Casablanca. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. The Big Sleep. TheMaltese Falcon. To Have and Have Not. All legendary titles, all among the very bestmovies Hollywood has ever made. Terrific adventures and mysteries, the fit together as acollection in fascinating ways, beyond simply having Bogart as the lead. To Have and HaveNot is structurally very much like a more upbeat version of Casablanca. TheMaltese Falcon is frequently held up as the first film no…r, and The Big Sleep comefrom the peak of the noir period. To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep alsogive us the incredible screen chemistry of Bogart and Bacall. The former film is Bacall’s filmdebut, and her arrival has the same effect as the Hindenburg’s at Lakehurst, NJ: she doesn’t justlight up the screen, she incinerates it. If you love movies at all, you owe it to yourself to see allof these films. Again, and again, and again.
All of the soundtracks are mono. There has been no attempt to remix the audio into stereo –something that almost always has unfortunate results. The mono is always clean and clear withno hiss, distortion or gurgle worth mentioning. The dialogue (almost invariably razor sharp andendlessly quotable) comes through with perfect clarity.
Rather variable. The standout is Casablanca, which has been restored to a leveldoubtless unseen since its original release. The other films show their age more, particularly inthe case of the non-special edition discs (i.e. all films except Casablanca and SierraMadre). The picture quality is generally very good and sharp, with no edge enhancement, butsome print damage is visible, with flicker and occasional very grainy shots or speckling being theprinciple drawback.
The two special editions are loaded, especially Casablanca (see its individual reviewfor more details). If the special editions come complete with excellent commentaries andinvolved documentaries, the other films are a bit thin in the features department. The MalteseFalcon (which, according to one source, is actually missing a scene) has, apart from a briefessay on mystery films, exactly the same extras as the VHS release: a 45-minute documentaryon Bogart’s career as seen through trailers, and trailers for The Maltese Falcon andSatan Met a Lady (another film based on a Dashiell Hammett novel). To Have andHave Not’s documentary is only 11 minutes long, but it does have a Merrie Melodies cartoonand a radio broadcast version of the story with Bogart and Bacall recreating their roles. TheBig Sleep’s big plus is that it comes in two versions: the theatrical release, and the 1945 pre-release version, which has less Bacall but a more comprehensible plot. A good comparisonfeaturette takes us step by step through the differences between the two versions. The menus,other than Casablanca’s, are simple: scored main pages.
No doubt super-deluxe versions of the other three films in this collection will surface at somepoint. In other other words, this isn’t as definitive a box set as the Alien Quadrilogy. Still, havingfive such masterpieces in one collection is pretty special in and of itself.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentaries
- Pre-Release Version of The Big Sleep
- Radio Broadcasts
- Photo Galleries
- Promotional Material