Sam plays it in colour

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 August, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 August, 1995, 12:00am

MORE than 50 years after it was released, the debate continues as to whether or not Casablanca (World, 9.35pm) is the best film ever made. Once a movie becomes as adulated as this one has it is difficult to know how to approach it.

Suffice to say, much of its reputation is deserved. The version you will see this evening, sadly, is the computer-coloured one and not the original black and white. Humphrey Bogart, in his greatest type role, looks rather pink in the cheeks.

Casablanca is certainly the most romantic film ever made. Its evocation of our collective daydreams, of lost loves and lost chances, is what makes it so timeless.

The performances are just right and much of the dialogue has become legend. Then there is that song. Dooley Wilson does the singing, but at one point the producers were thinking about Lena Horne or Ella Fitzgerald.

In fact this may have been a very different film had things followed the original plan. The intended leads were Ronald Reagan, Anne Sheridan and Dennis Morgan. In the end, by accident or design, in the form of Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, Casablanca had that indefinable element - chemistry.

On most people's top 10 list it finishes second to Citizen Kane: technically it is not flawless, but dramatically it is just about right.

The familiar plot concerns expatriate American Rick Blaine (Bogart), a cynical nightclub owner in Casablanca who discovers that his ex-lover, Ilsa (Bergman), who abandoned him years before, has arrived in the town with her husband, Victor Lazlo (Henreid), a resistance leader.

With the Nazis on Lazlo's trail, Ilsa needs transit papers from Rick's black market contacts, papers that would allow Lazlo to escape and continue his fight against fascism.

Casablanca had a turbulent production history, with the script re-written almost on a daily basis. But since its release it has become one of the movies. It blends a turbulent love story with harrowing intrigue, heroic and evil characters and the kind of genuine sentiment that makes you grow fonder of it with each viewing.

A RADIANT Kathleen Turner steals the show in Peggy Sue Got Married (Pearl, 9.30pm), a whimsical Francis Ford Coppola comedy that very nearly works, but is hampered by holes in the story and a slightly irritating performance from Nicholas Cage.

Turner is a time-travelling middle-aged woman who finds herself back at high school. Coppola's Daughter, Sofia, who later showed up in The Godfather Part III, has a cameo.

PEARL is due to show the second series of The X-Files (STAR Plus, 9.00pm) later this summer. In the meantime this is the best alternative - a re-run of the first series starting with tonight's pilot show, in which we are introduced to FBI agents Dana Scully and Fox Mulder.

Scully (Gillian Anderson) is the good-looking one who is asked to debunk an FBI project called The X-Files - cases linked to the paranormal. Fox (David Duchovny) is the diminutive chap who sees UFOs and extra-terrestrial life forms in his breakfast cereal.

You don't have to believe in The X-Files to enjoy it. The stories are straight from those camp sci-fi series of the 60s (remember The Invaders ?). The more preposterous they are, the more enthralling they become.

HIGHLIGHTS of films on Cable Movie Channel.

My Heart Is That Eternal Rose (11.00am). A professional hitman (Kenny Bee) returns to Hong Kong for a job and discovers that his true love (Joey Wang) has become a gangster's mistress. Bodyguard Tony Leung helps the couple escape.

Kidnap Of Wong Chak Fai (9.00pm). Unpleasant mixture of fact and fiction, directed by Ko Sing-ming. Tycoon Wong Chak Fai has been kidnapped twice, which begins to look like carelessness. Why are the dastardly gangsters so interested in him and not in other tycoons like - wait for these names - Mr Ho and Mr Li?