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Roman Holiday – Paramount Presents (Blu-ray Review)

Sometimes it quite stunning what films haven’t had their time in the spotlight with the Blu-ray format yet. There are films that seem so obvious that when they are announced you realized you thought it was already out and readily available. I do an annual piece for this site highlighting those titles that haven’t seen a Blu-ray release yet in any region of the globe yet. And after seven years of those article (Including a year where it was an almost weekly piece), even I missed William Wyler’s 1953 film Roman Holiday. For crying out loud, its the breakout Academy Award-winning performance for screen icon Audrey Hepburn. I can see you’re as surprised as I am. Paramount is making good on its tardiness, as they debut it as a part of the Paramount Presents line. An extensive new restoration has been done as well as actually loading one of these releases with extras (Even coming with a digital code). Take note, the press release to announce the film did mention it as a limited edition. You’ll definitely want to pre-order the film (Use the paid Amazon Associates link below if you like) to have upon arrival September 15th.

Film

Overwhelmed by her suffocating schedule, touring European princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) takes off for a night while in Rome. When a sedative she took from her doctor kicks in, however, she falls asleep on a park bench and is found by an American reporter, Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck),who takes her back to his apartment for safety. At work the next morning, Joe finds out Ann’s regal identity and bets his editor he can get exclusive interview with her, but romance soon gets in the way.

Roman Holiday is a seminal film in the history of the medium. Not the first romantic comedy or first pivotal one ever made, but definitely one that looms large over the decades to follow. A hindsight viewing of the film really shows the stamp it left over the sub genre and one every filmmaker would want to try and recapture. There’s a magical aspect to the film now, 67 years later, where you can see the history of romantic comedies play out in your head as the events and moments of the film unfold.

Today’s audiences might find it a simpler film, but the film buff’s eye and at the time it was made, it was quite groundbreaking for a good many reasons. Obviously, the overall structure of a chance encounter turning into a magical day would find itself used plenty. Yes, there’s Before Sunrise 1953 happening right here. Post World War II, there was not a lot of shooting abroad for films. They would makeshift replicate foreign territories in studios. William Wyler fought and won to make the difference of the film with the beautiful Rome architecture and scenescapes becoming their own character in the film. This adds to scale, scope and beauty a set otherwise would not have. Its part of what makes a big difference.

Obviously, this is notable to many film fans as the breakout role for one Audrey Hepburn. The cinematic icon bursts in with one of the most memorable leading role debuts in history. She’s charming, genuine, funny and really can own a frame. Kudos to Gregory Peck who plays quite generous with her (Onscreen and off) to make for some wonderful chemistry. They almost made a sequel, it was so popular. Hepburn really was something here that they boosted her crediting before release and she wound up winning a Best Actress Oscar for her role here (Also claiming a lot of other well known award hardware, too).

To boot, the film is just straight up enjoyable, fun and charming. There isn’t a thing that would need changed about it. It truly holds up in almost every way. The pacing even works for today. By all regards, its a perfect film. The story, the humor, the characters, actor chemistry and scenery are all top notch. Roman Holiday is a vacation worth taking again and again and again.

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Roman Holiday features a new 4K film transfer and restoration. The image looks fresh, authentic and carries plenty of surprising details given the age and black and white nature. This is a beautifully shot film and the Blu-ray truly showcases the gooods. Paramount has provided the following details regarding this new transfer:

The original negative was processed at a local film lab in Rome and was unfortunately badly scratched and damaged.  The film had to be pieced back together, but the splices were so weak due to the damage that extensive amounts of tape had to be used to allow the negative to make it through a printing machine.  Because of the fragile state of the negative, a Dupe Negative was made and then blown up a few thousandths of an inch to cover all the splice tape that held the original negative together.

In anticipation of this new Blu-ray release, the film was digitally restored using the Dupe Negative and a Fine Grain element to capture the best possible image.  Every frame was reviewed, and the film received extensive clean up to remove thousands of scratches, bits of dirt, and other damage.  Because audio elements to properly up-mix to 5.1 do not exist, the original mono track was remastered, and minor anomalies were corrected.  The result is a film returned to its original vibrancy and beauty that remains true to director William Wyler’s vision.

Depth: The film features some terrific spacing and freeness that give both interiors and exteriors a terrific sense of scale and distance throughout. From grand ballrooms to the Roman Coliseum, the film just looks stunning. Motion is classically cinematic, smooth and natural with no issues regarding any distortions.

Black Levels: This new transfer looks absolutely lovely with its black and white photography. There are great instances of light and shadow, nighttime darkness and added texture. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  N/A

Flesh Tones: Skin tones have a white/gray shade to them for the duration of the film. Facial features and textures come through quite swimmingly and plenty clear. One of the highlights I noticed was a feint 5 o’clock shadow on Peck’s face in the final scene that I’m not so sure would be apparent on the DVD transfer of the film.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio

Format(s): English 2.o Mono Dolby TrueHD, German Mono Dolby Digital, Spanish Mono Dolby Digital, French Mono Dolby Digital, Italian Mono Dolby Digital, Japanese Mono Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Cantonese, Danish, German, Spanish (Spain), French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Dutch, Norwegian, Simplified Chinese, Finnish, Swedish, Thai

Dynamics: Roman Holiday presents a lovely mono track, the original theatrical mix. Its a well layered experience, mainly focusing on vocals, but there are some sweeping moments with music. Sound effects hit good during the right moments with plenty of depth to them. There’s an ever so slight analog hiss as a base. As expected, its a bit lighter on the lower end, but the presentation is genuine and authentic which brings upon an engaging track.

Height: N/A

Low-Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear as day and plenty detailed with actor diction, very respectable given the source and times the film was made in.

Extras

Roman Holiday is a limited-edition Paramount Presents Blu-ray Disc™ is presented in collectible packaging that includes a foldout image of the film’s theatrical re-release poster, and an interior spread with key movie moments. It also comes with a redeemable Digital Code.  Some of these featurettes look to be SD sourced and upscaled to HD.

Filmmaker Focus: Leonard Maltin On Roman Holiday (HD, 6:59) – Maltin gives a brief history and trivia bits for the film covering items about Wyler, Peck, Hepburn, Albert and shooting in Rome being a big deal.

Behind The Gates: Costumes (HD, 5:31) – Randall Thropp, a Paramount Archivist, takes us through a closet of vintage costumes as well as covering the work of Edith Head. He pulls out costumes, showing them as well as a series of still showing their use in the film they go with. They restore these costumes to condition useful for exhibition. As far as I could tell, none from Roman Holiday were featured, but some worn by Audrey Hepburn in other films did appear.

Rome With A Princess (HD, 8:57) – This visual essay takes us through the plot of the film and places in Rome visited in the film along with some historical fact points about that area.

Audrey Hepburn: The Paramount Years (HD, 29:55) – A nice little biography, complete with narration and talking heads, takes us over the personal life and career of Audrey Hepburn.

Dalton Trumbo: From A-List To Blacklist (HD, 11:55) – This featurette has talking heads focusing on the politics of Dalton Trumbo, America’s fear of communism and how it affected his career. It makes a nice stop on his name having to be removed from Roman Holiday and the film winning an Academy Award that should have been his.

Paramount In The ’50s (SD, 9:33) – Pretty much a highlight reel (with narrator) that touches on the prestigious and hit films Paramount Pictures produced in the 1950s.

Remembering Audrey (HD, 12:12) – Audrey Hepburn’s son Sean Hepburn Ferrer and her companion of 14 years Robert Wolders discuss their  memories and thoughts on her life and career with a bit more of a firsthand touch.

Theatrical Trailers

  • Original Theatrical Teaser Trailer (SD, 1:48)
  • Original Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2:12) 
  • Theatrical Re-Release Trailer (SD, 2:28)

Galleries (SD)

  • Production
  • The Movie
  • Publicity
  • The Premiere

Summary

Sure, I can begrudge how long it took Paramount to get Roman Holiday to Blu-ray, but when it came down to it, they’ve done it really right on the first try (Though…they could’ve done a 4K, but I’ll let them slide).  This is a movie I could watch on the regular with ease. The film looks and sounds wonderful and they actually have plenty of quality extras on this disc. I’d like to officially crown this the best Paramount Presents title that has been put out so far. Here’s your bench mark. Pick it up!

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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