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Director Billy Wilder's SABRINA ($30) is a delightful confection of a movie that is totally sweet and completely satisfying. Although SABRINA was only Audrey Hepburn's second film she was captivating in the title role, this proving that her Oscar win for ROMAN HOLIDAY was not a fluke. Hepburn is perfectly cast in Cinderella-ish leading role, taking to it like a swan takes to the water. Every moment Hepburn is on the screen is pure magic- she is radiant, funny, touching and vulnerable- sometimes all at the same time. She even brings out the best in her leading man. Humphrey Bogart, who made his mark in tough guy roles, plays the light comedy exceedingly well and makes for a charming romantic lead.

Based upon the play Sabrina Fair, SABRINA tells the story of the denizens of the Larrabee Estate. Humphrey Bogart portrays Linus Larrabee, the eldest son and workaholic, who thinks of nothing but business twenty-four hours a day. David Larrabee (William Holden) is Linus’ much younger brother, who is a playboy that hasn't done a day's work in his life. On the periphery of the Larrabee family, we find Sabrina Fairchild (Hepburn), the chauffeur's daughter, who is very much infatuated with the handsome and charming David. Realizing that nothing good can come from a mixing of the classes Sabrina's father (John Williams) sends the love struck girl off to Paris to complete her education. The time passes quickly and the gawky Sabrina returns home a sophisticated and beautiful young woman, who catches the eye of a recently engaged David Larrabee. Linus, who has arranged the marriage as part of a business merger, isn't about to let anyone ruin his carefully orchestrated plans and decides to nip the blossoming romantic liaison in the bud. The first thing Linus does is to sideline David, so it is impossible for him to spend any time with Sabrina. Then to take her mind off of David, Linus begins wooing Sabrina himself. The cast of SABRINA also includes Martha Hyer, Walter Hampden, Francis X. Bushman and Ellen Corby.

Paramount Home Entertainment has done a very nice job of transcribing SABRINA to DVD. Made before Paramount switched over to VistaVision as the studio’s in house wide screen process, SABRINA is presented in the older academy ratio of 1.33:1. The transfer is very good, which allows the film's glossy, glamorous black and white cinematography to shine through. For the most part, the image is wonderfully crisp, with shots containing optical dissolves appearing noticeable softer and less resolved. Blacks have that velvety midnight quality and the image provides excellent contrast, with wholly stable whites. Additionally, there is plenty of variation in the shades of gray and the image provides good depth. Film grain is occasionally noticeable during the presentation, but it is never objectionable. Digital compression artifacts remain out of sight on this dual layer DVD.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack sounds quite good for a 1954 release. Frequency limitations prevent the track from having much of a bottom end, but the film is dialogue driven and doesn't really require it. The actors' voices are fully intelligible, but lack the "live" quality of modern recordings. Neither background hiss nor age related anomalies made their presence known. A French monaural soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English subtitles. The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a couple of extras. A recently produced 12-minute documentary on the making of SABRINA is included on the DVD, as are some production photos.

SABRINA is a cinematic joy that film buffs and Audrey Hepburn fans will want to own. The DVD looks and sounds just fine, making this DVD a worthwhile acquisition.




DVD reviews are Copyright 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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