A Night in Casablanca (1946)

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Released 24-Jun-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio
Trailer-Malcolm; The Secret Policeman's Ball; What's Up, Tiger Lily?
DVD Credits
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1946
Running Time 81:14 (Case: 85)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Archie Mayo
Studio
Distributor
David L. Loew
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Groucho Marx
Harpo Marx
Chico Marx
Charles Drake
Lois Collier
Lisette Verea
Lewis L. Russell
Dan Seymour
Frederick Giermann
Harro Mellor
Case Click
RPI $29.95 Music Werner Janssen
Ted Snyder


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, where would Groucho be without his cigar?
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    This is the last of the great Marx Brothers films and was the final chapter of an era. While not their best work it is still, even today, a great comedy. One thing that hit me time and again throughout the film was the superb physical comedy that is immaculately timed. The one liners and ongoing comedy is a little dated in places but should still amuse those with the right sense of humour. Classic scenes through the film include Harpo playing charades with Chico, and Groucho trying to 'get lucky' time and again - these scenes will stay in your mind and give you a chuckle when you think of them.

    Not only are these guys great comedic artists but Chico plays the piano and Harpo the harp. Both are given the opportunity to show these skills. These scenes are in no way connected to the film. Harpo finds a harp in a room and sits down and gives us an impromptu concert for no reason other than it is there. The musical skills of these two are top notch and you really don't mind the musical interlude at all. It has been years since I'd seen a skilled artist on the harp, which is as interesting to watch as it is to listen to. Chico manages to turn his piano concert into a great comedy routine as well.

    The characters are all great in this film and the women beautiful, not bags of bones like we see today but real curves in stunning dresses with alluring hairstyles - they knew the difference between sex appeal and skin in those days. (I just know I'll get flamed for that one).

    And now to the plot. In a hotel in Casablanca a hidden treasure was placed by the Germans just before the end of the war. An infamous German general has escaped the fall of Germany and returned to the hotel to retrieve the treasure. The plan is for him to become the manager of the hotel and the best way to achieve this is to murder the current manager. Each time a new manager is appointed he mysteriously dies. Eventually no-one wants the job, so they call in a manager from a hotel out in the sticks. The new manager turns out to be none other than Groucho. Chico already works at the hotel and Harpo becomes the valet of the German. Together they take on the job of protecting Groucho. There is a subplot involving the American pilot that was forced at gunpoint to fly the treasure out of Germany. Nobody believes his story and he is about to be tried for war crimes as a result. He is also in love with a beautiful young woman who does believe him and together they are trying to find the treasure to clear his name. From here we bounce from one comedic scene to another and occasionally the storyline is advanced. The treasure is discovered basically at the same time by all participants and the race is on to produce a happy ending for everyone but the Germans.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    Considering that this film was released in 1946, the film is in miraculous condition. I have seen recent releases with more grain and scratches than this transfer exhibits.

    The film is presented at 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. This is close to the original 1.37:1 aspect ratio.

    Sharpness is excellent, especially considering the film stock that would have been used to make this movie. Shadow detail is a little lacking but again excellent considering the age. There is some low level noise but again nothing like what I was expecting. The overall contrast is very good as well. Many of these old films turn out to be starkly black and white only, but there is a wide palette of greys available here.

    There are no colours, of course, as this is a black and white film. The greys are clear of false colouration.

    There are no major MPEG artefacts present. Occasionally there is very slight pixelization in the background but you have to be really looking to see it. There is some wobble throughout the film but I suspect much of this may have been camera shake in the original filming. It varies throughout the film with the scene at 51:20 exhibiting the worst example. The film stock is in simply amazing condition. Yes, there are some grain and scratches, white flecks, and so forth, but none of this is greatly distracting. Basically, I was stunned by how good this film looked.

    There are no subtitles.

    This is a single layered disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Other than one two and a bit minute section, the audio is in as good a condition as the film. From 41:23 to 43:45, there are a series of clicks and pops in the soundtrack.

    There is a single Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack on this disc.

    Dialogue quality is excellent throughout with not one joke missed. The majority of the audio sync was very good but some of the miming for the singing was a little out.

     The music is a wonderful rich orchestral accompaniment to the film - there is not one watt of electronically generated music anywhere here. The fidelity level was another surprise, even considering the fact that this is a mono soundtrack it is surprisingly good. As mentioned above, there are two musical interludes as two of our characters have some fun with their instrument of choice.

    There was no surround or subwoofer activity.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    A static menu with a picture of the Marx brothers down one side and the menu selections on the other. The audio is in Dolby Digital 2.0 and is the harp solo from the movie. The audio loop runs for 2:49.

Trailer: Malcolm

    Running for 2:10 and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack this is the trailer for Malcolm, another Umbrella DVD. It is presented at 1.85:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced.

Trailer: Secret Policeman's Other Ball.

    Presented at 1.33:1 and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack this trailer runs for 0:26. It is the classic trailer for this film and is in the same vein as the film it advertises.

Trailer: What's Up, Tiger Lily?

    Presented at 1.33:1 and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, this trailer runs for 1:35, and as the trailer says, this is the films that introduced the world to Woody Allen.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This disc does not appear to be available in Region 1. It does appear to be available in France and is also 1.33:1 there.

Summary

    Chances are that there are several generations that have not seen a Marx Brothers film. Like the re-release of other titles such as ET and others, some of these great comedy classics should be brought to their attention. Duck Soup and Animal Crackers are probably their best work but this is also a good introduction to a world of comedy from that era.

    The video is simply unbelievable for its age

    The audio is great other than the section mentioned.

    There are no extras other than the trailers.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Terry McCracken (read my bio)
Tuesday, July 16, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDSkyworth 1050p progressive scan, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252q CRT Projector, Screen Technics matte white screen 16:9 (223cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationSony STR-DB1070
SpeakersB&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Terry K

Comments (Add)
Are we going to get all the other films? - Alex H (My biography...in 500 words or less!)
other Marx Bros DVDs - Dr Hackenbush
3 more on the way -