Sometime movies are magic and sometimes movies create magic, ROMAN HOLIDAY ($25) is a movie that offers a little of both. ROMAN HOLIDAY is a delightful romantic fairy tale that that casts a spell over audiences with its breezy charm, sophisticated comedy and sense of utter weightlessness. Much of the film’s success can be attributed to the wonderful, star making, Academy Award winning performance of Audrey Hepburn, who was a virtual unknown at the time of the movie’s production. Of course, in any discussion of ROMAN HOLIDAY there is no way I can overlook the work of leading man Gregory Peck, whose natural easy going nature is perfectly suited to the light, comedic tone and playing opposite such an enchanting leading lady.
In ROMAN HOLIDAY, Audrey Hepburn portrays a young princess on a goodwill tour across Europe. After an exceedingly hectic schedule, Princess Ann runs away from her caretakers, so she can have a few hours to herself, and enjoy the city of Rome like any other young woman. After an unexpected turn of events, Ann winds up in the company of American newspaperman Joe Bradley (Peck), who plans on selling the story of the runaway princess for a large sum of cash. Of course, after a daylong adventure the mismatched twosome find themselves falling in love, which complicates things for a Princess who must return to her duties, and for the newspaperman who could have really used the cash for this exclusive story. The cast of ROMAN HOLIDAY also features Eddie Albert, Hartley Power, Harcourt Williams and Margaret Rawlings.
Paramount Home Entertainment has made ROMAN HOLIDAY available on DVD in a very fine looking black and white transfer that frames the film in its proper 1.37:1 full screen aspect ratio. ROMAN HOLIDAY is another Paramount classic to take advantages of the services of Lowry Digital Images, whose techniques were utilized to restore the look of this movie to its full 1953 luster. The ravages of time have been virtually eliminated from the presentation, as has excessive graininess, leaving ROMAN HOLIDAY with an image that is pristinely clean, wonderfully crisp and very smooth looking. Kudos to the folks at Paramount for a job exceedingly well done.
Unlike the majority of 50’s American movies, ROMAN HOLIDAY was shot on location in Rome, and as such, the cinematography doesn’t always have the sheen and glossy quality of something shot on a Hollywood back lot or on sound stages. However, having Rome as the backdrop to the movie creates true cinematic magic, and more than compensates for the occasional little irregularities in the on location cinematography. Blacks always appear solid and inky, while the whites are clean and stable. The grayscale offers a good deal of nuance and contrast is generally pleasing. There are a few shots display tiny bit of background shimmer, and that is about the only flaw that I can find in this otherwise wonderful presentation. Digital compression artifacts are well concealed throughout on this cleanly authored DVD.
ROMAN HOLIDAY is presented on DVD with a very nice Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack. Taken from a good optical source and digitally rehabilitated to remove noticeable background hiss and surface noise, this half-century-old recording sounds as good any track of this vintage is ever likely to sound. Dialogue is crisp and clean, with all the English language passages coming across with full intelligibility. Of course, the limited fidelity of the recordings does leave the film’s score sounding a bit reedy, lacking in any significant top or bottom end. A French language track is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English subtitles.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD’s interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a nice supplemental section. Starting things off is the twenty-five minute program Remembering Roman holiday, which looks back on the production and its stars, as well as offering new and archival interviews, including the comments of ninety four year old cast member Eddie Albert. Restoring Roman Holiday is a seven-minute program that offers a fascinating glimpse at the steps undertaken by Lowry Digital Images to rejuvenate the film, including some before and after demonstrations. Paramount has once again chosen to include Edith Head: The Paramount Years, a fourteen-minute program that looks at the career of Hollywood’s most famous costume designer. Three theatrical trailers and four black and white photo galleries close out the DVD’s supplemental materials.
As I stated above, ROMAN HOLIDAY is a wonderful bit of cinematic magic. This classic film has been given royal treatment by the folks at Paramount, and is a movie buff’s dream come true. If you are a fan of the movie or of Audrey Hepburn or Gregory Peck, you will absolutely want to own a copy of ROMAN HOLIDAY on DVD.
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