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I saw the pilot for the 1955 "Casablanca" TV series on the new two-disc Casablanca DVD set. Let me say this. With regards to TV adaptations of movies, it is emphatically no M*A*S*H. The show's two main actors are pale imitations of Humphrey Bogart and Claude Raines, and the plot is typical mid-50s Cold War hokum. Instead of being a taciturn, "I stick my neck out for nobuddy" saloonkeep, Rick Blaine is portrayed as a gregarious meddler who seems to moonlight as a secret agent, if his line about being able to secure 24 different passports for himself is any indication. The acting was substandard, and the writing was so bad that the Epstein Brothers should have demanded their names be taken off even though they didn't write it! In other words, and let me make this succinct: Stick with the original 1943 film. AVOID THIS CHEAP KNOCKOFF AT ALL COSTS.
I, too, saw the premiere of this short lived series on the 2003
Casablanca DVD set. I actually was both impressed and disappointed by
it, but more tolerant in the end. This is a sort of introduction to the
show and it serves primarily to show off the marvelous Casablanca set.
The camera pans to every angle, following the actors, (mostly McGraw)
as they walk around and up and down. It's probably the greatest single
set ever created- at least for a TV show.
It was, of course, created for the movie but the film doesn't give you the tour of it that this thing does. Charles McGraw seems like a competent Rick, given that there's only one Bogie. I would have liked to have seen more of it than this one episode shows. But this is probably the only thing from the series that is on DVD. This looks so good you could walk right into the picture and order a drink. It certainly looks better than the clips of the garishly colored David Soul disaster from the early 80's.
The real disappointment is the plot, which amounts to very little. A mysterious beauty, (is that Anita Ekberg?) has some information- I don't know exactly what- that could make the world more wonderful. The question is: who is she going to give it to? She does the right thing in the end. I hope that not every episode of the show was so noble. I know that's what makes the movie tick but it's the characters and the atmosphere that would have counted in the TV show.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Casablanca TV show may be about as close as we'll get to a sequel of the original. The best I can say is that it's better than nothing. Although Bogie isn't there, some original Casablanca cast members appear...but in different roles. Hm. Kinda weird... I've got an episode of the show on 16mm film. It's the episode where a couple of kids find some rare manuscripts and Rick helps them out. Rick protects the kids from some bad guys who are trying to get the priceless manuscripts. One strange thing about this episode is that there are virtually no women around! Where did all the chicks go? Even with all its shortcomings, there's enough of the original Casablanca present to make this show worth checking out.
Wow, this has to been seen to be believed. How do you start with the greatest movie ever made as a template and turn it into a cold war turd? Somehow they managed it for this TV remake filching the opening matte shot of the minaret from the 1942 original, even lifting the intro shot to Rick signing a voucher at the bar "OK Rick" before panning up to - a guy who ain't Humphrey Bogart. Not by a long shot... Apparently the makers of this disaster thought they could lift the premise to turn Rick and his Café Americain into a stop over locale for people escaping the Communist Iron curtain as a premise for a TV series. Gone is Ilsa of course, apparently either the events of the movie never happened or Louie and Rick came back to Casablanca and took up their old lives as though WWII had never happened. The result is horrible beyond words. I saw this on the 2003 2-DVD Casablanca set which is probably included as much for historical value as it is padding. I guess it serves to remind would-be remakers that imitation is the sincerest form of mediocrity. If you get the DVD, watch it last. Also on the 2003 "Casablanca" DVD the Screen Guild Theater Radio version with Bogart, Bergman and Henreid also made in 1943 for CBS radio is much more interesting, boiling the movie down to about a half hour of radio and a marvelous gem.
I have seen this episode of the series starring Charles McGraw and I have to admit that as much as I love McGraw, he does not seem comfortable in this role. I don't know if it is the wardrobe or the hairstyle, but he does not appear "natural" in this role. I wonder HOW he was chosen for this role. The plot is thin beyond measure and Anita Ekberg, while extremely nice to look at does not bring any amount of acting to her role as Ilsa. She is obviously on hand to provide "Mac" a love interest and anyway, I don't think they look good together. Standing next to McGraw, she appears younger and he, well older. But I love McGraw and I will watch him in anything. This episode of the TV series is good for historical value and for seeing McGraw play something other than his usual tough guy role but for anything else forget it. -Mercedyz
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