc Maltese Falcon set even includes two alternate movie versions, one starring Bebe Daniels and Recardo Cortez and the other with Bette Davis and Warren William. For my money, neither is as good as the Bogie version, but they do make for interesting comparisons.
Even in the lesser films in the two sets, Humphrey Bogart still provides a wonderful presence. Most notably, this is seen in They Drive By Night, an odd tale in which Bogie is the second male lead, playing the brother to George Raft’s Joe Fabrini. The movie, awfully late into the running time, switches from the story of two brothers trying to make their way as independent truckers to a love triangle (or maybe a love rectangle) involving a murder and Bogie, as he has no part in the rectangle, more or less disappears. Still though, when he is present in the film he is his charismatic self, commanding the viewer’s attention.
The single most disappointing thing in both of these volumes is the lack of consistency in the packaging. This may seem like a minor point, but if items come in a boxed set, they should absolutely all have the same look, and they don’t here. The two-disc editions of Casablanca and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre appear in a normal-sized two-disc DVD case. Every other disc in both sets appear in slimline DVD cases. The Maltese Falcon three-disc set actually appears in two separate slimline cases, with the Bogie version of the movie in its own case and the other two discs in a separate one. It’s quite disconcerting when looking at the box to see what one is getting. It takes a very close inspection of the box to determine what films are included. My best guess as to why this occurred is that the releases included here of Casablanca and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre are the exact versions previously released as single movies and they were simply thrown into this boxed set. The same seems to be true of The Maltese Falcon, as the listing for what is included on the three discs matches perfectly with the previously released three-disc set, and thus it seems likely the slimline cases were used for it in the single film release, as well as here in the boxed set.
Some of the movies in the boxed set contain fewer special features than the three main films, but despite that, all the films and extras present not only an interesting look at moments in Humphrey Bogart’s career, but also in the history of Hollywood itself. There are discussions of the studio system, the star system, censorship, and Hollywood's response to World War II. Particular favorite extras of mine were the various classic animated shorts included in the second volume.
The transfers for all the movies are absolutely beautiful, and the audio sounds wonderful as well. There are, of course, films of Bogie’s that one would like to see included in the sets but are not here. That may result from their not being owned by Warners or, hopefully, a Volume 3 that will arrive one day in the future.
If you’re a fan of Humphrey Bogart, or old-time Hollywood movies, I highly recommend these sets. Even if some of the movies are little hokey (oftentimes, Action in the North Atlantic comes across as little more than an advertisement for the Merchant Marines and a little too rah-rah for this viewer), Humphrey Bogart proves time and again why he is a legend.