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Roman Holiday
Special Collector's Edition

review by Zach B. and Anthony D.

 

 

Not Rated

Running Time: 118 minutes

Starring: Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Eddie Albert

Screenplay by: Ian McLellan Hunter and John Dighton
Story by: Ian McLellan Hunter

Directed by: William Wyler

 

Studio: Paramount

Retail Price: $24.99

Features: Remembering Roman Holiday Documentary, Restoring Roman Holiday Featurette, Edith Head - The Paramount Years, Photo Galleries, Teaser Trailer, Theatrical Trailer, Re-Release Trailer

Specs: 1.33:1 Full Screen, English Mono, French Mono, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (18 Scenes)

Released: November 5th, 2002

 

 

I'm sure that we all remember the first time our eyes beheld the magnificent creature known as Audrey Hepburn, whether it was on the big screen, the small screen or as a photographic image in some magazine. Her beauty is not easily forgotten: the saucer-sized eyes, the aquiline chiselled nose, the incredibly high cheekbones, the giraffe-like neck atop of the gazelle-like body of a dancer. Call her "gamine," call her "elfin," call her a "waif;" each word is true. And truly, in her first American film, "Roman Holiday," Audrey captured the hearts of many audience members a decade earlier than my admiriation of this actress occured. My unrequited love for Audrey did indeed begin with her Eliza Dolittle in "My Fair Lady," but with that film and that performance, I was converted to a lifelong Audrey fan. Audrey is the kind of actress that the camera truly adores, designers go wild for (Givenchy without Audrey? Unthinkable) and directors longed to work with. She was a magical presence, and never has that magic been more apparant than in William Wyler's "Roman Holiday."

Audrey's Academy Award winning performance was certainly no fluke, Wyler holds the record for leading the most actors/actresses to the golden statue. Though the film around Miss Hepburn is restrained - it's what might be called a thinking person's love story - Audrey brings a luster to the screen that virtually defies any man NOT to fall in love with her. Princess Ann (Hepburn) is young and discontented with all the responsibilities that come with royalty, and after being slipped "a mickey finn," she slips off into the Roman night, to find herself being taken care of by an American man, who has reasons of his own for taking care of the princess. Joe Bradley (ever stalwart and dependable Gregory Peck) is an American News Service Correspendent, and it would seem that the scoop of the year has literally fallen into his capable hands. Peck's performance is in the same league as Hepburn's, moving from comedic antics (watch him try to put his charge to bed without breaking a smile) to true poignancy, courtesy of an ending best not given away. These two, Ann and Joe were meant to be together, and what better place for love to happen than that romantic titular city? It isn't called "Roman Holiday" for nothing; for Rome, the city, is as much a character in this charming tale as its two lovers. Location lensing adds a layer of crediblity that could never be acheived on a Hollywood soundstage. The brilliant black-and-white photography gives viewers a grand tour of the Rome - not just traveloguery, but actual Roman streets and hideaways, the often sung about Trevi Fountain, ("Three Coins in the Fountain," anyone?) and The Mouth of Truth. Ann's freedom from royalty allows her journey through Rome and romance to resonate with the veiwer, as well as allowing her character to grow (with the knowledgable cultivation of Joe) from mere girl to beautiful woman in a believable manner.

"Roman Holiday" has not lost its charm, its vivacity or its innocence. With its delightful screenplay by black-listed, therefore uncredited, Dalton Trumbo (whose name as screenwriter would not surface on a film until "Spartacus") which combines wit, whimsy and romance, to the undeniable charms of the two leading players and able support provided by Eddie Albert, to the glorious location cinematography right on down to William Wyler's sure-handed direction, I dare you to watch "Roman Holiday, and NOT feel the love tonight.

 

Paramount's release of "Roman Holiday" features its original 1.33:1 full screen aspect ratio, all in glorious black and white. The image is quite sharp, and everything seems to be very well saturated, all in place and cleaned up quite nicely for this release. Detail is very nice too, while the only major flaws I could find with the transfer is an abundance of noise, some edge halos and a piece of dirt here and there. The film looks sparking and fresh despite it's age of nearly fifty, and that makes it very impressive. No major complaints here. This is one of the best transfers for an older film I've seen on DVD. You should all enjoy this.

 

Given the limitations of mono, there really isn't too much to say here, but I must say that the English mono track for "Roman Holiday" did surprise me. Fidelity was much higher than I expected, and everything just sounded so smooth. Dynamics aren't obviously much, but the music sounds nice and all the dialogue is very clear and easy to hear. It all comes together, and it certainly is all rather strong - especially for a mono mix - when it does. Pleasant and fulfilling - just the way I like them. Also included is a mono track in French, English subtitles and English closed captions.

 

Probably since the film is so beloved, Paramount labeled it a Special Collector's Edition, even if they have packed more on other discs. Still, there are some nice features here that fans of the movie are sure to enjoy. Remembering Roman Holiday is a documentary that lasts a solid twenty-five and a half minutes. Presented in full frame and maybe slightly cheesy, this is still strong and worth watching. New interviews with producer Catherine Wyler (William's daughter), Edward Albert, Paramount producer A.C. Lyles, Eddie Albert, film critic and author Molly Haskell are included as they discuss director Wyler's career, events in the 1950s involving one of the screenwriters, the production of the movie and different aspects of the production and how it all just blended together. It's a bit uneven, but certainly interesting... but I thought there was a bit too much on Wyler (this isn't bad, I just would have liked a bit more focus on the film). Old interviews and footage are included, plus stills and clips from the movie. Very nice stuff overall.

Restoring Roman Holiday is a featurette that lasts nearly seven minutes. This isn't for everyone, since it is a bit technical and the appeal of restorations won't exactly be for the casual fan. Still, if you're interested in how old films are restored and who as well as what it takes, this is certainly worth watching. Examples from the new transfer and old masters are included (what a difference), you get a peak of behind-the-scenes of Paramount's library, DVD mastering place and Lowry Digital Images and learn what restoring and what preserving are. Interviews with Paramount Pictures senior Vice President of Operations Phil Murphy, executive director of Broadcast Services and Film Preservation Barry Allen, head of DVD mastering Ron Smith, head film librarian Steve Elkin, president of Lowry Digital Images John Lowry and project manager for Lowry Digital Images Ryan Gomez are here to guide you. Interesting and nicely put together.

Borrowed from the To Catch A Thief release, Edith Head - The Paramount Years features film clips from her in Paramount films, stills and assorted interviews (the late Rosemary Clooney gets some words in here too) for this nice lookback at the actress. Even if it might seem condensed, you might be surprised of how much of a history and background is given on her. The detail is impeccable and it's a very nice featurette to watch, especially for those who are familiar with her work and the classic films she starred in. It's definitely a strong thirteen minutes and forty-two seconds.

We also have three different trailers: the Teaser Trailer, the Theatrical Trailer and a Re-Release Trailer plus four Photo Galleries filled with some nice stills that are broken down into "Production," "The Movie," "Publicity" and "The Premiere."

 

"Roman Holiday" is a superb film and a great love story. With it's wondrous direction from William Wyler and sly performances from Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, it's nice that Paramount has released this classic on DVD for a whole new generation to enjoy. The transfer and mono track is quite nice, while the supplements are sure to please. If you're a fan of fine cinema then this is a must see and a must have for your collection.