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Year:
1942
Country:
USA
Genre:
Drama, War, Romance
IMDB rating:
8.6
Director:
Michael Curtiz
Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine
Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund
Paul Henreid as Victor Laszlo
Claude Rains as Captain Renault
Conrad Veidt as Major Strasser
Sydney Greenstreet as Signor Ferrari
Peter Lorre as Ugarte
Joy Page as Annina Brandel
John Qualen as Berger
Leonid Kinskey as Sascha
Curt Bois as Pickpocket
Storyline: In World War II Casablanca, Rick Blaine, exiled American and former freedom fighter, runs the most popular nightspot in town. The cynical lone wolf Blaine comes into the possession of two valuable letters of transit. When Nazi Major Strasser arrives in Casablanca, the sycophantic police Captain Renault does what he can to please him, including detaining a Czechoslovak underground leader Victor Laszlo. Much to Rick's surprise, Lazslo arrives with Ilsa, Rick's one time love. Rick is very bitter towards Ilsa, who ran out on him in Paris, but when he learns she had good reason to, they plan to run off together again using the letters of transit. Well, that was their original plan....
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Reviews
Everything that Hollywood should be
I can't see what to write here, since so many people will be moved by this film and write something about their experience in seeing it, often time after time, "As Time Goes By". This is a freeze frame of American war propaganda at its highest point, with an array of America's greatest filmmakers collaborating at the beginning of World War II, right after the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is a work that will always be seen and be honored as the epitome of world film-art that it is. Don't take anything for granted when you watch this movie. It all has to do with time, place, and character. It's so easy to get embroiled in one or two of the character's performances that you'll miss half of the film. It's an amazing film to watch multiple times.
2003-07-04
A film for everyone, even 'As Time Goes By'...
How does one even begin to describe CASABLANCA? I know that there's nothing I can say to improve its reputation, or to make it any more well-loved. All I can attest to is the fact that I had the chance to see this film for the first time today, and just couldn't help falling in love with it. It's as close to perfect as a romance film could get, with elements of war, action, suspense, and good old-fashioned friendship thrown in to spice things up a little.

(Summary contains spoilers, beware!)

It's war-time, and Casablanca is en route to America and freedom. Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), cynical and crusty owner of Cafe Americain, hides a softer, wounded side beneath his tough exterior. He says many times that he's never going to stick his neck out for anyone, that it's a policy of his not to drink with people in his cafe--all things that change when Isla (Ingrid Bergman) comes back into his life, unfortunately accompanied by her husband Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid). Victor is a top man in the resistance movement, and needs desperately to escape to America to continue his fight for freedom. CASABLANCA isn't all about politics, however. It really comes down to the love of Rick for Ilsa, whom he met for a heady love affair in Paris, all set to the tune of 'As Time Goes By' (surely one of the most beautiful and memorable love songs ever written). His choice is the most difficult one anyone could ever be expected to make, and what's good about the film is that it keeps the audience guessing, even to the end, about just what Rick will do with the power he has over the fate of Ilsa, and most importantly, Victor (and as the film would have us believe, the free world!). I dare your heart not to break when Rick tells Ilsa, as he so famously does, "Ilsa, I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world." And then one realises just what war can do to people, and what people can do in spite of war.

It's a fantastic film to be discovering for the first time, since the directing, acting and script are all first-rate. Michael Curtiz pulls the entire film together beautifully, drawing an incredible performance from Humphrey Bogart (perhaps the only actor--aside from Spencer Tracy--who could come off as so apparently self-centred and cynical and yet reveal a believably vulnerable side) and capturing Ingrid Bergman in all her luminous beauty. The supporting cast is brilliant, especially Claude Rains as the parallel character to Bogart's Rick, Captain Louis Renault. He certainly rivals Bergman for screen-time, and justifiably gets the lion's share of the good lines. Moreover, the screenplay is one of the most oft-quoted ones ever written, and for good reason: you just don't get dialogue like this anymore, in any film, and it's a treat to be allowed to listen in on the lives of these characters.

CASABLANCA is often described as one of the best films ever made as well as one of the best-loved. Its reputation is fully deserved. Watch this for yourself to find out why!
2002-08-15
The best of a kind
Spoilers ahead.

I didn't understand the film properly until I read Danny Peary's essay on it in the first of his three "Cult Movies" books (which, by the way, you MUST read, although you should be aware that Peary's complaints about "The Red Shoes" aren't even near the mark). The key (and, in retrospect, obvious) insight is this: all along, Captain Renault WANTED Rick to become a hero again. As long as Rick was content to adopt a cynical, self-serving attitude, Renault, a man made of lesser material, had an excuse to do the same - and he wanted that excuse to be denied him. When it WAS denied him he was delighted. THAT'S he joined the side of the angels, without even hesitating. (It's also why he spent so much time earlier poking fun of Rick's former idealism, in an attempt to get Rick to defend it.) This probably strikes many people as obvious; I regret to say I had to have it pointed out to me.

I don't have to argue that this is a great film. We all know it is. Peary calls it the ONLY film that's everything the old-style studio films were trying to be, and he's probably right. This doesn't, of course, mean that it's the BEST film of the 1940s; better still are the bolder, more ambitious productions made by more inspired directors: "Citizen Kane", "The Red Shoes", "Fantasia", and so forth. But "Casablanca" is probably as high as it is possible to fly without making a Philistine studio executive reach for his heart tablets. This is higher praise than it sounds. And if you think it IS the best film of the 1940s, after all ... well, I can see your point of view.
2002-04-16
As time goes by, it's still one of the all-time greats...
While my personal Bogey favorite is still his Sam Spade in 'The Maltese Falcon', his cynical nightclub owner, Rick, in 'Casablanca', is also a standout. Rather than some "off the cuff" comments, I'll quote instead from my article on Claude Rains (from March 2000 issue of CLASSIC IMAGES) that pretty well sums up the film:

"It was 1943's 'Casablanca', bustling with melodramatic wartime intrigue, that really put him (Claude Rains) in the forefront as one of the screen's smoothest character actors, almost--but not quite--stealing the film from Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, as the uniformed Captain Louis Renault who investigates the goings-on at Rick's notorious cafe.

Nobody associated with the film guessed that it would become a screen classic, least of all its director, Michael Curtiz, the prolific WB director to whom it was just another assignment. It went on to win the Oscar for Best Film of 1943 with an award for Curtiz' taut direction.

Oddly enough, the film's memorable airport ending was written and conceived just shortly before filming wrapped up, with neither Bergman nor Bogart knowing whether or not she would leave him for husband Paul Henried. Wartime audiences loved the film. Sydney Greenstreet, Conrad Veidt, Victor Francen and Peter Lorre all gave sterling performances and Rains was again nominated for Best Supporting actor."

And by the way, I disagree with a former comment indicating the black and white photography of this film was primitive as compared to today's. Incredible nonsense!! As a matter of fact, the film's black and white cinematography was nominated for an Oscar!

Ingrid Bergman was at the peak of her radiant beauty in this one--and Bogey was firing on all six cylinders. Great chemistry!

As time goes by, we still have 'Casablanca'...
2001-05-17
The Greatest
What makes Casablanca the greatest?

The detail. After Ugate is arrested Rick moves forward and picks up a small glass that has fallen over.

When Sam is playing 'As Time Goes by' and Rick is drinking to forget (the famous scene) he involuntarily moans from within. He shows the man's heartbreak - the reactions of emotion running through a body broken by booze and sorrow.

This is acting and film making at it's very finest.

The inner decency of Rick is moving as is Ingrid Bergmann's tear filled eyes - but the throat catcher is the singing of the Marselliase and Yvonne's impassioned 'Vive La France!'

This was war time, and the film makes us remember what it was all for. Hollywood should look at the script - how simply it is constructed - and learn - there is a public worldwide that wants scripts of this quality about real people.
2004-07-20
Outstanding...
Casablanca is the sort of film that suffers from its reputation. People walk into it expecting to see the greatest film of all time and are disappointed when it doesn't measure up to their own pet faves. But if it doesn't have the depth of some masterpieces, it is certainly among the most entertaining, with a brilliantly witty script, a superb cast and one of the most stirring scenes in all cinema, the so-called Battle Of The Anthems when Laszlo incites Rick's patrons in a recital of La Marseillaise. It also broke social ground, with Sam the pianist (Dooley Wilson) being one of the first black roles to be treated as (almost) an equal. Most of all, it's a film you can watch again and again. If you haven't yet, give it a try; it could be the start of a beautiful friendship.
2007-03-05
Classic
Has any movie produced more catch phrases? "I stick my neck out for nobody...Here's looking at you, kid... Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine... Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.... We'll always have Paris" People who haven't even seen the movie know quotes from the movie. That's how famous the movie is. (although nobody in the movie ever said "Play it again, Sam." That phrase didn't come up until the Marx Brother's parody, "A Night in Casablanca," and it was also the title of a 70's Woody Allen movie.)
2003-07-12
Casablanca gets better and better as time goes by!
Saw this classic in DVD format the other night. I must confess that it looks just as good as I remembered it. Michael Curtiz's film is a curious one. It enjoys presently perhaps more popularity than when it originally made its debut in 1942. As new generations discovered the picture, they made it a timeless film, and generations to come will also be charmed by it.

The story of Rick and Ilsa and their impossible love affair will be something to be treasured by film lovers forever. Casablanca in the 40s was a hot bed of intrigue; lots of people tried to get there, but perhaps leaving the place was harder because the red tape of that era and the fact that the Nazis had a way to spoil a party.

In a lot of ways, this is a dated film. By today standards it would be politically incorrect. But ultimately, we all fall under the spell that Michael Curtiz created and for almost two hours we are in Casablanca among the spies and would be travelers eavesdropping into their conversations and the different schemes going on.

Humphrey Bogart was an actor without the looks of some of the handsome male stars of that era, yet, he is mesmerizing as Rick Blaine. It would be hard to imagine another actor playing Rick other that Bogart. Ingrid Bergman was at the height of her career when she made the film. Her chemistry with her co star is one of the best things going, since they made it believable.

The rest of the cast is flawless. Paul Henreid, as Victor Lazlo, cuts quite a figure and it is hard to think Ilsa would prefer Rick to this suave and sophisticated man. Claude Rains is good as Capt. Renault. Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, S.K. Sakall, and above all Dooley Wilson, as Sam, made a magnificent contribution to the film in small roles.

Casablanca gets better and better, as time goes by.
2004-06-27
Casablanca
No film captures the classical Hollywood style quite so well as "Casablanca." The film seamlessly combines romance and intrigue in its exotic location, remarkably conveyed by mere studio sets. The black and white cinematography is perfect for capturing and adding mood to the smoke filled rooms, war torn city streets, and foggy airports that compose the world of this film. Despite seeming a product of its time, "Casablanca" is truly a timeless piece of entertainment. It would be futile to recount the plot here. Even those who have never seen the film are likely to be aware that "Casablanca" is the film where Ingrid Bergman is forced to chose between old lover Humphrey Bogart and her resistance leader husband (the often overlooked Paul Henreid). Bergman as Ilsa Lund, the center of the love triangle, is magnificent here. She communicates with such ease the very different types of love she feels for each man in her life, and we sympathize with her struggle. Of course, Bogart too created a legendary performance as café owner Rick Blaine. Seeing him transform from the man who will stick his neck out for nobody to someone content with making a great self-sacrifice is one of the joys of the film.

Bogart and Bergman are leading players among equals however, and are rightly matched by numerous character actors, not the least of which is Claude Rains. In his portrayal of French Vichy officer Captain Renault, he hits the perfect notes to show off both the corrupt and goodhearted sides of the character. He also gets to deliver some of the film's best comedic one-liners. Another unforgettable actor is Dooley Wilson as the congenial piano player Sam, who of course provides the quintessential rendition of "As Time Goes By". Director Michael Curtiz certainly does these fine actors justice. The film has some striking visuals too. Be on the lookout for the raindrops on a letter which look more like tears, and the symbolism provided by a bottle of water towards the film's end. Viewers aware of the many troubles that plagued the production of "Casablanca," should be amazed at the manner in which the film as a whole is able to so greatly transcend the sum of its parts.

When you pause and really consider it, "Casablanca" is a much simpler film than many others also hailed as classics. It was based on an unremarkable (and unproduced) stage play, shot on a modest budget, and released with the thought of the natural appeal it would carry for its wartime audiences. And yet it has endured so long beyond that. Much has been made on the subject of reading "Casablanca" as a political allegory, with Rick representing isolationist America, Lazlo the Free French, so on, and so on. This rightfully compels the film student in me. But in all actuality, the romantic in me is much more captivated by the story of three little people caught up in the problems of a crazy world. The nuances of the characters, the sense of urgency ominously hanging over every scene, and the tear jerking story of love lost, found, and lost once more in the name of a bigger cause are the elements that stay with us. For me, as well as countless other film lovers around the world, the first viewing of "Casablanca" proves to be the start of a very beautiful friendship.
2006-12-05
Beyond classic
Spoilers ahead, but then again, who isn't familiar with Casablanca, even if one hasn't seen it?

I've been watching 'Casablanca' over and over again since I bought the Special Edition DVD, and is there any film out there one can watch again and again without ever being tired of it? And does any film appeal to a broader audience? Just everything about it seems to be as close to perfection as it only can be.

But what exactly is so special about it? Is it its great genre mix, never equaled by another film? When we think of 'Casablanca' first, we remember it as a romantic film (well, most of us do). But then again, its also a drama involving terror, murder and flight. One can call it a character study, centering on Rick. And there are quite a few moments of comedic delight, just think of the pickpocket ("This place is full of vultures, vultures everywhere!") or the elderly couple on the last evening before their emigration to the US ("What watch?").

But 'Casablanca' is not only great as a whole, it still stands on top if we break it apart and look at single lines of dialog, scenes or performances alone. Is there any other film which has more quotable dialog than 'Casablanca'? 'Pulp Fiction' is on my mind here, and 'All About Eve' and 'Sunset Blvd.' come close, too, but still I think 'Casablanca' tops everything else. And not only is the dialog great, it's unforgettably delivered, especially by Humphrey Bogart ("I was misinformed.") and Claude Rains ("I am shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on here"). Many of scenes have become a part of film history; the duel of 'Die Wacht am Rhein' and 'La Marseillaise' is probably one of the greatest scenes ever shot (the only I can think of that would rival it for the #1 spot is Hynkel and the globe from Chaplin's 'The Great Dictator'), and the last scene is probably even familiar to the few people who've never seen 'Casablanca'. Am I the only one who is absolutely convinced that the film wouldn't have become what it is today if Rick and Ilsa would have ended up as the lucky couple?

About the performances: So much has been said about the uniqueness of Humphrey Bogart's and Ingrid Bergman's chemistry as Rick and Ilsa, about Claude Rains' terrific turn as Renault, about the scene-stealing performances by Peter Lorre (one of the 10 all-time greatest actors) as Ugarte and Sydney Greenstreet as Ferrari and about Dooley Wilson stopping the show as Sam. I'd love to emphasize here two other performances, one that is not mentioned quite as often and one which is blatantly overlooked: Conrad Veidt as Major Strasser had a really difficult task here, as his character is the only evil one, but still Strasser is not a one-dimensional character, and it took more than 50 years until another actor gave an equally (maybe even more) impressive performance as a Nazi, Ralph Fiennes in 'Schindler's List'. But why no one ever mentions S. K. Sakall, who plays Carl, the jolly waiter at Rick's Café Américain, is beyond me. He has definitely more screen time than Lorre, Greenstreet and Wilson, and probably about as much as Veidt, and he's a joy whenever he's on the screen. I simply love his reaction when the pickpocket ("Vultures everywhere!") accidentally bumps into him, or the reaction to the "What watch"-dialog. Or how he says he gave Strasser the best table, "being a German, he would have taken it anyway". His performance is simply criminally overlooked.

So is there a weakest link in 'Casablanca'? Every film, no matter how close to perfection, has a minor flaw or two, so one can find them in 'Casablanca', too, if one really tries hard. So yes, one might ask how much sense the entire mumbo jumbo about the letters of transit makes. One might point out that Paul Henreid, although his performance is certainly good, doesn't come close to the greatness of any of his co-stars. However, the film is so close to perfection that I'm almost ashamed that I'm so desperately trying to find less-than-perfect elements.

So whatever films will come, how many sequels will overflow the screen, and how much junk we will have to sit through, one thing is certain if we're desperate to see a great film: We'll always have Casablanca!
2017-06-23
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