Roman Holiday Blu-ray review

Sep 14, 2020- Permalink

William Wyler’s 1953 classic romantic comedy Roman Holiday has spawned many lesser imitators that try to capture its story of a person of wealth and status trying to experience a “normal life.” They generally fail because they lack many things: William Wyler’s directorial touch, Gregory Peck’s leading man magnetism and charm, Eddie Albert’s comic chops, and, above all else, the absolute sweet delight that is the breakthrough performance by Audrey Hepburn. The movie has finally been given a Blu-ray release by Paramount. Those in the U.S. or shopping through importers can get their hands on the limited-edition Paramount Presents version with some extra add-ons. I had a chance to review the standard Blu-ray.

If you somehow missed seeing Roman Holiday over the years, it tells the story of Princess Ann (Hepburn), currently representing her unnamed European country on a goodwill tour throughout Europe. Stuffy dinners, boring speeches, and meaningless small talk have the young royal bored out of her tree. She wants to experience Europe outside her gilded cage and escapes from the embassy. When she gets into a situation, she’s rescued by struggling reporter Joe Bradley (Peck). When he realizes who he’s with, the question becomes will he sell her out for a big story or will his heart take him elsewhere. The sights and sounds of a gorgeous Rome provide the perfect backdrop to the antics that follow.

The 1080p AVC-encoded digital transfer is in the film’s original 1.37:1 aspect ratio which for newcomers to older film means that the image will be flanked by vertical black bars. This is an amazing restoration, a 4K scan from a dupe negative, with scratches and other damage carefully removed in processing. The black-and-white film has amazing detail and apart from when it originally released in theatres this is the best presentation you’re going to see, from textiles to environmental elements. The image simply looks great from the clean whites to the deep blacks and every level of gray in-between.

On the audio side, the disc comes with the choice of an English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Mono soundtrack and German, Spanish, French, Italian and Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono tracks. Again, for the newcomer to this sort of soundtrack, it’s mono, meaning your surround speakers and subwoofer can take the night off. The dialogue is crisp and clean, the score is clear and dynamic. It’s a great presentation of an original mono track.

A great thing about this disc is that it restores the writing and story credit of Dalton Trumbo, whose name wasn’t on the film as he was blacklisted during the McCarthy Era. There’s an extra on the disc that goes into his story. Speaking of extras, they include Filmmaker Focus: Leonard Maltin on Roman Holiday, Behind the Gates: Costumes, Rome with a Princess, Audrey Hepburn: The Paramount Years, Dalton Trumbo: From A-List to Blacklist, Paramount in the ’50s: Remembering Audrey, Theatrical Trailers and four photo galleries: Production, The Movie, Publicity, The Premiere.

A gorgeous Blu-ray presentation, a crisp and clean mono and a variety of extras coupled with a fantastic movie, means you should drop what you’re doing and order Roman Holiday now. You won’t be disappointed.