The Depressing Trials of Importing Middlemarch

1994's Middlemarch, the BBC mini-series adaptation of George Eliot's novel by the reliably excellent Andrew Davies, was originally available on DVD only in the UK. I imported it as soon as it was released. Some years later, however, it did make its way on DVD here in the USA, both sold separately and later packaged as part of The George Eliot Collection boxed set. Interestingly, the two releases are rather different. And frustratingly, it's hard to say which is preferable since neither seem to get things quite right.

Update 11/10/15 - 1/30/21: As part of my recent exploration of Spanish blu-rays, I've finally cracked and put in an order with AmazonES.  But I didn't get that 2013 Llamentol BD-R that was so harshly criticized below.  There's a newer edition from Mapetac, which didn't exist when I first wrote this article.  So I rolled the dice, hoping it has at least slightly more to recommend it.

Update 11/12/22: I've picked up the Llamentol disc to confirm what I already suspected: it's the exact same disc as the Mapetac, just with new an updated cover and label.  Boring, huh?  Well, to spice things up, I actually sprung for Llamentol's whole George Elliot Collection, so now we've got full DVD/ Blu-ray comparisons for Daniel Deronda and Adam Bede, too!  So it's a really big update for Update Week!
Middlemarch is the tale of a fictional English town during the tumultuous early 1800s. It's a complex, interwoven story with many characters and plots, but the two characters you could probably point to as most central are Dorathea and Dr. Lydgate, young idealists who make terrible marriage choices and struggle for purpose as their life's ambitions are repeatedly thwarted. It's not really a romance, though affairs of the heart certainly factor prominently. But it's still more Dickens than Austen or Bronte, tackling the human condition at large. Andrew Davies and a classic novel are an unbeatable combination (except maybe for that weird, modernized Othello he wrote), so you know this series is firing on all cylinders. It's got a wonderful supporting cast, including Robert Hardy, Colin's brother Jonathan Firth, Rufus Sewell and Elizabeth Spriggs. It was nominated for 8 BAFTAs and won 3, including Best Original Music, which will come into play in the extras. It's a great story, and the BBC has done an excellent job capturing it.
2001 UK DVD from BBC/ 2 Entertain on top;
2005 US DVD from Warner Home Video bottom.
Unfortunately, the BBC didn't do such a great job bringing it to home video. Although to be fair, their first attempt wasn't too terrible for an old DVD of a television drama. Their UK disc is oddly framed at 1.50:1, which makes it somewhat letterboxed, but it's still 4:3 non-anamorphic. And by 2001, all the quality discs were already anamorphic. So it was good news when the newer US disc WAS anamorphic. And they also fixed the aspect ratio, kind of. Well, they at least made it different. The US DVD is 1.78:1, which adds some information to the sides, but chops some off the top and bottom. I'm not really sure what the original aspect was, unfortunately; but I think it's a safe bet that a 1994 TV show wasn't formatting for widescreen TVs yet; so 1.78:1 is probably incorrect. I've never heard of anything being 1.50, though; and the US disc shows us the UK disc is missing picture from the sides... so I daresay they're both wrong.

Speaking of wrong, look at that first US comparison shot: it's interlaced! Yuck. Yeah, the US disc has got it bad, making all horizontal movement look particularly jerky. And this is a problem the UK disc does not have. It only entered into the equation when the US ported it over, so I guess they did the PAL/ NTSC conversion on the cheap. The US disc is also softer and paler than the UK disc, which wasn't exactly an impressively vibrant and clear image to begin with.  Both DVDs have optional English subtitles.
I can't really say either disc gets anything wrong in the extras department, but again, both of our options are quite different. The original UK DVD had two main extras (apart from some commercials/ bonus trailers): a 29+ minute 'making of' documentary and 30 minutes of the score, edited and compiled in 5.1 (the rest of the DVD is in standard stereo). The documentary is quite good, starting off showing how the BBC practically invades a small town and turns it into a period location which the locals have to live their day to day lives in while the series is shooting. It then goes on to interview the cast and crew, covering all aspects of the production from filming to scoring.

The US disc doesn't have either of these, but instead has its own 40 minute documentary, which is actually quite different. While a few key people, like Davies, are interviewed in both; they cover almost entirely different ground. This one takes a broader look focusing more on the original novel, telling you about Eliot, and the recent success of the series. It doesn't really tackle any of the subjects from the UK documentary, making it difficult to choose between them. They're both quite good, so most fans will want both. However, I don't know about you, but the prospect of buying two very flawed releases and still not having a particularly high-end viewing prospect doesn't sound to enticing to me.
You might stop me now to say: but wait! I see online that there is a third option: a Spanish blu-ray. Sold separately or as part of their 3-disc George Eliot Collection.  Yes, I have spent a lot of time researching it online. The 2013 release is from Llamentol, a most infamous blu-ray label, known for often releasing their discs on BD-R (which is to say home-made blank blu-ray discs).  I've researched it, and apparently it is quite poor.  Here, wait, allow me to quote a couple 1-star user reviews:

"Another disappointment,No digital restoration,no remastering to high definition.Shown in 4:3 format which looks terrible on a Modern widescreen tv.Not recommended,stick with the dvd." - from AmazonES

"[T]he picture is dire - massive amounts of shimmer and grain - it doesn't even come up a DVD standard (which I had and that was only passable too). There's flicks, wobbles and specks of dirt on the print (it's barely video standard). Worse - it seems to be defaulted to 4/3 which is TV Aspect so it looks like one of those old movies centered in your screen... I can't stress enough how bad the picture is - really awful... I'd say this is one BLU RAY to avoid." - from AmazonUK

"I am terribly disappointed in this blu ray version. It is grainy. Where is the excellent resolution of blu ray? The dvd is so much better! This so-called blu ray is going to Goodwill. Please don't buy this. Get the dvd instead!!!" - from our Amazon

So there you go, users from around the world warn us away from that blu-ray; and no, there are no positive contrary opinions. The blu also doesn't have any of the extras from either of the past DVDs. But lo, a new challenger enters the ring!  Oh, and I picked up that Llamentol disc, too, so we can see the difference for ourselves.
2013 ES BD from Llamentol on top;
2016 ES BD from Mapetac Distribution bottom.
Well, if there were any difference.  They're actually quite identical.  But, well, I have two main points to make about the BD transfer(s). They're pretty awful for blu-rays, and they're the best editions on the market.  Allow me to elaborate.  At 1.30:1, they're surely the most accurate aspect ratio of the show to date (though 1.33 would be even more precise).  They retain all the vertical information of the UK DVD, that the US cropped, but are the tightest of the three along the sides.  Still, they're probably about how it was intended.  They're super soft and noisy for BD, to the point where I could hardly call them BD quality.  They also lean a tad green.  But I do have to admit, they are ever so slightly sharper and clearer than the DVDs.

And here's where they really stand out: the blus have neither the non-anamorphic problem of the UK DVD or the interlacing of the US DVD, making them the clear winner(s).  In other words, they're essentially DVD quality... but the other DVDs are deeply flawed.  So they're the definitive version going, and I don't see this series getting a nice remaster any lifetime soon.
Of course the audio is lossy and the only subtitles are Spanish (at least they're entirely optional).  There's also a Spanish dub included.  And unlike the DVDs with their unique featurettes, the BDs are barebones.  They are pressed dual-layered discs, however.  Not BD-R.  It turns out Llamentol and Mapetac are sister companies, and I've come across several Mapetac updates of Llamentol releases, which have also proven to be identical on the inside.  Oh well, I guess they tricked me into trying the Mapetac, but I can't say I went in there with any higher expectations.  At least they resolve the disasters of the previous DVD editions - a rickety but definite step in the right direction.  It's hard to feel excited for an upgrade that looks this ratty, but it's still the best we've got.

Plus, I didn't just double-dip on the Spanish blus.  I used it as an excuse to spring for the entire George Eliot Collection, upgrading my DVDs (released by 2 Entertain and Warner Bros here in the states) of Daniel Deronda and Adam Bede at the same time.  Assuming they're upgrades at all, which as we've seen, is a shaky assumption.  The fact that the outer slipcover for the collection is just a sheet of paper tightly wrapped around the three amary cases doesn't inspire much confidence either.  But these two American DVDs are interlaced, too, just like the US Middlemarch.  So if Llamentol just manages to fix that, I'll be happy; and any improvement they pull off above or beyond that will just be a happy surprise.
So let's start with 1992's Adam Bede, just because it comes first chronologically.  It's pretty good, but I probably wouldn't have gone so far as to add it to my collection if it wasn't part of the set.  It's a TV movie, not a miniseries like the other two on this page, so maybe part of the problem is that it's been a bit abridged/ simplified?  I can't say for sure, because I've never read the book; but taken on its own, the greatest fault is just that feels simple and predictable.  Adam is a good poor guy who works for a bad rich guy, and they both fall in love with Patsy Kensit.  She's the bad girl.  Susannah Harker's the goodly pious girl.  You can guess how it all ends up.  Though I have to say, they do give some decent shading to the characters (i.e. Adam isn't that good), and there are plenty of plot twists involving secret pregnancies and interfering parents.  It's certainly an enjoyable watch with a great cast (also keep an eye out for Robert Stephens, Paul Brookes, Freddie Jones and Upstairs Downstairs' Jean Marsh), but you don't get the effect of a great literary work.  It may be too much novel for 100 minutes.
2007 US 2 Entertain DVD on top; 2013 ES Llamentol BD bottom.
Both discs are fullscreen, with the BD's 1.33:1 correcting the DVD's slightly pinched 1.31:1, which as made-for-TV movies from 1992 is surely exactly as it should be.  The colors are a bit faded and rather sickly looking, and this was clearly shot on film, so if the BBC ever cared to do a restoration, it would probably be revelatory.  But the good news: no interlacing!  As we should expect by now, the Dolby Digital stereo audio is lossy even on the blu.  The DVD had English subtitles, which the Spanish blu disappointingly but unsurprisingly substitutes with Spanish subs and an also lossy Spanish dub.  There are no extras for this movie on either release.

Next up is 2002's Daniel Deronda.  This one isn't on par with Middlemarch either, but it's more fun.  It's a miniseries, that's actually edited differently between the US and Spanish releases.  The US DVD is actually the way it was originally broadcast overseas: in three episodes, the first being movie-length, and the next two being the traditional "it would be an hour with commercials."  The Spanish blu re-edits it to four episodes of the same length, as it aired in other parts of the world.  Now, this doesn't just mean episode breaks in different places and an extra set of credits.  A bunch of scenes have been moved around, presumably to make each episode still feel like it's ending on a bit of a climax or cliff hanger rather than an arbitrary stopping point.  But nothing seems to have been added or subtracted to either version, so I wouldn't worry too much about it.  The DVD does boast "20 minutes not seen on American television," but after careful comparison, both discs appear to have everything.  Also, both discs are NTSC and the total run times are only about two minutes apart, which logos and the fourth set of credits would account for.  Still, it does mean liberties were taken with the original editing choices, so purists be warned.
The production values are flashier, and despite being substantially longer, Andrew Davies' scripting keeps the pace flowing with more energy than Bede.  It's great to see Jodhi May again after her excellent starring role in The Turn of the Screw.  The dramatic relationship between the risk taking Gwendolin and the dastardly Hugh Bonneville (and his toady, David Bamber) is delicious.  On the other hand, all the stuff about the titular Daniel discovering his lost heritage is preachy, if not downright hokey, and some of the plot twists feel a little obvious.  But I feel like Davies' recognizes this, and does his able best to keep all the plates spinning at an engrossing rate.  More great supporting players including Topsy-Turvy's Allan Corduner, Edward Fox, and Barbara Hershey all keep you thoroughly engrossed.  This one did win a bunch of BAFTAs, and will definitely please even the audiences who found Bede stuffy.  But it does get a little eye roll-y at points.
2003 US Warner Bros DVD on top; 2013 ES Llamentol BD bottom.
Both discs are anamorphic widescreen 1.78:1, but Llamentol reveals a smidgen more information along the edges.  Otherwise, it looks pretty much like another upconvert, with essentially the same SD master.  But yes, once again, the BD fixes the DVD's interlacing problem, which is all I wanted.  Once again, the Dolby Digital stereo audio is lossy even on the blu.  The DVD had English subtitles, which yes, the Spanish blu substitutes with Spanish subs and an also lossy Spanish dub.  Neither disc has any extras, except for a little photo gallery on the DVD.

So all of these Llamentol BDs are underwhelming.  But they're all also the best way to watch these excellent programs.  So I recommend them, as long as you keep your expectations in check.  But it sure would be nice if the BBC went back to the original negatives and restored the heck out of all excellent shows.  Sigh...

When In Spain, Visit Mansfield Park

I've been thinking about Spanish blu-rays lately.  They're so infamous for being hopelessly awash in bootlegs that collectors tend to avoid ordering anything from the whole country because their reputation's been so soiled and people are rightly afraid of getting burned.  The biggest issue seems to be that some major distributors and labels over there get treated like legit companies even though they're consistently selling unlicensed, low quality, even upscaled BDRs in stores and online.  Here's a fantastic series of articles about it (though not Spain-focused, they do detail all of their most notorious offenders).  And you can also, for whatever reason, never seem to find proper online reviews of Spanish discs.  So people just tend to write off anything released over there, which is awful for the completely legit outlets over there that are paying for all the rights and coming out with perfectly respectable BDs.  They're not all bootlegs.  And there are some super tempting exclusives... we just need one poor sucker to take a leap of faith, throw their hard earned money at some blind buys hoping not to get burned with junk discs, and report back.  Today, I'm your sucker.
There was no question what title I'd start with.  I'd been eying Spain's exclusive hold on 1999's Mansfield Park with jealousy for a very long time.  There is no blu-ray anywhere else in the world, just very old DVDs.  And this movie has long been one of my favorites, to the point where anytime I feel blocked as a writer, I can just watch this and I'm fully inspired again.  It's a bright and beautiful adaptation, though as naysayers are quite right to point out, it isn't strictly the most faithful.

Writer/ director Patricia Rozema points out in her commentary, that the opening credits make the important distinction that this is based not only on Jane Austen's novel, but "her letters and early journals."  Most obviously, this allows her to intersperse the film with Frances O'Connor quoting some fun passages of Austen's early writing, allowing us to sample more of her work that's always otherwise been left off the screen, which is a nice treat.  But more importantly, it means that Rozema is up to more than simply, directly filming the novel, and in the course, changing the extremely straight-laced lead character of Fanny Price to someone much more spirited, and in tune with the real Austen.  Referring to the commentary again, Rozema points out some remarkable autobiographical details Price shares with her creator.  We also see Fanny's favorite brother Michael becomes her favorite sister Susan, and more importantly, Rozema is determined to talk about slavery.
Of course, it has to be acknowledged that slavery is touched on in the novel.  It's briefly but directly discussed by characters in the novel, and Austen is no doubt saying something about where the fortune that Fanny is being elevated to derives from, and no doubt some correlations to state of women at that time.  It's certainly illustrated time and again that even Fanny's wealthy cousins are far from free.  But Rozema takes Austen's subtext and bumps it up to the text, with multiple new scenes, some startling imagery and even a recurring African theme song called "Djonga (Slavery)."  But the surprise is how good these new scenes are and how smoothly they fit into the rest of the proceedings without disrupting the main story.  The humor and the romance is unharmed; indeed, it might actually all be enhanced with deeper themes and more serious drama running through its veins.  The character of Tom feels particularly enriched when his behavior, which seems to simply be the result of being spoiled and insensitive due to his wealth and class, thus marking him apart both from Fanny and his disinherited younger brother, is actually at least also in part due to devastating moral conflict with his family business.
The one down-side is that, while the new material never feels like it's working against the original writing, it does mean that, purely in terms of length and screentime, more must be trimmed away to make room.  As a feature film clocking in at under two hours, it was always going to be have to be a fairly abridged presentation of the full story.  Every time I watch it, I'm always struck when we reach their production of Lovers' Vows so quickly.  But that's the nature of condensing novels into features.  And though I don't personally agree, modern audiences might've been happy for the quicker pace.  It's certainly hard to remember to be upset about any of the missing scenes when they keep briskly moving from one delightful moment to another.  The cast - including Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter, Army of Darkness's Embeth Davidtz, Trainspotting's Jonny Lee Miller and Lindsay Duncan in a truly impressive dual role - just refuse to let your attention wander to anything off-screen for a moment.  And I've been dying to see them in HD.
2000 Miramax DVD top; 2012 Savor BD bottom.
So first of all, huzzah!  This is a legit 1080p HD image, with none of the weird interlacing or frame-rate issues I was dreading.  And it's not just the same decades-old master, free of the clumpy compression tied to DVDs... though I would have been happy with just that.  No, this is a newer much clearer and sharper image.  It also corrects the colors, getting rid of that ugly greenish hue that covered the DVD's image and naturalizing overblown contrast.  Note how the sunlight flares out on the Crawfords' faces on the DVD, but not the blu.  It's certainly not a cutting edge HD transfer; grain is super soft when it's there at all and I'm sure more detail could be pulled out of a fresh 4k scan of the original negatives.  And yes, this is a single-layer disc.  But it's a substantial step forward.  The framing corrects the DVD's 1.82:1 to a proper 1.85:1.  The DVD has a strip of dead space along the right-hand side, which they got away with back in the overscan days, but now needs to be fixed, which the blu has done.  It's less about revealing any more on the sides, though - the two discs are exactly the same in that respect - but matting vertically.  That, as you may've already noticed, has also included a distinct shift, showing more along the top and less along the bottom.  The adjusted framing actually turns this film's one nude scene back into a PG-safe moment:
2000 Miramax DVD top; 2012 Savor BD bottom.
Given that is a Jane Austen adaptation (albeit one with a few of its own ideas), I'm not sure this isn't actually fitting; but I'm sure for some thirsty viewers, this will be a deal breaker.

And it's not just PQ that's been updated in Spain.  The blu also bumps the DVD's 5.1 mix up to DTS-HD.  And no, it's Spanish subtitles aren't forced.  The only downside is that the Spanish blu drops the optional English subtitles and French dub from the DVD; but for proper lossless track, that's a happy trade.
Perhaps a less happy trade, though, comes in the special features.  Neither edition is barebones, but the DVD does still win in this category, primarily for one main feature: an audio commentary by writer/ director Patricia Rozema.  She gives a great commentary, with never a dull moment, mixing behind-the-scenes anecdotes with insight into her intentions and process adapting the novel.  For example, she suggests that Austen named Mansfield Park after the Mansfield Decision, a landmark ruling in the UK's abolition of slavery, prompting her own decision to add more material on the Bertram's ugly business in Antigua.  Also, Embeth Davidtz was afraid of horses.  It's all covered here!  The DVD also includes a fleeting, five minute featurette that at least gives us soundbites from the cast and B-roll footage, the trailer, and a bonus trailer for Emma.

Savor drops all of that... which makes sense, I suppose, since an English commentary for Spanish audiences would have to be entirely subtitled, thus probably holding less salable appeal.  But anyway, it's not barebones.  It essentially has two features.  One is nineteen minutes of interviews with the cast and crew.  However, this one's not English friendly.  Even though they're speaking English, they're dubbed over in Spanish.  The second featurette is English-friendly however; it's a short collection of B-roll footage, in English with Spanish subs.  It also has a Spanish trailer.  So, yes, it's a step backwards in special features.  But if you hang onto your old DVD, it's still a net gain where you'll be adding one new featurette to the rest of your extras.
And if you're still pining for a doggedly faithful Mansfield Park, may I remind you, that option has already existed for years before this movie.  There's the original 1983 BBC mini-series, readily available on DVD in the US separately or as part of Warner Bros' essential 2004 Jane Austen Collection boxed set, which is quite excellent.  While it doesn't have the glossy look of the 1999 film, it doesn't want for production values, with a robust cast and every interior and exterior location called for by the novel.  This isn't one of those earlier BBC productions where they're filmed live in a set that stands in for only a handful of rooms.  This is a full production, and I use that word in more than one sense.  At over four and a half hours, it's able to thoroughly reproduce the novel, where every other version has had to cherry pick scenes to indicate and suggest the themes the author was aiming for.  The humor is still here - in fact, there's much more of it - and the cast is wonderful, including Nicholas Farrell, who most of us will remember as Horatio in Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet, Sylvestra Le Touzel portraying Fanny as she was actually written, Anna Massey, Angela Pleasance and a small but fun appearance by a very young Jeremy Miller, this time playing one of Fanny's siblings.
2004 Warner Bros DVD.
Not that Warners' disc is particularly exceptional.  It's a single, double-sided fullscreen (1.33:1) flipper disc that's got some nasty (every frame) interlacing.  The discoloration around those candle frames betrays its videotape origins.  With an old television show, you can't expect IMax quality, but when you look at what, for example, Network recently did with Monty Python's Flying Circus, well... that kind of extensive restoration obviously wasn't done here.  Though it at least the DVD doesn't seem to be quite so swamped in natty video noise as some streaming versions I've seen are.  I'd be very curious to see if the UK discs at least do away with the interlacing.  And of course it's completely barebones, though it at least offers up optional English subs as captions, and the original mono track is reasonably clear.

It's certainly very watchable, and the series is maybe a bit flat, but still quite excellent and by far the most faithful.  ITV did also create a version of Mansfield Park in 2007, which is the most readily available on DVD and blu, but unfortunately, it's the worst of both worlds.  It's again cut down to feature length, losing so much of the book, both in terms of literal scenes and in its tone and character.  It was at least shot in colorful HD, but it drops the ball (not metaphorically... I mean the ball the Bertrams throw for Fanny in the story), Miss Price's hometown and pretty much anything else that couldn't be filmed quick and on the cheap.  And it doesn't have its own ideas like the 1999 version either.  It's just a sort of empty shell of Mansfield Park.  Plus the actress they cast as Fanny, well, I can only guess none of the Kardashian sisters were available and she was their back-up.
But fortunately, between everything the 80s and 90s versions provide, we already get all the Mansfield Park we could ask for on screen.  And with Savor's blu, we even get a pleasing HD presentation that I'm happy to report exceeds my expectations, something I'm now very glad to have in my collection.  Absolutely money well spent.

You Could Do a Lot Worse Than A Night In Casablanca

So this is my first ClassicFlix release - it's always great to introduce a new label to the site.  Not that they're brand new.  For a good decade, ClassicFlix was an independent competitor of Netflix, renting DVDs of: you guessed it, classic films by mail.  Then, in 2017, they became a boutique label licensing and releasing films on home video.  Their latest release is 1946's A Night In Casablanca, one of the surprisingly many Marx Brothers movies that were still in need of decent HD releases.
Apparently, A Night In Casablanca was at one time intended to be a pretty direct parody of Casablanca.  But what we've got here, funded by the brothers themselves, barely resembles the 1942 classic outside of the general location.  Rather than a gin joint, we're at a hotel, where the managers keep getting murdered under mysterious circumstances.  Things get so desperate, they employ Groucho, a conman who winds up getting romantically entangled with one of the murderers.  The plot, such as it is, follows a post-war Nazi who's hidden treasure somewhere in the hotel.  As was the norm in these films, there's a young romantic couple who serve to tie the Brothers into the rest of the story (Chico and Harpo decide to help them just because they seem nice), but they're so side-lined here they practically disappear until the finale.
Groucho's one-liners aren't quite in top-form, but we still get a fast-paced send-up full of amusing comic set-pieces and yes, musical numbers.  This film feels very tightly edited, scenes seem to end before their last line and our femme fatale just gets to sing a short snippet of her big song, the one announced in the opening credits.  It seems like the filmmakers lacked a little faith in the material and decided the only way to save the film was to cut, cut, cut!  And they may've been right.  A few plot points probably held together better in the rough cut, but for the most part, the breakneck pace works in the brothers' favor, restoring a bit of the madcap feel of their earlier work, albeit with an obvious slapdash bent as well.  At least until the climax where dogged stuntmen pursue a real airplane with various cars and hectic high-jinks, when we see finally where the film's money was spent.  Overall, it's not one of the Marx's best, but it holds up as more consistently entertaining than most of their tail-end features.
A Night In Casablanca was released on DVD by Warner Bros in 2004, in part of their impressive 5-disc, nine film The Marx Brothers Collection boxed set, which is still the best way to see those eight other films.  But in the last year or so, it started appearing on blu in other countries, including France and Germany.  And now, by way of ClassicFlix, it's arrived in the US, and we can only hope all the remaining Marx Bros' films are soon to follow.
2004 WB DVD top; 2020 CF BD bottom.
My first observation is that appears to be the same master Warner Bros used bumped up to HD (and presumably the same on the French and German blus), which isn't a bad thing, since WB's scan was quite attractive.  And it's not like they haven't made any changes.  For one thing, the aspect ratio's widen from 1.33:1 to a probably more correct 1.36:1.  Part of that is a very slight un-squishing of the image, making it a little tall.  And the other part is that they're now showing a tiny bit more around the edges of the frame - although there are a handful of shots where I wondered if they revealed too much.  For example, in that shot of Harpo dueling above, is that the edge of the set we see along the top?  But it was very rare when I even questioned anything that was revealed, and it's never overt enough to be distracting, and definitely no reason to miss out on the HD bump, which makes the image immediately sharper and clearer.  Grain is soft, which you'd expect from an older master, but it's everything you'd expect in the jump from DVD to BD, if not an all new restoration.

Warner Bros included the original mono track in Dolby Digital with English, French and Spanish subtitles.  ClassicFlix dumped the foreign language options but kept the English subtitles (despite any online reports to the contrary), and bumped the audio up to DTS-HD.
You wouldn't expect much by way of extras for this movie, but happily there's more than none.  Warner Bros just featured two vintage WB shorts, which they were in the habit of including with their classic films at the time.  The idea was that they were replicating the feel of how films of that time played with such shorts before the film in the theaters, which makes me wonder if these two actually ran with A Night In Casablanca back in '46.  They're certainly both '46 films.  One is a silly Joe McDoakes comedy called So You Think You're a Nervous Wreck?, and the other's Acrobatty Bunny, a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

Anyway, ClassicFlix doesn't have the shorts, but does have a few bits actually directly connected to A Night In Casablanca.  First, and most excitingly, they have an audio recording of the Marx Bros trying out material for the film live on stage, as they were wont to do.  The best part about it is that most of the material didn't make it to the final film, so they're essentially deleted scenes.  ClassicFlix has also scared up the trailer, a stills gallery and a series of radio spots, some of which get include new gags by the Marx Brothers and get pretty bizarre.  There's also a collection of ClassicFlix bonus trailers, including one that plays on start-up.
It's a little crazy to be getting this while their most famous film, A Night At the Opera, and many of their other big hits remain relegated to SD.  But hey, I'll take it!  Especially since, with each iteration, my appreciation of this notoriously post-retirement film increases a little bit more.