As the war is raging still,
Casablanca has its fill
Of refugees who fit the bill
Of somebody who’d want to kill
Two German couriers and steal
Some travel papers and conceal
Their one-way ticket out until
The government, a Nazi shill,
Rounds up suspects against their will.
The gin-joint owner Richard Blaine
Is cynical and makes it plain
He cares for naught but his own gain
And treats the world with cool disdain.
One night, he’s given at his party
Documents by one Ugarte.
Soon, Renault, the city’s main
Police chief, sees Ugarte slain
By Major Strasser, who’s a pain.
Strasser wants those papers quick
Lest Victor Laszlo take his pick,
But Victor has a cause to stick:
His young wife Ilsa, who knows Rick.
Though Laszlo’s part of the resistance,
Rick refuses him assistance.
Ilsa’s presence makes him sick,
For they were lovers until Rick
Was dumped and felt she’d played a trick.
As Laszlo makes his presence known
And shows Strasser he’s not alone,
Rick’s bar is closed because, it’s shown,
The fear of uprising has grown.
Rick’s mad, but gives Ilsa the chance
To say why she left him in France.
She thought Laszlo was dead as stone;
She loved Rick but she soon had flown
When Victor’s whereabouts were known.
Though Rick is sore from that affair,
He aids them and can’t help but care.
He holds Renault at gunpoint there
And of his fate is well aware.
Rick sees beloved Ilsa strain
And leave him on the Lisbon plane.
When Strasser comes to cause a scare,
Rick shoots him to protect the pair
But gets off free; Renault and he
Have more adventures yet to share.

Here is yet another critically lauded cinematic masterpiece that doesn’t even reach my top 200. Let me be clear: Casablanca is a classic of classics, with likable characters, witty dialogue, and a host of iconic scenes and lines. Who hasn’t heard immortal utterances like “Here’s looking at you, kid,” “We’ll always have Paris,” “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine,” and “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” said as only Humphrey Bogart can? The gorgeous Ingrid Bergman positively glows as Ilsa, and Claude Rains gives one of his best and funniest performances as the mercurial French Captain Renault.

For all its timeless appeal, I didn’t like it the first time I saw it. Granted, I was much younger, and since most of the film relies on its dialogue to propel the plot, much of it went over my head. Having seen it several times since, my esteem for it has grown, but I suppose it’s just not my kind of classic. I’m all for romance and a dose of melodrama, but Casablanca is the kind of film I have to be in the right mood to see. While Rick and Ilsa are well-written human characters, Paul Henreid is dull in comparison as Ilsa’s husband Victor Laszlo, and I can’t help but wonder why he didn’t travel under a pseudonym considering he was being hunted by the Nazis. It might have helped him get an exit visa more easily. The initially fast-moving plot also slows down a bit too much in the middle when Ilsa and Rick are discussing their relationship at night.

This and Laszlo’s weak character are the best reasons I can come up with to explain why it’s so low on my list. These are most likely grievances that very few possess so it’s probably just me. Still, I admire Casablanca for its enduring story of love and colorful script and characters, and it certainly deserved its three Oscar wins, including Best Picture. It may not always be my cup of tea, but it’s a film that still inspires countless viewers to say “Play it again, Sam.” (And yes, I know that’s not the exact line.)

Best line (avoiding the obvious): (Rick, as Renault is being forced to close the bar) “How can you close me up? On what grounds?”
(Renault) “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”
(an employee, handing Renault some cash) “Your winnings, sir.”
(Renault) “Oh, thank you very much…. Everybody out at once!”
VC’s best line: (Ilsa to Rick) “I love you so much, and I hate this war so much. Oh, it’s a crazy world; anything can happen. If you shouldn’t get away, I mean, if…if something should keep us apart…. Wherever they put you and wherever I’ll be, I want you to know…. [they kiss] Kiss me. Kiss me as if it were the last time.”


Artistry: 10
Characters/Actors: 9
Entertainment: 8
Visual Effects: N/A
Originality: 9
Watchability: 5
TOTAL: 41 out of 60

Next: #207 – Jane Eyre (1971)

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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