Roman Holiday: Centennial Collection
Directed by William Wyler
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Running Time: 118 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English, French, Spanish
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 24.99
Release Date: November 11, 2008
Review Date: November 1, 2008
An incandescent romantic comedy with glowing performances set among the splendors of Rome, William Wyler’s Roman Holiday is one of those films which is just as much fun to see the tenth time as it is the first. A joy from beginning to end, Roman Holiday is pure pleasure made memorable by the introduction of one of the world’s most captivating actresses paired with one of its most solid leading men. They don’t come much finer or classier than this.
Despondent over the dull routine and repetitive protocol of her duties on an international tour of good will, Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) slips out from her embassy one night and is discovered by reporter Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) who smells the exclusive story of the decade and pretends not to know who she is. Together they tour Rome on her first real adventure with her incognito while Joe’s photographer pal (Eddie Albert) snaps pictures with his handy camera-lighter. The two have been promised $5,000 for this sterling feature story, but something happens to Joe during his fling: he begins to fall in love with the princess.
With filming done completely on location in Rome, the movie glows with the dazzling locations the trio visit during their day and night on the town. The screenplay by Ian McLellan Hunter and John Dighton (based on an original story by Dalton Trumbo) makes the most of its Italian setting with particularly memorable sequences set at the fountain at Trevi, the Mouth of Truth, at a hair salon where the princess’ long hair is cut into a fetching bob, zooming around the Rome streets on a Vespa, and a romantic dance and then frenetic melee on a barge on the Tiber River. Wyler’s delightful staging of Peck’s dealing with the woozy princess early on as well as the tremendously emotional climax of the picture when all is revealed to her show him a master of both the subtle and the outlandish, but always with Wyler’s patented sure touch.
It’s part of movie folklore about Audrey Hepburn’s coming into the film with only a couple of bits parts in movies to her credit (plus one Broadway hit - the nonmusical Gigi) and scoring one of the great triumphs of movie history, but truth to tell, the part isn’t especially difficult. She had to undergo a much greater transformation in her next film Sabrina. Still, it’s a wonderfully ingratiating introduction to the world, and she positively glows once she gains her freedom from her “captors.” Gregory Peck couldn’t have been a better choice as the gentle guiding hand of her itinerary, and his relaxed easy assuredness during the film is a notable focal point. Eddie Albert is hilarious as the easy-going photographer who’s constantly Peck’s target when he threatens to reveal too much to the princess about what they know.
The film’s 1.37:1 theatrical aspect ratio is replicated on this remastered release. The grayscale is quite beautiful for the film even if the black levels are merely good rather than great. In comparison to the 2002 release, the picture here seems just a touch brighter than before, but almost all evidence of dust, dirt, and scratches has been removed. Sharpness is excellent, and with one disc all to itself for the movie, the bitrate is high making the potentially artifact-filled staircases and jacket weaves a complete non-problem. The film has been divided into 18 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio track is decoded by Dolby Prologic properly into the center channel. The audio lacks much low end, and there is one moment when there’s a momentary phase problem with some scratching distortion. Otherwise, it’s a typical mono mix of its era.
“Audrey Hepburn: The Paramount Years” is a 30-minute summation of the six films Audrey Hepburn made during her original six-picture deal with the studio. There are clips from all of these films: Roman Holiday, Sabrina, War and Peace, Funny Face, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Paris When It Sizzles. The featurette is in anamorphic widescreen.
“Remembering Audrey” is a 12-minute interview with the two men who were most important to her in her later life: her son Sean Ferrer and companion Robert Wolders. This is another featurette presented in anamorphic widescreen.
“Rome with a Princess” spends its 9 anamorphic minutes touring the Rome locations used in the film and showing them as they appear today.
“Dalton Trumbo: From A-List to Blacklist” gives a mini-history lesson about the Hollywood Ten and specifically the writer of the Oscar-winning original story for the movie, Dalton Trumbo, who found himself blacklisted during the scandals of the late 1940s and 1950s. This documentary runs 12 minutes.
“Restoring Roman Holiday” features interviews with Paramount’s Barry Allen, Ron Smith, and Steve Elkin along with John Lowry who supervised the restoration on the film in 2002. Before and after shots show the tremendous amount of cleaning and correcting which went into making the film look as pristine as possible during this interesting 6 ¾-minute featurette.
“Behind the Gates: Costumes” is a much too short tour of Paramount’s costume department with head Randall Thropp. Though no clothes are presented from Roman Holiday, many other famous costumes from Paramount classics are shown. This feature lasts 5 ½ minutes.
“Paramount in the ‘50s” is the often seen documentary touting the many hits the studio produced during that particular decade, coincidentally all available on DVD. This feature runs 9 ½ minutes.
There are three theatrical trailers available for viewing, all in relatively poor shape: the teaser trailer (1 ¾ minutes), the original trailer (2 ¼ minutes), and a re-release trailer (2 ½ minutes).
There are four step-through photo galleries showing photographs grouped as production shots, movie stills, publicity groupings, and shots of celebrities at the Hollywood premiere.
An 8-page booklet with movie stills and some liner notes is included inside the case.
There is a promotional trailer for the DVD of It’s a Wonderful Life.
Roman Holiday is a true romantic comedy classic. While not a perfect audio and video presentation, the movie is so good that little slip-ups and faults are pretty easy to overlook. This new release does feature some pleasant new featurettes, but there isn’t enough of a video upgrade for me to fully recommend this new edition if one already has any of the previous releases.