Cineastes Bicker Over Virtues, Drawbacks Of Darker, Grainier New Casablanca Blu-ray

Since the dawn of home video, movie lovers have debated the implications of screwing with old movie prints to make them look better. The advent of Blu-ray has drawn a line between traditionalists who adore the rough-hewn, old-school look of grainy images and those who prefer technicians to buff out the grain in favor of sharper, smoother visuals. The latest battlefront in the debate pits the new dark-toned, supposedly more true-to-the-original Casablanca Blu-ray release, which follows a brighter, cleaner-looking 2008 edition.

Hollywood Elsewhere hosts a throwdown about which version is better. The conversation is filled with technical terms that go over my head, but both sides claim valid points.

Here’s a pro-2012 version snippet:

“What I see when I look at the new disc is hardly ‘billions of micro-mosquitoes’, digital or otherwise. What I see is a less bright but more detailed picture with an uptick in structured grain, which is very different from some kind of screen of undulating black pixels.”

And here’s a passionate defense of the 2008 edition:

“I understand and have no problem with integrated grain — I want films to look like film. But in the matter of the ’08 Casablanca release vs. the present one, there isn’t a moment’s hesitation in saying that the ’08 version is highly pleasurable and the new version is not. The 70th anniversary grain is not enjoyable to me. To me it’s an obstruction standing between my eyes and the glory of the film’s visuals. On top of which it’s ****ing darker, which I hate.”

It all comes down to personal preference. The one good thing about greedy studios releasing and re-releasing classics on Blu-ray is that it gives movie fans a choice to vote with their wallets for their favorite restoration technique.

Casablanca Blu-ray Face-Off [Hollywood Elsewhere]


Edit Your Comment

  1. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Is this why Hollywood just throws up its perfectly manicured collective hands and says, “fine, we’ll just remake it!”?

    • McRib wants to know if you've been saved by the Holy Clown says:

      With Brandon Frasier!

      • SilentAgenger says:

        …or Will Smith!

        • doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

          The Rock as Rick
          Brendan Fraser as Victor
          Milla Jovovich as Ilsa
          Ewan McGregor as Capt Renault
          Will Smith as Sam

        • doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

          Christian Bale as Rick
          Michael Caine as Capt Renault
          Gary Oldman as Victor
          Scarlett Johanson as Isla
          Morgan Freeman as Sam

          David Bowie as Major Strasser

          Directed by . . .
          In Theaters and IMAX Summer 2013

          • drjayphd says:

            Directed by none other than Uwe Boll and Michael Bay.

            (INSERT shutupandtakemymoney.jpg HERE)

  2. GMFish says:

    I have not seen either of the Casablanca blu-rays, but I’m totally in favor of the 2010 re-released digitally cleaned Predator blu-ray versus the super-grainy and super-dark 2008 version.

    • hansolo247 says:

      The one where Arnold is made of wax?

      Overall, I’d say the Hunter edition was better than the original release, but on some of the scenes, they overdid the digital noise reduction to the point it was almost a cartoon. In the early scenes where Arnold was wearing the red shirt and doing the bro-shake with his buddy, there was NO DETAIL in the picture.

      • GMFish says:

        I’ll totally agree that the 2010 was a little over done. However, the 2008 version was unwatchable unless you were in a completely dark room.

        • hansolo247 says:


          That was more due to Fox wanting to use MPEG2 and a BD25 with 24/48 lossless audio. Not much room for picture info on that…less than HDTV bitrate actually.

          Some other releases, like Patton, “look” nice but were totally wrecked.

    • powermetal2000 says:

      That Predator Blu-ray was a disaster. They used way too much DNR. Here’s a quote from a review….

      “The texture of the film’s grain structure has been stripped entirely from the picture, obliterating the finest details in the process. Arnie’s face looks like a candle wax stump, oily and smooth. Carl Weathers’ mustache seems airbrushed onto his face. The jungle might as well be digitized. Even the 20th Century Fox logo that opens the film appears soft, under a thick coating of Gaussian blur. This is easily one of the worst abuses of DNR to hit Blu-ray “

  3. blinky says:

    Isn’t casablanca film noir?

    • eccsame says:

      Nope. Not even close

    • petermv says:

      It is a WWII US propaganda film about the Nazis.

    • KyBash says:

      I understand how people who aren’t “into” classic movies might think that, but I strongly advise you don’t say such things in public! (I’ve been verbally bludgeoned for saying that Rififi (1955) is my favorite film noir, the consensus being that it’s simply a caper movie.)

  4. petermv says:

    This just shows the mindset of the ‘AA’s. Keep releasing “NEW!!” “IMPROVED!!” versions cuz the consumers will buy them, then wonder why they sold 20 million of the first release, then 5 million of the second release ad infinitum until no one buys them anymore. Then scream piracy as to the cause of lackluster sales.

  5. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    I wonder if in 50 years, people will be discussing the restoration and upscaling of Michael Bay movies.

  6. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    It’s Bluray. Isn’t there room on the disc for both versions?

    • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

      I like this idea.

      Then again, they make more money by having two different versions on the market, by way of those who either are collectors or who buy one then realize the other might be better.

    • dru_zod says:

      They could include both versions by including an extra disc, maybe. If they tried to cram both versions on the same disc, along with extras, then both versions would look crappy and everyone could agree on their crappiness. Since these aren’t actually two different versions, just two different transfers, I don’t know if having both would make sense for most people. I have yet to see a DVD or Blu-Ray boast two different transfers of the exact same movie as a selling point.

  7. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    My two cents – I got the regular DVD from Netflix recently, and watched it on my 20 year old analog Sanyo TV. I loved it as much this time as the first time I saw it back in the 70’s on a Saturday afternoon movie on TV.

    I know a lot of people are all about the picture quality, pixels, whatever…but I like the story and as long as the picture is basically clear, and I can understand the audio, I’m cool with it. After all, it was made in the 1940’s for goodness sake.

    • KyBash says:


      A lot of recent movies rely on the visual impact, but any movie (new or old) which is about characters and plot isn’t dependent on the print quality (as long as it’s not so bad that its flaws distract you).

    • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

      I recently bought a slew of DVDs on Amazon, all comedies that I could watch over and over again (Airplane!, Naked Gun, Clue, etc.). I have yet to upgrade to Blu-Ray (I stream most everything), but figured how sharp do I need a comedy from the late 70s/early 80s? Might as well buy them now, at a good price.

  8. PunditGuy says:

    I’ve got the 2008 version on HD-DVD, and it’s gorgeous. I’ve seen comparison shots with the 2012 version, and the new version does have slightly more detail with the sacrifice of losing some of the backgrounds to darkness. (I think the grain issue is overstated by the second reviewer, but I can’t be sure since I haven’t seen it in motion.) Since I’ve got a combo player (HD-DVD and Blu-ray in one), I don’t feel the need to get the new one.

    Is the new one more “authentic”? Maybe. If a new print had been projected with a really bright bulb, it might look more like the 2008 version. In any event, if you haven’t seen this flick, check it out. I wasn’t sure if I would like it or not, but it ended up being my all-time favorite film.

    • hansolo247 says:

      I’ve had problems with disc rot on some of my HD-DVDs causing playback errors.

      I’ve converted most of my collection to BD-Rs as a result. It’s pretty easy to do…the Xbox HD-DVD drive is invaluable for this.

      • doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

        1. Get Xbox360 HD-DVD drive. Plug into PC.
        2. Get old version of DVDFab.
        3. Buy crapload of cheap HD-DVDs on Amazon.
        4. Use AVC-HD to convert HD-DVD to BD format. Or mkvtoolnix to convert to MKV.
        5. Put on external hard drive or unRaid server.
        6. Watch movies in HD with WDTV live or Dune player.

        We’ve gotten movies this way that weren’t/aren’t out on Blu-Ray yet. The director’s cut of The Frighteners is rather good.

        And Casablanca has no business whatsoever looking like it does. Holy HD goodness!!

  9. Bickle says:

    When you take out the grain, you take out the detail. It’s not “sharper” at all, it’s an illusion. Compare the 2 versions of Gladiator, or the UK versions of pans labyrinth or the golden Compass to the US ones. The difference is striking. One looks Hd, and the other looks like the evening news.

  10. Bickle says:

    When you take out the grain, you take out the detail. It’s not “sharper” at all, it’s an illusion. Compare the 2 versions of Gladiator, or the UK versions of pans labyrinth or the golden Compass to the US ones. The difference is striking. One looks Hd, and the other looks like the evening news.