Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Casablanca vs. Barb Wire

One of my all-time favorite films is the1942 Best Picture winner Casablanca. I have watched it several times over the years, and last time I said to myself, "hey, this is exactly like Barb Wire." I had not seen Barb Wire in years, so decided to watch it, plus Tenebrous Kate wanted my thesis on the similarities, so here goes.

Barb Wire (1996, David Hogan)
The year is 2017 and we are in the midst of the Second American Civil War. The only free city is "Steel Harbor", which lies on the gateway to a freer world. Bar owner, and participant in illicit activities, Barb Wire, runs the most popular bar in town; "The Hammerhead". There is a plague, and a resistance fighter, Dr. Cora Dee, has the antidote in her DNA. Her protector has a set of retina contacts that will let her pass through security, if the pair can stay away from the fascist State police following them. Barb is good to her staff, but generally unsympathetic to the near-do-wells of Steel Harbor. To make ends meet, Barb works as a bounty hunter and mercenary, collecting people and information.

Casablanca (1947, Michael Curtiz)
It is World War II, and Casablanca is the jewel of unoccupied France. Bar owner, and participant in illicit activities, Rick Blaine, runs the most popular bar in town; "Rick's Café Americain". A resistance fighter, Victor Lazlo, needs to get out of Casablanca and on to the United States. To do so he needs some unquestionable travel documents that have found their way to Casablanca and into Rick's pocket. Rick is no stranger to shady dealing, running an illegal gambling house. He is a former gun-runner and mercenary. He has little sympathy for the refugees in Casablanca, and famously never drinks with his customers.

Sound similar?

Well, it continues. Both Rick and Barb are rather broken people who once fought on the side of good, but have been jaded by love lost. They are both "friends" with a corrupt chief of police, and under the scrutiny of the ruling fascists. Soon, the freedom fighter comes to town and we find that they are married to the people who broke our heroes' hearts. This creates a lot of tension earlier on which turns into a desire to return to the good fight.

Certainly there are big, big differences here. Most noticeably is the lack of Humphrey Bogart stripping (praise Mothra), but also in the amount of action. Casablanca is very plot driven. Barb Wire is full of gun-play and explosions. Where Rick must turn against his desires and let the love of his life go off with another man, Barb has to fight her way through to get hers to safety. Not all of the characters are identical. Rick, primarily, has Sam and Carl (Dooley Wilson and S. Z. Sakall, respectively) and Barb has Charlie and Curly (Jack Noseworthy and Udo Kier, respectively). The role Peter Lorre plays in Casablanca, "Ugarte" is in many ways filled by Clint Howard as "Schmitz". Casablanca's rival bar owner "Signor Ferrari" (Sydney Greenstreet) is very much covered by Andre Rosey Brown as "Big Fatso" in Barb Wire.

If you have never seen either of these, definitely check out Casablanca. Obviously it is the superior of the two, though Barb Wire has its charms. If you have only seen one, take this as an opportunity to see the other. What Barb Wire lacks in cinematic excellence it makes up for in fun.

1 comment:

Kal said...

I have a real deep love for Barb Wire just because they had to the balls to remake Casablanca. I saw the similarities the first time I saw it and loved the result. It's really better than it deserves to be...and made by people who never saw Casablanca, or saw it and thought it would be improved by explosions. It's one of my guilty pleasures.

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