Play it again

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 November, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 November, 1998, 12:00am

The purists who were appalled when tonight's colour version of Casablanca (World, 9.32pm) was re-released are going to want to kill themselves when they hear about a new book by journalist Michael Walsh, called As Time Goes By.

Walsh was asked by Warner Bros, the studio that owns Casablanca to write a sequel to the movie, and the result is also a prequel.

Here we get to find out not just what happened next, after she flew off with her husband, but what happened before Rick and Ilsa met in Paris.

The idea of a sequel is not unprecedented, and not completely intellectually bankrupt either. 'The Odyssey was the sequel to The Iliad,' Walsh told an interviewer on the BBC this week, 'and that's not bad company to be in'. No one can accuse him of false modesty.

Scarlett, the utterly dreadful sequel to another 1940s classic, Gone With The Wind, is probably a more appropriate standard by which to measure Walsh's success.

The book and the movie made a lot of money even though everyone agreed they were awful.

Walsh is better at showing what happened after the plane took off than he is at concocting a background for the characters.

Only a few months after the action in Casablanca took place, Reinhard Heydrich was assassinated, the highest ranking Nazi to be killed in this way during World War II.

Walsh, therefore, has deduced that planning this execution was Victor Lazlo's great mission. Killing Heydrich was the reason Ilsa had to go with him and leave her beloved Rick behind.

He also claims that Rick Blaine was actually Yitzik Baline in a former life, a Prohibition-busting Jewish gangster from New York.

This deduction comes from clues like Rick's quip when someone says, 'Why Rick, you act like you have been running a bar all your life.' 'And who says I haven't?' he replies.

The Jewish part is because Walsh doesn't buy Rick Blaine as an Italian or an Irishman, the only alternative gangsters in New York then, and also because he is a bit of a leftie, having fought the Fascists in Spain. And who were the great lefties of the 30s? If Rick was Jewish, he was also remarkably sanguine about the fact much of his profits came from the uniformed professional Jew-killers drinking in his bars. In the early part of the film, he makes it quite clear he will take money from anyone, and that his partisan days are over. It is hardly the behaviour of a principled Jewish freedom fighter.

For all its faults, at least As Time Goes By is the sequel to a good film. Bionic Showdown (Pearl, 9.30pm) is a sequel too, but only of two rather silly 70s television shows, and a string of terrible made-for-TV movies.

The only reason for watching this instead of Casablanca is that it stars a fresh young actress called Sandra Bullock as Kate, a girl who spent her life in a wheelchair till the bionic repair men came along.