Roman Holiday 4K review

Aug 03, 2023- Permalink

2023 is the 70th anniversary of one of the most charming romantic comedies ever made, Roman Holiday. It was the first time Audrey Hepburn had a starring role and she was so captivating in her performance that even though he had solo billing, co-star Gregory Peck told director William Wyler to give her equal billing with him, predicting she would win a Best Actress Oscar. He was right. Hepburn plays Princess Ann, an overworked young princess from an unnamed country, who escapes from her handlers one night in Rome. She’s found and helped by Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck), an American reporter. He soon realizes who his charming companion is and, along with his photographer pal, Irving Radovich (Eddie Albert), concocts a plan for the biggest story ever. Hijinks ensue, but this is a romantic comedy, so at some point the heart changes the plan’s course. The film is also notable for the fact that it was co-written by the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo. Writer Ian McLellan Hunter fronted for Trumbo. When the Academy sought to rectify it’s mistakes of the Cold War/Red Scare era in 1993, Trumbo’s widow was given his Oscar for Best Story. To celebrate the 70th anniversary, Paramount has released a 4K of Roman Holiday and I had a chance to look.

The 2160p HEVC / H.265 encoded native 4K digital transfer with Dolby Vision and HDR10 is presented in a 1.37:1 aspect ratio. The video transfer is derived from the same restoration that gave us the new Bu-ray three years ago, but this time we get the benefits of more resolution and HDR. The grain level does fluctuate here and there but it’s not a situation where Paramount smoothed out all the grain and the presentation does retain its filmic quality. The HDR is obviously not enhancing colour here, but there’s a fine gradation in the grayscale and the blacks are nice and deep. Detail on facial features, textiles and scenic elements looks great here.

On the audio side of things, you have the choice of an English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Mono soundtrack as well as German, French and Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono tracks. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH, French, German, Japanese, Czech, and Korean. The soundtrack is faithful to the original mono track and so obviously the sound team hasn’t been revisionist and forced sound elements into the surround soundscape. Dialogue is clear and prominent in the mix and the score has clarity and fidelity.

The 4K disc set also comes with a Blu-ray copy and a digital code, though once again, there is no digital code in Canadian versions of the release. There are no extra features on the 4K disc, all bonus material resides on the Blu-ray disc and includes a look at director William Wyler by the legendary Leonard Maltin, a look at the costumes, a look at the film’s location in Rome, a lengthy featurette on Hepburn’s Paramount years, a piece on Dalton Trumbo and the blacklist, a look at Paramount in the 1950s, a reminiscence on Hepburn by loved ones, and the theatrical trailers.

When you combine fine actors, a great romantic and funny story, beautiful locations, great video and solid audio, it’s a no-brainer to recommend the Roman Holiday 4K.