Wednesday, April 7, 2010


At the height of the German occupation in Europe Casablanca is one of the last places its citizens can flee from – for a price. One of the seedy hot spots in Casablanca is Rick’s a bar owned by a mysterious ex-patriot who is careful to mind his own business in Casablanca until fugitive resistance leader Victor Laszlo and his wife Ilsa flee to Casablanca. Ilsa and Rick had once been in love before the German occupation of France and Ilsa and Rick fight to repress their feelings for one another while she urges him to once again fight against the Germans.

Believe it or not Casablanca is a hard movie to break down, there’s just far too much in it. Just trying to define the genre Casablanca lands in is hard enough; it’s a romance, a film noir, a war film, and a drama all wrapped into one.

I’ve seen Casablanca a few times and there is no doubt that this film is an incredibly influential one that has remained an example of a fantastic film for the better part of a century, but it has managed to influence generations of films that followed it. I know that I can inadvertently thank Michael Curtiz for inspiring Christopher McQuarie & Bryan Singer to bring me The Usual Suspects but watching the film again I was struck with how big of an influence this film was on Star Wars. If you can’t picture a 1940’s war film as having anything to do with the 1970’s science fiction epic I will lay out the parallels for you.

Rick’s: Rick’s bar is undoubtedly the inspiration for the Mos Eisley Cantina, right down to the musicians, and nefarious criminals, smugglers and black market deals that go down. Everyone knows you go to Rick’s to have a few drinks and meet the connections you need to outwit the Germans – just like Luke & Obi Wan go to the Cantina to meet Han and make their way secretly pas the Empire.
The German’s: Parallel’s have always been made between the Germans & storm troopers. In Casablanca they’ve just arrived in town and are making it harder for the residents to flee. In Star Wars the storm troopers are a major presence in Mos Eisley and are screening everyone that flows through the city.
Ilsa: Ilsa is the wife of a resistance fighter who believes in his cause. She knows Rick once fought against the Empire…er Germans…and so she spends the film urging him to rejoin the fray. In Star Wars Leia spends the bulk of the film attempting to convince Han that he shouldn’t be the smuggler he is, but instead he should join her in the fight against the Empire…and just like Ilsa she succeeds.
The Music: I’m no musician but there were a few moments in the score for Casablanca that I swore I heard John Williams and pieces of the Star Wars theme. I could be wrong…but I’ve been watching Star Wars since there were only three films…

There’s a few more parallels I could draw but for the sake of having something else to write about later, and not boring you all I will stop there. If you’re a fan of the original Star Wars I think it would be a fun experiment to watch Casablanca and see if you can pick up on anything I mentioned and didn’t mention here. I’d love to know your thoughts or even what other films you think were directly influenced by Casablanca.

Director: Michael Curtiz
Writers: Julius J. Epstein & Philip G. Epstein
Rick Blaine: Humphrey Bogart
Ilsa Lund: Ingrid Bergman
Victor Laszlo: Paul Henreid
Cpt. Renault: Claude Rains
Ugarte: Peter Lorre
Sam: Dooley Wilson

Major Strasser: What is your nationality?
Rick: I'm a drunkard.
Captain Renault: That makes Rick a citizen of the world.

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