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102 Minutes / 1942
It's tricky to attempt to place Casablanca in any particular genre. It is foremost a love story of two people with bitter regrets who come to terms with their feelings. It is an action piece that, for its time, is typically anti-Nazi. And it’s laced with humor, from Blaine’s sardonic comments to Renault’s sarcastic wit. Made in a decade when motion picture studios were cranking out fifty films each year, this was considered just another flick by the filmmakers, the players, and Warner Bros.
Audio: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese Dolby Digital 1.0; English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese subtitles.
Supplements: There is an understandably affectionate introduction by Lauren Bacall (2:05). And we get two screen-specific audio commentaries: one is by film critic Roger Ebert; the other is by film historian Rudy Behlmer. Next are some featurettes - Michael Curtiz: The Greatest Director You Never Heard Of and Casablanca: An Unlikely Classic - and two trailers.
134 Minutes / 1942
"When Hitler did his worst, Mrs. Miniver did her best," goes the back-of-the-box blurb. Kay Miniver (Greer Garson) doesn't fly a Spitfire in dogfights over London or ply the North Sea in a battleship, but she's doing her all for wartime England. Whether comforting children in a bomb shelter, capturing an enemy parachutist or delivering an inspiration portrait of English resolve at its finest, she's Mrs. Miniver - and Hitler better watch out.
Audio: English, French Dolby Digital 1.0; English, French, Spanish subtitles.
Supplements: All we get is a brief (0:55) collection of archival footage of Greer Garson accepting her Academy Award, plus a couple of interesting WWII-era MGM shorts, Mr. Blabbermouth and For the Common Defense. Rounding out this edition is a nice stills gallery with 30 publicity images, plus the film's theatrical trailer.
The Best Years of Our Lives
172 Minutes / 1946
William Wyler's earnest, heartbreaking drama is not an easy film to get through, but it nevertheless provides a fascinating marriage of real-life difficulties and bigger-than-life emotional melodrama. War is hell - we all know that in one way or another - but the characters in The Best Years of Our Lives can't shake this notion: it haunts each and every person on screen in nightmarishly unique ways. Easily one of the more profound and formally ahead-of-its-time pictures to win the Oscar.
Audio: English Dolby Digital 1.0; English SDH, French, Spanish subtitles.
Supplements: We get an intro from Virginia Mayo, a featurette featuring Mayo and Teresa Wright, and the movie's trailer.
An American in Paris
116 Minutes / 1956
This is one of those musicals where if you think about the plot at all, you come away with a bad taste in your mouth. The fact that the two leads are presented as romantic heroes despite the fact that they're seriously leading on the people who love them is something that has never set well with me. So you're better off savoring the many other delights the film has to offer: the gorgeous Gershwin score which, aside from the title piece, includes "Embraceable You," "I Got Rhythm," and "S'Wonderful"; the colorful settings, and the incomparable dancing of Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron.
Audio: English Dolby Digital 1.0; English SDH, French, Japanese, Thai subtitles.
Supplements: We get a screen-specific audio commentary with Patricia Ward-Kelly, producer Arthur Freed, Kelly, director Vincente Minnelli, screenwriter Alan Jay Lerner, musical director Saul Chaplin, Caron, Nina Foch, musician Michael Feinstein, musical director Johnny Green, art director Preston Ames, and costume designer Irene Sharaff - it's a wonderful listen, and its many participants make it pass by in a flash. Also here are some shorts - Paris on Parade and Symphony in Slang - and the movie's trailer.
Around the World in Eighty Days
182 Minutes / 1956
In this bloated epic, we find Phileas Fogg (David Niven), who is a proper English gentleman, or perhaps, the archetype English gentleman. His is a sedate existence, unswervingly regular, pathologically punctual, dedicated to Whist, very well organized... To paraphrase a very old joke, look up anal retentive in the dictionary, and there you'll find a picture of Phileas Fogg. He's just lost his most recent valet, Mr. Foster (Sir John Gielgud), who was unable to satisfy his demanding master. Not to worry; employment agent Hesketh-Baggott (Noel Coward) sends Passepartout (Cantinflas) around as the next sacrificial lamb. Fogg will not have a chance to become disenchanted with Passepartout within his orderly London home. During a card game at the stogy Reform Club, a gentlemen's club so outrageously stuffy and quiet that the footfalls of a cat interfere with a game of Chess, a casual remark leads to a challenge and a huge wager. Foggs risks twenty thousand pounds sterling - a huge fortune in 1872 - on his ability to circle the world in no more than eighty days.
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 1.0; English, French, Spanish subtitles.
Supplements: We get an intro to the movie from film historian Robert Osborne, as well as a screen-specific audio commentary from BBC Radio's Brian Sibley, two featurettes - Around the World of Around the World and Around the World of Michael Todd - as well as a list of the many cameos in the movie.