Humphrey Bogart: The Essential Collection
by Del Harvey
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I am very happy to report that Humphrey Bogart: The Essential Collection is one of the best DVD boxed sets ever released.
The first thing you will notice about the collection is that it lives up to its name. The set includes 24 films from the period in which Bogart went from being a stage star to becoming one of the biggest stars in the world and a Hollywood icon. And the selections include the best from his peak period, everything that matters is here including Bogart’s most-beloved classics: “High Sierra,” “The Maltese Falcon,” “Casablanca,” “To Have and Have Not,” “The Big Sleep,” “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” and “Key Largo.”
Those seven films alone could comprise an “essential” set for most Bogart fans, but when you add in films like “The Petrified Forest,” “Kid Galahad,” “Dark Victory,” and “Dark Passage,” it becomes that the kind of collection that expands upon an artist’s sensibilities and reveals a unique and historical perspective on their talent and their career. And while it would have been nice to have some of his later films like “The African Queen,” “The Caine Mutiny,” or “Sabrina,” unfortunately, all those were made after Bogart left Warner Bros. studios. Most true Bogart fans will already own “Casablanca,” “The Maltese Falcon,” and “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” on Blu-ray, especially given the 5-star quality of those releases. Even so, the set is honestly worth the purchase price for the other 21 films. And now you can have three of Bogie’s most-beloved on DVD as well as Blu-ray.
The good news is that this set is not merely a “best of” compilation. The quality of the video transfers does vary but most of the films look better than average DVD. It can be a bit difficult to go from the beautiful blacks and grays of the HD release of “The Maltese Falcon” to the weathered picture on “To Have and Have Not,” but these films certainly don’t bear the look of poor transfers and, in fact, their quality is significantly better than any prints available on cable or even VHS.
Simply viewing all 24 movies in “Humphrey Bogart: The Essential Collection” would take days or weeks for most of us. With an enthusiast’s glee, I am happy to report that it is the special features that are truly overwhelming. The 24 films are split up among 12 double-sided DVDs in cases that hold two-a-piece for a total of six DVD cases within the set. A seventh case includes the excellent documentary “The Brothers Warner,” a feature-length piece also available before this release and it is a chronicle of the rise of Warner Brothers as a family and an iconic studio.
Physical collectibles include a 48-page book with an introduction by Robert Osborne and a glossy set of one-sheet poster photo cards and rare archival studio correspondence.
The special features are overwhelming, including 16 commentaries, 13 historical featurettes and short documentaries, studio blooper reels, vintage radio shows, classic cartoons, newsreels from the period, and radio show adaptations. Listing them by film would be overkill there are so many pieces included in the collection from a Looney Tunes cartoon to a newsreel to commentaries by film historians. You could literally spend every waking hour with this set for over a week and maybe have taken it all in. It’s a transportative set that doesn’t just compile films from an era but takes you back to it.
A note to the Christmas shoppers among you:
“Humphrey Bogart: The Essential Collection” stars Humphrey Bogart and dozens of other stars. It was released on DVD on October 5th, 2010.
Read more about this wonderful boxed set here.
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, a film teacher, a writer and a film critic in Chicago.
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