Made in 1942 and starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, Casablanca is probably the classic example of the art of film making. The direction, acting and sheer use of the medium of film sets the standard by which almost all movies have been judged since.

The story is simple yet inspired, and although it was originally designed as yet another propaganda movie it's lost none of its meaning or power even 60 years on. Full of famous quotes (although "Play it again, Sam" is a mis-quote) and even more famous dialogue, this is truly a film that everyone should watch: in particular all today's Hollywood executives should be forced to watch it weekly to remind them that it's not necessary to fill the screen with explosions, car chases or special effects just to make a good film.

Here's looking at you, kid

Casablanca was, at the time it was made, "nothing special." It was just another film in a string of many released during World War II. It is based on a play named "Everybody Comes to Rick's" written by a gentleman who, in turn, based the play on a real trip to the city of Casablanca during that period.

Later, however, it became a cult classic (some say at Harvard) which caused it to enjoy a renaissance and re-examination by popular culture - and it took off.

Some interesting trivia about the movie; for one thing, the entire thing was filmed in a back lot in Hollywood. Many tons of sand were trucked in and laid down to create the illusion of a desert town.

The war meant that getting real airplanes was impossible. The DC-3 pictured at the end, which Ilsa and Victor are to board, is fake; it's a perspective trick, too, being a 1/2-scale model. The ground crew attending it is composed of midgets so as not to break the illusion.

More useless tirvia about Casablanca: throughout the entire movie, Ingrid Bergman only sheds tears from her left eye.

When Casablanca was released in West Germany for the first time in 1952, seven years after WW2 had ended, the version was heavily edited (20 minutes were missing) and by the means of dubbing all references to Nazis, Vichy and the Resistence had been removed. The main character, the resistance fighter Victor Laszlo, had magically transformed into Norwegian scientist Larsen.

Before you start to think censorship... Yes, there is censorship in Germany, but not in this case. The distributor decided that more money could be made with a "denazified" version of the movie. So much for artistic control.

No, not the movie. Not the city in Morocco, either. This writeup is about the Casablanca in Montego Bay, Jamaica, otherwise called the Casablanca Beach Hotel, a little-known gem of a resort my wife, Anne, and I discovered in 2001. We happened to be in Jamaica for a combination wedding/honeymoon, otherwise known as a destination wedding. We had flown in on September 4, 2001, and celebrated a beautiful seaside wedding at a Sandals resort in Ocho Rios whose name escapes me at the moment.

Our return tickets were for September 11, 2001.

Well, after Anne and I got over the initial shock of seeing the World Trade Center in flames on TV, and of hearing the plane hit the Pentagon over the phone while talking to her mother in Crystal City, we tried to figure out what to do. Although it looked like our ill-fated travel plans were about to fall through in spectacular fashion, we decided to go ahead and take the two-hour limo ride to the airport in Montego Bay. We’d already paid for it, and we figured we might catch a lucky plane to Canada and drive back down.

Fat chance. Unbeknownst to us at the time, all flights to and from Jamaica had been grounded indefinitely. We were stranded. In Jamaica, to be sure, but stranded just the same.

We grabbed a cab at the front of the airport -- which, by the way, looks pretty much the same as when it was filmed for Dr. No in 1961 -- and drove into Montego Bay looking for a place to stay. What with how crazy the day was turning out to be, we were genuinely concerned that we wouldn’t be able to find a place to stay. As fate would have it, though, we managed to stumble, by sheer luck, onto the Casablanca Beach Hotel, just across the bay from the airport. We dragged our bags into the lobby, took a look around, and knew we had found our shelter from the storm.


Built in the 1920’s, Casablanca was the first resort hotel in Jamaica. Originally a world-class resort, with guests such as Errol Flynn and other Hollywood celebrities, Casablanca has since settled into a comfortable air of shabby chic. Situated on Gloucester Avenue, in the middle what is now known the “Hip Strip” -- it was just the strip when Anne and I were there -- Casablanca boasts easy access to restaurants, shops, and other tourist attractions.

The building itself is low-slung and long, extending perhaps two full blocks along the bayfront. The walls are stucco, painted various shades of yellow and white, and the roof is Spanish tile. The entire premises are surrounded by a six-foot stucco wall separating resort guests from the bustling street outside, an admittedly welcome measure of security for us in the jittery week after 9/11. When Anne and I were there, the lobby was under renovation. The service remained warm and laid-back, though -- it was still Jamaica, after all -- and the ambience was very “Old Caribbean.”

Our room was spacious and breezy, with French doors opening onto a beautiful, tree-shaded balcony that extended out over the water. Standing on the balcony, there was nothing between us and Cuba but 90 miles of open ocean. The flooring inside was solid wood planking, the furniture vintage 1920’s. The king-size, four-poster bed was particularly noteworthy, with heavy, first-growth mahogany, solid dovetail construction, and posts the size of small trees. Even though my wife and I were on what turned out to be an extended honeymoon, the bed never budged, and the headboard more than held its own.


You can choose one of two directions when walking out of Casablanca: to the beach, or to the street. Casablanca has its own private beach, and has access to Doctor’s Cave. Both beaches are excellent, with great snorkeling and coral formations an easy swim from shore. The atmosphere is relaxed, and you can take your time strolling along the sand, collecting seashells, or just lazing around. An amusing note. The beaches look out over Montego Bay and the airport, but for the first few days there were no planes in sight. On the day before we were to leave, though, Anne and I were standing on the beach and saw the first plane coming in for a landing. As it flew across the bay and onto the tarmac, I just couldn’t help but turn to my wife and say “Maybe tomorrow we’ll be on that plane.” It was Casablanca, after all.

If a visit to the beach side of Casablanca was restful, stepping out onto the strip was anything but. The streets were narrow and crowded, and filled with people offering to braid hair, take you somewhere, or to sell you all manner of innocuous tourist junk. After the sun set, though, the night crowd came out. While I didn’t see many hookers actually roaming the streets, there were plenty of dealers setting up shop on various street corners selling their wares. These guys even had hand signals to indicate what they had to sell. Thumb and forefinger pinched together, pressed to pursed lips while inhaling, meant pot. A thumb to the nostril while snorting meant coke. And a hand grabbing the crotch meant one could procure a woman’s services for the evening.

All this presumably illegal activity took place without interference, even though the Jamaican police routinely cruised the streets. The management at the Casablanca turned a blind eye, as well. On several occasions I saw dealers walk openly into the hotel lobby to complete a transaction with a guest. While I found all this quite interesting, even amusing, the more cautious among you might prefer to stay indoors after dark.


Today, Casablanca is no longer an all-inclusive resort, but that was not the case in 2001. Back then, the $140-a-night price included your room, meals, and drinks. Considering the $2,000 we’d just shelled out for our previous week’s stay at Sandals, the Casablanca was a steal. The food was pretty decent, too, with a heavier emphasis on American food, rather than the Jamaican-heavy cuisine we’d been eating for the past week. While dining at the Casablanca may not have been something to write home about, there was nothing to complain about, either.

In fact, the real upside to the included dining was the sense of community it fostered among the guests. There were 5 or 6 other 9/11 refugee couples from the States staying at the Casablanca along with us in that first week after the attack, and we all ate together in the dining room or the oceanside terrace. For the five days we waited for commercial flights to start again, we all exchanged news about the goings on back home, scraps from CNN, e-mails, or phone calls, it didn’t matter. We were stranded, away from home, and starved for news, and soon found ourselves clinging together for support.

On the night before the first of us were scheduled to fly out, our little group of expatriates held an impromptu party out on the terrace. The management, ever gracious, put staff out to serve drinks and snacks, while we guests talked warmly of our pasts and nervously of our futures. The couple from Manhattan was the most visibly anxious, having been unable to contact family or friends since the attack. Sadly, Anne and I never did learn how they made out back home. We did manage to exchange numbers with another couple from the D.C. area, but didn’t manage to contact them, either, once we got back to the States. But for that night, at least, as we walked out on the beach in the sunset, we were all friends brought together in the midst of tragedy.

A man slid back his chair, donning a beanie as he rose to his feet. He picked up his wallet off the desk in front of him and slipped it into his pocket. The room's fluoro flicked off, and he closed the door behind him. A black box whirred and crunched quietly. The green glow of something or other on its front panel VFD reflected elongated off the smooth surface of the desk. The humans were knocking off work for the day, the machines were beginning.



Following the bankruptcy of Commodore in 1994, German MacroSystem found themselves about to lose the hardware platform their nonlinear video editing software was designed for. They responded by developing their own replacement for the Amiga, the DraCo. The original DraCo was a tower-housed Motorola 68060 system tuned specifically to optimise throughput of raw video. A key difference from the Amiga was the lack of Commodore's AGA chipset, the video being handled instead by an Altais graphics card. AmigaOS 3.1 was patched for the modified hardware, but ran out of standard Amiga ROM. The DraCo motherboard was revised, and the case switched to a cube form factor, realising the product's relaunch as the DraCo Vision.

At the beginning of 1997, MacroSystem presented to the world another winner, the product that would really kick-start the digital video editing revolution: the Casablanca. The Casablanca 1, or "Classic", again was M86k based, with 16MB of RAM. The two front-accessible drive bays housed a floppy disk drive and CD-ROM drive or removable SCSI HDD cradle.

Interfaces:

  • IEEE-1394 "FireWire"/"i.LINK", 4-circuit alpha (optional DV module)
  • SCART out
  • Audio out, stereo RCA jacks
  • SVHS out
  • Audio in, stereo RCA jacks (also on front)
  • SVHS in (also on front)
  • SCSI, DB25 female (My manual lists this as DB50, but shows DB25 in the diagram)
  • RS-232 serial, DB25 male
  • RS-232, DB9 male
  • AT, 5 pin DIN female

In the year 2000, the Avio and Kron Casablanca units were released, adding DVD burners, an OS update, SmartMedia Card slots, and USB ports, and doing away with the floppy drive. Differences between the Avio and Kron were largely cosmetic while MacroSystem experimented with panel designs. Both units got the power button moved to the right hand side, a design decision reversed in the next model. The 2002 Prestige saw all inputs gain easy access on the front panel, and the lockable hard drive tray could now be slid out without having to flip anything open.

MacroSystem made a big decision in 2004, a year before Apple would, and changed processor architecture. The move to x86 was a "quantum leap" in editing speed according to MacroSystem. The completely revolutionary Casablanca Solitaire was powered by a 3.2GHz Pentium 4. It sported 300GB of internal storage, 1024MB of RAM, dual-layer DVD burner, and touch-sensitive controls. The Solitaire even broke away from the VTR stereotype look and returned almost to the DraCo Vision's cube shape but with a glass front.

The Claro was the next Casablanca member to join the family, and not just its own family. From March 2005, an affordable standalone digital NLE began reaching home-users. As part of its "I'm not that professional" stance, the Claro used 3.5mm audio jacks rather than RCAs. Unlike the Solitaire, it was just another black box in appearance. Notably, its drive bays were side by side, rather than stacked as in previous units.

The Renommee then added a flap to the front card slot of the Prestige, as well as a new 3.0GHz x86 processor. The Gymnos, like its Kron predecessor, lacked front panel inputs and bore only a card slot. Two portable Casablanca systems were released, the T3000 and the T3000 Pro "Liberty". Both were single hard drive Toshiba notebooks, still with DVD burners. The Pro edition incorporated a swivelling touchscreen. Semi-professional support continued with the Louvre evolving from the Claro. The Enterprise model replaced the old VFD of the Classic with an LCD panel, and set the standard for the S-series currently in production.

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