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.

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