Humphrey Bogart, screen legend. Before I got my hands on this collection, Iï¿½d never seen a Bogart picture in its entirety. And yet, I knew his name as well as anyone, and was aware of his status as one of classic Hollywoodï¿½s biggest stars.
Humphrey Bogart ï¿½ The Signature Collection, Volume 1 presents four Bogart films: Casablanca ï¿½ 2-disc Special Edition, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre ï¿½ 2-disc Special Edition, High Sierra and They Drive By Night. Iï¿½d always meant to wat…h these films, but I just never got around to it, partly because I can barely keep up with all of the new ones released every year, and partly because of ï¿½ I admit it ï¿½ a slight prejudice toward ï¿½oldï¿½ movies. I have no idea why I avoid the classics, especially since each time I do sit down to experience one Iï¿½m always pleasantly surprised.
Such was the case with this Bogart collection. All four of these films were highly entertaining, and I would recommend them to any film fan. Theyï¿½re also a great introduction to Mr. Bogart, as this set presents a sort of chronological approach to Bogartï¿½s rise to stardom.
They Drive By Night has Bogart in a supporting role to star George Raft, with whom Bogart often competed for roles ï¿½ and lost, at least in his early years. In this film, Raft and Bogart play two brothers trying to make it big in the trucking business. Bogartï¿½s part in the film basically wraps up by about the halfway point, but while it may just be hindsight, you can see in his performance a star about to make his break.
It came in High Sierra, in which Bogart played his first lead role. One of the American Film Instituteï¿½s esteemed Top 100 movies, High Sierra does indeed stand up even today as a great action movie. Bogart plays gangster Roy ï¿½Mad Dogï¿½ Earle, recently pardoned and released from prison. He gets right back to work, heading up a crew planning to rip off a resort in the Sierras frequented by the wealthy. I really enjoyed this one. The cast is strong, the writing is excellent, and it moves along at a quick pace to a meaningful conclusion.
Two years later, Casablanca had Bogart playing a cynical nightclub owner. This Best Picture Oscar-winner is one of the most popular films of all time, and even those whoï¿½ve never seen it can probably quote lines from its acclaimed screenplay. With so much having been written about this one, I donï¿½t think thereï¿½s anything I can add to the tale. If you havenï¿½t seen Casablanca, you owe it to yourself to sit down with it some day soon.
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre wraps up the set. Finally, I know where the famous ï¿½stinking badges!ï¿½ line comes from. Number 30 on the AFIï¿½s Top 100 list, this film has Bogart, Walter Huston and Tim Holt prospecting for gold in Mexico. Itï¿½s a cracking good story about greed with anti-capitalist themes, and I can see why writer/director John Huston took the Best Director and Best Screenplay Oscars. Iï¿½ve learned that Bogart and Huston had a great working friendship, and while this film is reportedly their best work together, I plan to check out other examples, like Key Largo.
So the films are an excellent introduction to old Bogie. Howï¿½s the DVD set?
All four films are presented in 1.33:1 full screen format, preserving the aspect ratio of their original theatrical exhibition. Theyï¿½ve also all been carefully restored, and I must say they look really good. I donï¿½t have a lot of viewing experience with material this old, but the transfers are to me very clean, with nice contrast levels. Casablanca has the best transfer of the bunch, but the other three films are very close behind. Kudos to Warner Bros. for showing these films the love they deserve.
The menus on all of the discs are static, with sound.
All four films are presented with their original mono soundtrack. Donï¿½t expect anything special here, but the audio is at least very clear. You wonï¿½t miss any of the classic lines, but you may find the scores a bit harsh at times.
Audio is English only except for a French option on Casablanca, and French, Spanish and English subtitles are available for all four films.
Obviously, the Special Edition sets of Casablanca and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre have the most bonus material, but even the single disc films have some extra content.
They Drive By Night comes with a featurette called Divided Highway: The Story of They Drive By Night. It runs about 10 minutes, and provides a high-level overview of the filmï¿½s development, the director and the stars. Interesting stuff. Thereï¿½s also a vintage musical short, Swingtime at the Movies, which is about the shooting of a final scene of a western romance film. It runs about 19 minutes, and while Iï¿½m not sure about the connection with the main film, itï¿½s amusing enough to watch.
For High Sierra, we get Curtains For Roy Earle: The Story of High Sierra, another 10-minute featurette. This one covers how Bogart got his WB contract, how he got his first leading role in this film, and how this film marked the beginning of his friendship with John Huston. Thereï¿½s also an interesting bit about Bogie being called a commie, which we know was no small thing back then.
Both of these discs also include the original theatrical trailers. These are neat to watch, and they also provide a great reference point for how good the main featuresï¿½ video quality really is.
Then thereï¿½s the Casablanca ï¿½ Special Edition set. Since this set has already been reviewed separately by Upcoming Discsï¿½ David Annandale, Iï¿½ll quote his review of the bonus content:
ï¿½The extras are a big step up from the [original DVD release]. Disc 1 features two commentaries: one by Roger Ebert, the other by film historian Rudy Behlmer. Ebert goes shot by shot through the film, focussing on how the film works so well. Behlmer, on the other hand, gives us a detailed history of the film. Lauren Bacall introduces the film, accompanied by various historical clips. ï¿½A Good Cast Is Worth Repeatingï¿½ is an essay on the films where many of the cast members of Casablanca also starred together. Also on Disc 1: the theatrical trailer; the 1992 re-release trailer; trailers for The Adventures of Robin Hood, Yankee Doodle Dandy and Treasure of the Sierra Madre; cast, crew and awards lists. The menuï¿½s main page and intro are animated and scored.ï¿½
Disc 2 has a feature-length documentary: ï¿½Bacall on Bogart.ï¿½ Here Lauren Bacall narrates an in-depth biography of Bogart. ï¿½The Children Rememberï¿½ are reminiscences by the children of Bogart and Bergman. There is also a fair bit of rare historical material: outtakes and deleted scenes (the audio for both has been lost, but the deleted scenes are provided with subtitles), and eight scoring stage sessions. ï¿½You Must Remember This: A Tribute to Casablancaï¿½ is hosted once again by Bacall, and is a documentary brought back from the previous release. Finally, there is a collection of DVD-ROM features as well.ï¿½
Finally, we have the bonus material for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Disc 1 offers the option of watching the film as the original audience would have, with Warner Night at the Movies. Prior to viewing the main feature, you watch a trailer, a newsreel, a comedy short and a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Itï¿½s a nice touch.
Also on Treasureï¿½s first disc is an audio commentary with Eric Lax, historian and author of books like Paul Newman: a Biography. Itï¿½s highly informative, but it sounds and feels like Lax is reading from a prepared script, so itï¿½s just a little wooden.
Disc 2 starts off with a two-hour biography film on writer/director John Huston, John Huston: The Man, The Movies, The Maverick. Huston was a remarkable man, so thereï¿½s plenty of material to make this feature worth watching. Next up is Discovering Treasure: The Story of the Treasure of the Sierra Madre, a 50-minute piece on, well, the story behind the film. This one is also quite interesting, with stuff like the mystery of the author of the book the movie is based on, and more about Bogartï¿½s storied career.
Treasureï¿½s extra content wraps up with another Bugs Bunny cartoon, an old-time radio broadcast with the filmï¿½s stars, and the Treasure Trove Galleries. These offer storyboards, dressed set stills, photos of cast and crew, and publicity and posters.
All of the DVDs in Humphrey Bogart ï¿½ The Signature Collection, Volume 1 are available separately, and were released before this set. If youï¿½re a Bogie fan and/or a collector, you wonï¿½t find anything new here. But if, like me, youï¿½re new to Bogart, this collection seems to be a great introduction to his work. The DVD presentations are excellent, and the two best films come with the most bonus material. If you donï¿½t have these in your collection already, pick up this set.
Special Features List
- Restored and Remastered presentations
- Audio commentaries on all four films
- Feature-length documentaries on Bogart and John Huston
- The Story of They Drive By Night
- The Story of High Sierra
- Deleted scenes and outtakes
- Classic cartoon shorts
- Photo galleries
- Much more